A wide gap in attitudes between employees and leaders could make hybrid work unsustainable at companies around the world if not addressed, Microsoft warned Thursday as it released the results of a new workplace study.
This disconnect, which Microsoft calls “productivity paranoia”, is one of the main findings of the survey of 20,000 people at companies in 11 countries, conducted by a third-party firm for Microsoft in July and August.
One of the reasons is the decline of the old practice of “management walking around” due to remote work. The survey found that lack of confidence in employee productivity is more common among managers whose teams continue to work away from the traditional office at least part of the time.
At the same time, data obtained from the use of Microsoft software and online services shows a continuous increase in overall worker activity.
The number of weekly meetings has increased by 153% compared to the start of the pandemic for the average Microsoft Teams user since next spring, and the trend shows no sign of abating, the company said.
About 42% of meeting attendees are multitasking by sending email and other messages. That doesn’t include other types of multitasking, such as reading email or browsing the web.
Apart from the potential burnout, one risk is that employees are trying to appear to be working, rather than actually doing productive work, a phenomenon that author Anne Helen Petersen has identified as LARP -ing or “live action role-playing” their jobs.
Speaking on a live webcast from London, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said one key is to recognize and understand the new realities of work, and not expect the clock to turn back to 2019, before the pandemic .
“Work as we know it has changed dramatically in terms of structure,” Nadella said during the virtual event. “I think we need to express ourselves, in some way, what the original meaning of work is.”
Seth Patton, general manager of Microsoft 365, said in an interview that the company sees clear communication, goal setting, and continuous feedback loops as key ways to address the challenges.
“What is needed right now is not to measure working hours,” Patton said. Instead, companies should be “really focused on the results a [they] they need to drive, and provide clarity to employees who are otherwise just doing busy work, and then get feedback on what they need to support them to be successful.”
Patton said Microsoft opposes the practice of companies using technology to actively monitor the computer activity of individual employees, through workplace surveillance tools, to determine productivity and wages.
Microsoft in November 2020 addressed the return of the “Productivity Score” tool in Microsoft 365, finally announcing that it would remove the ability for companies to see data about individual users in the feature, to address concerns from privacy experts about with the possible use of the program. technology for snooping on workers.
Announcing the survey results on Thursday, Microsoft cited the importance of helping employees connect with each other as a motivation to work in person. In addition, the company said it is important to “re-recruit” existing employees to help them identify their best internal roles and growth opportunities, vs. seek jobs elsewhere.
“People want to be deeply connected to their work,” said LinkedIn CEO Ryan Roslansky, appearing alongside Nadella during the company’s virtual event Thursday. “They want to feel connected to the company, connected to their manager. They want to know that their work matters. And one of the most important ways to do that is to make sure you have the right people, with the right skills, in the right role.”
Of course, this isn’t just academic for Microsoft. The company cites the findings as the basis for several new and updated features in its Viva employee experience platform, including tools to conduct quick employee surveys, establish clear work goals, and encourage employee learning and growth.
Microsoft announced Viva in March 2021 as its entry into the increasingly competitive market for technology that aims to help companies improve employee engagement and productivity, and the overall work environment.
The company says Viva now has 10 million monthly active users, with more than 1,000 paid corporate customers who were not previously buying Microsoft 365 or Microsoft Teams.
Earlier this year, Microsoft announced a new integration between Viva and Glint, the employee feedback tool acquired by Microsoft-owned LinkedIn in 2018. Viva also integrates with LinkedIn Learning.
Microsoft acquired LinkedIn for more than $26 billion in 2016. LinkedIn accounted for $13.8 billion in revenue in Microsoft’s 2022 fiscal year, which ended June 30, a 34% increase from the previous year.
Microsoft competes with a range of services in the communications and collaboration technology market, including Zoom and Salesforce’s Slack. Seattle-area employee experience company Limeade, which acquired workplace survey tool TINYPulse last year, announced an integration with Microsoft Viva around the same time.