my world of work and user experiences

October 31, 2022

Leaders need to pivot in the hybrid world: Microsoft research

Filed under: Adoption,New world of work — Tags: — frederique @ 18:56

Microsoft researched the question how hybrid is working for people and organization. They did a big survey and analysed the usage of Microsoft 365. Their key findings are that leaders need to send productivity paranoia, embrace the fact that people come in for each other and re-recruit their employees. For more details, see their Work Trend Index Special Report Hybrid Work is Just Work. Are we doing it wrong?

Microsoft sells tool to support both people working in an office and people working remotely, so that is not why they are looking into hybrid work. But they want to know what people need, so that they can gear their toolkit towards what would work best for us. After all, they sell licenses, so they want us to keep paying for these licenses and preferably buy more advanced ones…

Because we are working in a more hybrid way these days. I already did before covid, because I worked a lot at client locations and hardly ever visited the office of my own organisation. But since covid, hybrid work and remote work have become mainstream. A decade ago, we were talking about the New World of Work, in which we started to collaborate online. Well, we have ramped up the newness of our world of work!

End the productivity paranoia

Microsoft survey found that 85% of leaders are not sure that their people are productive, now that they are working in a hybrid way! That is a lot… At the same time 87% of the employees say that they are productive. Shouldn’t we believe them? Microsoft cannot measure what these people actually delivered, but they did measure that the number of meetings has soared – so at least these employees were not relaxing at the beach all week…

I have heard that in some organisations, employees need to be at the office most of the week. Not because management has determined that for their jobs that would be the most effective and efficient place to work, but because they want to see their employees work….

As if you can be sure that people are working productively when you see them burrowing into their computers, if that is your only criterium. They may be on Facebook or playing a game. If you don’t trust your people to do their jobs, why would the employees bother to do their creative and proactive best for such bosses? I know I would not keep working for an organisation that only values my presence, rather than my actual contribution…

Fortunately, in my organisation we can determine for ourselves, with our teams, what location makes most sense for which tasks. For example:

  • We prefer to brainstorm face to face, but we only do that at one of our offices, when it is an internal brainstorm. In projects, usually only one or a few of my direct colleagues participate in these brainstorms, with more participants from the client. So it is more efficient to go to their office.
  • When I have multiple meeting on that day, with multiple clients based in multiple locations, it makes more sense for me to work from home: at home I don’t bother anyone with my Teams calls and I get less background noise. We do have some small rooms at the office where you can isolate yourself, but why block that room for most of the day and waste travel time to boot?
  • When I need to write a plan or create materials, for example, or do some other task for which I should just sit down and focus, working from home works best for me. It saves travel time and focus energy.
  • But when we have something to celebrate, like a birthday or success in a project, we meet at the office. Digital cake and drinks don’t work as well ?

What we need, is clarity on what are trying to achieve in our project or department and what are the priorities. Then we, including our managers, can check if we actually do achieve these goals . That is a lot more useful than just being present, because this will give us a sense of accomplishment and the opportunity to tweak our way of working.

Embrace the fact that people come in for each other

I have a great ‘home office’ and going to the office takes quite a bit of time. I don’t have a car, because I do not want to waste time “steering” and I do not want to add to the traffic congestion we already have. I commute by train, so that I can do some work or read the people on the train ride, but recently, the railways have become more unreliable, more infrequent and more busy. So I only commute when it makes sense.

Commuting for face to face conversations and brainstorming does make sense. And that includes commuting to the office to meet with my colleagues, for smoother communication with more than faces on a screen and for serendipitous meetings at the coffee machine. But not when I have to focus on calls with clients or writing a plan, so that I do not have time to chat with anyone anyway…


So the hybrid world does gives us quite a few technical challenges, like how do we facilitate hybrid meetings in which everyone is heard, and what are the best tools to brainstorm remotely.

But a big part of the hybrid challenge is about people: for example, asking teams to determine what hybridisation would fit their needs best. And how can we help leaders and managers adapt to the employees hybrid way of working, instead the other way around, trying to squeeze the employees into an obsolete pattern that worked in the past or at least seemed to work in the past…

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