Hybrid work, or hybrid work. A variable mix of work in presence and work in remote. And it is already here, although we will certainly see further developments in the coming months and years.
Two years of pandemic and recourse to what, for lack of better terms, has been called smart work, have in fact changed the world of work and the habits / preferences of workers. It has been understood that in many cases the fixed place of work is not a necessity and a reasoned and aware one alternation of work in the office and working remotely improves both work and quality of life.
Thus, the hybrid work that, according to the 2022 edition of Microsoft's annual report, the Work Trend Index, now affects the 53% of workers interviewed in a worldwide survey that involved over 31,000 subjects in 31 countries, including Italy. However slight, therefore, it is a majority and is destined to grow. Already today, hybrid work is practiced by as many as 38% of workers, when only a year ago it was limited to 31%.
"We are not the same people who went to work in early 2020", is the finding that the Microsoft study highlights. The experience of the past two years has shuffled the cards, which means the priority. Employees, a little everywhere, have begun to reconsider the relative weights between work and private life and if a minority but important share leaves work without having an immediate alternative ready, many more are recalculating the equation that weights what is truly worth doing. A little at all ages, with a slight prevalence of women and parents with children, but above all in the new generations, i.e. Millennials and the Jan Z. For them one thing is clear: there is no going back.
And the companies? They will do well, emphasizes the Work Trend Index, not to ignore this evolution and not even to underestimate it. What is occurring is a social phenomenon which calls into question objectives, values and principles. In short, the life-work equation has changed and the best thing to do is to understand it thoroughly and make the most of it, for the benefit of all.
New priorities, new identities
When it comes to hybrid work, the focus is on flexibility. A rigid and overly structured way of conceiving and organizing work badly fits in with an increasingly uncertain and volatile context. The acronym VUCA is perhaps not very musical, but it gives a good idea of a reality that changes quickly (volatile), creates uncertainties (uncertain, uncertain) and is increasingly complex and ambiguous. In short, a new vision of the world evolves where inevitably change the priority and change the identity. In the new equation of life, the variables related to health, family, free time and purpose grow in importance, while the variables of money, career, privileges and benefits take a back seat. In fact, the 54% of Italians is now more inclined to prioritize their own health and to your own Welfare with respect to work.
To pursue the new goals there are those who leave their jobs (it is referred to as the Great Reshuffle, or even the Big Quit or the Great Resignation): the 17% in 2020 and the 18% in 2021 (the 17% in Italy), with a trend of further growth.
Those who remain redefine their goals.
In fact, Microsoft research reveals a new reality, so far reported but rarely quantified: the top five reasons why it is left have to do with one's own Welfare personal, including mental (24%), work-life balance (24%), fears related to the pandemic (21%), low confidence in management and leadership (21%) and a lack of flexibility in times or places of labor (21%). Only afterwards is a motivation that was certainly in the head in the past: not having received the adequate recognition and promotion that it is believed to deserve (19%).
A detail relating to those who already practice the hybrid is interesting: the 57% is willing to consider an even more hybrid formula between work in the presence and remotely and the 51% who does not yet wish to operate in this way. A sign, therefore, that the combination holds up, to the point that the 43% of employees declare that they want to consider a new job within the next year (the 37% in Italy) and, even, the 52% (49% in Italy) among the members of the new generations (but only the 35% between Baby Boomers and Gen X). And you would be wrong if you thought that this desire for change only concerns mid-level employees: even i leader 47% expressed their willingness to consider a job away from home, relying on hybrid work.
In summary, employees look to a new relationship with work and the world of work, a new context in which a "positive" culture, a clear purpose, more flexibility and, why not, even a few days in more than vacation.
The difficult balance of managers
So far the gradual shift of employee priorities. But what do the managers think? The last two years have highlighted its crucial role in managing change, but we are far from a clear point of balance between new expectations of employees and the legitimate needs of those in positions of responsibility. Leaders, to put it briefly, feel they are in the middle of the ford and essentially lacking the power that is considered necessary to tread the new paths. A tension that the 54% of managers highlights, with even the 74% that believes it does not have the influence or the resources to adequately manage the transition. In fact, in Italy the 71% of the executives would like to have more room for maneuver to manage the change of the team. All this is not surprising, given that there are many companies that require a return to work face-to-face. The 50% of the leaders on average say this (a little less, the 47%, in Italy), but with peaks of the 55% in manufacturing, the 54% in distribution and the 53% in the consumer goods sector.
It is clear that there is a nice contrast to the expectations, and demands, of hybrid work among employees. And here comes the never well-defined question of productivity. The majority of employees who worked remotely (80%) claim that they have been and are at least as, or more, productive, against a 54% of leaders who experienced a decline. This is a central issue, in which the technology that has made it possible to implement the new working models also plays an important part. Managers and leaders have faced huge problems organizational and practical in the different periods of lockdown, as there was no lack of psychological management problems in a range from the mildest to the most acute. And this in an economic context of severe recession and very high volatility and uncertainty. However strong and motivated, the new demand rising from the world of work poses difficult management and balance issues that decision makers clearly have difficulty coping with.