Microsoft study of corporate workplaces finds big disconnect in hybrid work – GeekWire

Jared Spataro, Microsoft Corporate Vice President Modern Work, quotes the results of Microsoft’s latest Work Trend Index during a webcast Thursday morning. (Image via Microsoft webcast)

A large perception gap between employees and leaders could make hybrid work at companies around the world unsustainable if left unaddressed, Microsoft warned Thursday as it released the findings of a new workplace survey.

  • 87% of employees surveyed say they are productive at work.
  • 12% of leaders say they are completely confident that their employees are productive.

This disconnect, which Microsoft calls “productivity paranoia,” is one of the key findings of the 20,000-person survey at companies in 11 countries, conducted for Microsoft by a third-party company in July and August.

One of the reasons is the decline of the age-old practice of ‘managing by walking’ as a result of remote working. The study found that a lack of confidence in employee productivity is more common among managers whose teams continue to work outside the traditional office at least some of the time.

At the same time, data obtained from the use of Microsoft software and online services indicates a continued increase in overall employee activity.

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  • Weekly meetings were up 153% this spring from the start of the pandemic for the average Microsoft Teams user, and the trend shows no signs of slowing down, the company said.
  • About 42% of meeting participants multitask by sending email and other messages. This does not apply to other forms of multitasking, such as reading e-mail or surfing the web.

Aside from potential burnout, a risk of employees trying to look like they are at work, rather than actually doing productive work, is a phenomenon identified by author Anne Helen Petersen as LARP-ing or “live action.” role playing” their jobs.

Speaking live webcast from London, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said recognizing and understanding the new realities of work is key, and don’t expect to turn back the clock to 2019, before the pandemic.

“Work as we know it has undergone a massive structural change,” Nadella said at the virtual event. “I think in a way we need to re-examine what the fundamental meaning of work is.”

Microsoft CEO Jared Spataro, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and LinkedIn CEO Ryan Roslansky at Microsoft’s virtual event Thursday in London. (Image via Microsoft webcast.)

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.

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“What is needed now is not measuring work hours,” Patton said. Instead, companies should “really focus on the results that” [they] drive, and provide clarity to employees who would otherwise just be doing a lot of busy work, and then get feedback on what they need to support them to be successful.”

Patton said Microsoft opposes the practice in which companies use technology to actively track the computing activity of individual employees, through workplace monitoring tools, to determine productivity and wages.

Microsoft faced a backlash in November 2020 over a “Productivity Score” tool in Microsoft 365, eventually announcing that it would remove the ability for businesses to see data about individual users in the feature, addressing privacy concerns. experts on the possible use of the technology to spy on employees.

Microsoft released the survey results Thursday, citing the importance of helping employees connect with each other as a motivation to work in person. In addition, the company said it’s important to “re-recruit” existing employees to help them identify their best internal roles and growth opportunities, rather than looking for jobs elsewhere.

This Microsoft chart, based on two years of aggregated, anonymized user data from Microsoft 365 collaboration tools, shows a sustained average increase in the number of meetings per person. See interactive version.

“People want to feel very connected to their work,” said LinkedIn CEO Ryan Roslansky, who appeared alongside Nadella at the company’s virtual event on 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 roles.”

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Of course, this isn’t purely 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 for conducting quick employee surveys, setting clear goals for work, and encouraging employee learning and growth.

Microsoft announced Viva in March 2021 as its entry into the increasingly competitive technology market 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 enterprise customers who previously didn’t buy Microsoft 365 or Microsoft Teams.

Earlier this year, Microsoft also announced new integrations between Viva and Glint, the employee feedback tool that Microsoft-owned LinkedIn acquired in 2018. Viva also integrates with LinkedIn Learning.

Microsoft acquired LinkedIn in 2016 for more than $26 billion. LinkedIn was responsible for $13.8 billion in revenue in Microsoft’s fiscal year 2022, which ended June 30, a 34% increase from the prior year.

Microsoft competes with a range of services in the communications and collaboration technology market, including Salesforce’s Zoom and Slack. Seattle-based company Limeade, which bought the workplace research tool TINYPulse last year, announced an integration with Microsoft Viva around the same time.

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