It seems like every year I write a post about the percentage of the workforce that plans to leave their current employment. I have to admit that after 2020, I was expecting the number to be something unusual. I was right.
Microsoft conducts research each year to look at trends in the workplace. The company’s 2021 Work Trend Index outlines findings from a study of more than 30,000 people in 31 countries and an analysis of trillions of productivity and labor signals across Microsoft 365 and LinkedIn. Here are the key findings from their study.
Remote work is here to stay.
It’s no surprise that workers want the best of both worlds: Microsoft says over 70 percent of workers want flexible remote work options to continue, while over 65 percent are craving more in-person time with their teams. To prepare, 66 percent of business decision makers are considering redesigning physical spaces to better accommodate hybrid work environments. Microsoft, which employs over 160,000 workers globally, is working on its own hybrid model.
Microsoft says that employers may need to think differently about the Work From Home model. Ten percent of employees surveyed said that they don’t have access to a strong enough or reliable enough internet signal to ensure speedy connection to their work functions. Most also say their employer provides no support for office supplies and other work materials for their home offices. Companies may have to consider helping set up home offices so workers can be productive wherever they choose to work on a given day.
Some workers are exhausted and overwhelmed.
Although productivity remained high during the pandemic for many employees working from home, it came at a high human cost. Microsoft’s study reported that one in five global survey respondents say their employer doesn’t care about their work-life balance. Fifty-four percent feel overworked. Thirty-nine percent feel exhausted.
It’s not hard to imagine why. Many parents had children schooling at home and may also have had unemployed family members staying at home as well. The traditional working model meant leaving home to travel to the office, so many homes didn’t have the space or the layout to accommodate home offices.
Microsoft can watch trends through its email and Teams collaboration products, and they saw a huge increase in digital communication last year. The average Teams user is sending 45 percent more chats per week and 42 percent more chats per person after hours, with chats per week still on the rise. The number of emails delivered to commercial and education customers in February, when compared to the same month last year, is up by 40.6 billion. No wonder workers are exhausted.
Microsoft says “This barrage of communications is unstructured and mostly unplanned, with 62 percent of calls and meetings unscheduled or conducted ad hoc. And workers are feeling the pressure to keep up. Despite meeting and chat overload, 50 percent of people respond to Teams chats within five minutes or less, a response time that has not changed year-over-year. This proves the intensity of our workday, and that what is expected of employees during this time, has increased significantly.”
Younger workers are most at risk for severe burnout.
The newest generation in the workforce lost its person-to-person connection at a time when mentoring, networking, and learning from others is most critical to their professional development. Microsoft found that Generation Z respondents are having the hardest time. “Sixty percent of this generation — those between the ages of 18 and 25 — say they are merely surviving or flat-out struggling right now.”
Gen Z also reported “difficulties feeling engaged or excited about work, getting a word in during meetings, and bringing new ideas to the table.” Corporate leaders must find a way to re-engage their youngest workers or be prepared to lose a generation of future leaders and fresh ideas.
We’re going to experience a mass exodus of workers.
From the Microsoft report:
“Today, our research shows that 41 percent of the global workforce is likely to consider leaving their current employer within the next year, with 46 percent planning to make a major pivot or career transition.
According to global 2020 data collected by Glint, a people success platform acquired by LinkedIn, 71 percent of employees said they plan to be with their current employer in two years, a number nearly consistent with the previous year (69 percent). “We nearly have a doubling of job switching-intent,” says LinkedIn Senior Editor-at-Large George Anders. ‘People are going to try and compress into one year what they might ordinarily have done in two.’”
Managers have their work cut out for them if they seek to retain talent over the next few years.