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Microsoft Report Finds Disconnect Between Leaders and Employees on Remote Work Satisfaction

  • Microsoft 2021 Work Trend Index finds that leadership experience with remote work is considerably out of touch with that of non-decision making employees
  • Younger workers, frontline workers, and women are most likely to say they have been struggling during remote work
  • Report offers suggestions for employers to create a more accommodating workplace as businesses move to a hybrid model incorporating some remote work each week

Summary by Dirk Langeveld

The majority of business leaders say they have benefited strongly from the remote work arrangements established in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Microsoft’s 2021 Work Trend Index, a study examining more than 30,000 people in 31 countries. However, the report also found that this sentiment was considerably out of touch with that of non-decision making employees – and that this could prove harmful to retention efforts as a large share of workers consider switching jobs.

Sixty-one percent of leaders described themselves as “thriving” under a remote work setup, compared to just 38 percent among employees with no decision-making authority. Leaders were more likely than these employees to believe that their leadership has improved and that they have developed stronger relationships with their colleagues, and were also more likely to say they have higher incomes and have used all of their vacation days.

Younger, single, frontline, or women employees were most likely to say they considered themselves to be struggling with remote work setups. Women have been more likely to leave the labor force during the pandemic due to child care necessities or other pressures, while young workers often feel more isolated or out of touch while trying to start their careers with little or no in-person interaction.

Fifty-four percent of all workers said they feel overworked, with 39 percent describing themselves as exhausted. Thirty-seven percent said they think their company is asking too much of them, and one in five said they don’t think their employer cares about their work-life balance.

Digital burnout was a major contributor to this stress. Microsoft looked at productivity and labor indicators from LinkedIn and Office 365 and found major increases in the time spent on e-mails, virtual meetings, documents, chats, and other software services.

The report suggests that being in touch with employee sentiments is particularly important for leaders wishing to retain talented workers, as 41 percent of employees are thinking about changing jobs. With a hybrid model of remote and in-person work likely to emerge at many workplaces, employees also have a greater latitude to seek employment elsewhere without a major adjustment to their personal lives.

Microsoft advises that employers adopting a hybrid model should consider a variety of factors, such as how to encourage work-life balance and provide assistance for remote work necessities such as office supplies. The report also recommends taking steps such as pursuing a model offering maximum flexibility, giving employers adequate relief from their screens, and strengthening and growing professional networks after their contraction during the pandemic.

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