When Microsoft talks about revolutionary work processes, a lot of people — and businesses — tend to tune in.
That’s because the global tech giant is heavily invested in how work happens through its massive offering of software and work-collaboration tools.
This week, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella wrote a post and shared research by the company on the future of hybrid work — work that is done partially in-office and partially remotely — and organizations of all sizes likely are paying attention.
In his May 21 LinkedIn post, Nadella called the move to hybrid work the “biggest shift to how we work in our generation.”
This shift is a “hybrid paradox,” because “the vast majority of employees say they want more flexible remote work options, but at the same time also say they want more in-person collaboration, post-pandemic,” he said in the post.
This new way of working “will require a new operating model, spanning people, places and processes,” he added.
Nadella cites a recent Microsoft study, or “playbook,” that includes data, research and best practices that he says are “designed to help organizations navigate these evolving work norms.”
The following are some highlights of the research that Microsoft says is aimed at helping business leaders navigate the changing work landscape.
The study labels the shift to hybrid work as a strategic business opportunity for every organization.
“Every leader will need a strategy to activate the whole organization in the move from defense to offense to gain competitive advantage and address the urgent opportunity now. From HR, to IT, to marketing and sales, to manufacturing — every function will need to come together to reimagine how to empower employees, engage customers, optimize operations and transform products.”
In addition, the study says that employee expectations have changed.
“There’s no going back. Flexibility and hybrid work will define the post-pandemic workplace. We need to let go of the idea that we can expect people to work together during certain hours and all in one place.”
Microsoft notes in its March 2021 Work Trend Index study that employees want the best of both worlds, with 73 percent of workers desiring flexible remote-work options to continue, and 67 percent hoping for more in-person time. At the same time, 80 percent of managers say they expect more flexible work-from-home policies post-pandemic.
“The pandemic has reinforced what we already know: work is about so much more than just getting things done,” the report said. “Empowering people to thrive in a more flexible work world requires rethinking the entire employee experience — from safety, to how you create culture, to attracting and retaining talent.”
Microsoft says that establishing a clear and flexible work policy will allow staff to choose how, when and where they work. The key, it added, is “to align as an organization on a policy and principles to enable flexible work, and to determine what decisions you will make centrally and where you’ll empower local decision-making.
At the same time, the research finds that organizations should empower managers and leaders “to adapt the global policy to fit their diverse business needs and team expectations.”
Keeping employees safe in the transition to hybrid work should be an organization’s first priority, Microsoft says in the study. Here are some of the company’s best practices to protect employees:
- Equip buildings, meeting rooms and other spaces with privacy-sensitive occupancy sensors to monitor capacity.
- Provide a single travel-booking portal where all employees book and manage work travel to know where people are in the world should an emergency occur.
- Empower employees to work securely during non-standard hours by equipping spaces with additional cameras and sensors, security staff and access measures.
With hybrid work on the horizon, organizations must secure their office networks as well as help staff working remotely guard against potential cyber and malware attacks, Microsoft says.
In the office, the company suggests move all employees off the corporate network “to be fully cloud/internet first.” This strengthens the “assume breach” approach and “makes everyone more secure while providing a seamless and consistent experience from anywhere,” it says in the report.
At home, businesses should ask all employees who continue to work remotely either full time or part time to run a test of their home network to ensure it is secure.
While the new work horizon is still cloudy for many organizations, Jared Spataro, corporate vice president of Microsoft 365, says it’s clear that hybrid work is the future of work and businesses shouldn’t wait on the sidelines while this tectonic shift plays out.
“There’s no going back to the pre-pandemic world. Whether we like it or not, hybrid is going to rewire the operating models of most businesses over the next 12 months. The question is simply, will we just let that play out or will we take an active role in shaping the future,” he said in the report.