More than two-thirds of staff want flexible working to stay, Microsoft research reveals

Most workers in the UK want flexible working to continue, according to new research from Microsoft that highlights a disconnect between business leaders and their staff.

As the Government eases lockdown measures designed to tackle the spread of COVID-19, companies are planning how their employees can return to the office – and how often.

Microsoft has today published the UK findings from its global Work Trend Index, entitled “The Next Great Disruption is Hybrid Work – Are We Ready?”. The company surveyed more than 30,000 people in 31 countries, analysed trillions of productivity labour signals across Microsoft 365 and LinkedIn, and talked to experts in collaboration, social capital and space design at work.

The UK research found that 71 percent of UK workers want flexible work options to stay after the COVID-19 crisis has passed. Additionally, more than a third (37 percent) are likely to move to a new location in the next year because they can work remotely, emphasising a desire for continued remote working options.

However, the desire for more flexible working among staff appears out of step with the demands of their bosses.

One in five (20 percent) UK workers feel that their company doesn’t care about their work-life balance, with 57 percent of UK employees feeling “overworked”, and 47 percent saying they are “exhausted”.

Graph showing highlights from the Microsoft research

Interestingly, 43 percent of leaders say they are “thriving”, compared with 33 percent of workers who feel the same. This is even more of a concern for the nation’s Gen-Z workers, with 63 percent saying that they are either “struggling” or “surviving” today.

This risk of burnout could prompt upheaval in many sectors, as 41 percent of workers are considering leaving their current employers in the next year. This trend is especially acute for Gen-Z workers, with 63 percent revealing they are considering switching jobs.

One third (33 percent) of UK workers say they are more likely to be their full authentic selves at work this year compared to last, highlighting an increase in genuine interactions despite the remote setting.

Nick Hedderman, Modern Work and Security Business Group Lead at Microsoft UK, said: “The pandemic has proven that organisations can trust their people to be productive wherever they are. As working physically together comes into view again, leaders now have the opportunity to define a hybrid work strategy that combines the best of the digital workplace and the physical workplace; empowering people with the flexibility and autonomy of remote work and enabling the crucial human connection with colleagues and customers in person. 

“Hybrid working won’t happen by accident; there are months and years of experimenting and refining ahead. Leaders will need a clear strategy, reshaping work around individual roles, preferences and even personal lives. Employee wellbeing should be at the forefront of the hybrid work strategy, to foster an accessible, innovative and supportive culture, where everyone is inspired and no one is left behind.” 

To learn more about the global findings visit the full report and launch article, alongside a supporting blog post from Jared Spataro, CVP, Microsoft 365, which highlights the seven trends for leaders to address in the shift to hybrid work.