At Microsoft, we believe that hybrid work is the future. Moving forward, every organization will need a new operating model for hybrid work—one that doesn’t rely on old norms, like the 8-hour, 9-to-5 workday. Employee expectations have changed for good, with more than 80 percent of managers saying they expect more flexible work from home policies post-pandemic, and more than 70 percent of employees saying they plan to take advantage of them. To compete in this new world, leaders need to embrace extreme flexibility in when, where, and how people work.
Every customer I talk to wants to empower people for a world of work that is dynamic, fluid, and cloud-powered. They want to find ways for people to work not just from anywhere but at any time, with solutions that allow both synchronous and asynchronous collaboration. And it’s a ‘whole organization’ shift. From IT, to HR, to operations, to marketing and manufacturing—this is a conversation that requires leaders across the entire organization to come together to rethink work.
As students of the new world of work, we’ve been experimenting and sharing what we learn as work evolves. Today, I want to share our approach to empower your employees around the world for a flexible work world. It’s a three-part strategy: First, create policy to empower people for extreme flexibility. Second, reimagine physical spaces. And third, invest in technologies that connect people anywhere and anytime.
Let’s take a look at each.
Create policy to empower people for extreme flexibility
The choices you make today will impact your organization for years to come. It’s a moment that requires a clear vision. You need a plan and policies that put you on the path to extreme flexibility. These decisions will impact everything from how you shape culture to how you attract and retain talent to how you respond to changes in the environment to future innovation.
Many organizations have already stepped forward with strong stances on flexible work. Twitter declared its workers could work remotely “forever.” Dropbox announced it will essentially eliminate office space for focused work, transforming physical locations to cater to meetings and collaboration. Spotify hopes to lure talent with New York and San Francisco-level salaries for employees working remotely anywhere in the world. And at Microsoft, employees can now work from home up to 50 percent of the time.
Empowering people for extreme flexibility begins with answering critical questions: Who will be able to work remotely? Who will need to come into the office, and for what amount of time? When people do focused work, where will they do it? What about collaborative work? And in a world where ongoing disruption is part of the new normal—with natural disasters, geopolitical events, and global health crises—you need to be prepared to respond to sudden changes. New, flexible policies take the answers to these questions and codify them, providing clarity and guidance to employees as they experiment.
Reimagine your physical spaces
Once you’ve determined your policies for extreme flexibility, use them to guide your approach to physical space. From here on out, we will no longer rely solely on physical spaces to collaborate, connect, and build social capital. But space will still be important. We’re social animals and we want to get together, bounce ideas off one another, and experience the energy of in-person events. Moving forward, office space needs to bridge the physical and digital worlds and meet the unique needs of every team—and specific roles.
At Microsoft we’re surveying employees and looking at everything from social graphs to employee traffic patterns to understand how to equip teams with the spaces they need, knowing those needs will evolve over time. Sales teams who need to come to the office infrequently can use a hoteling model to book workstations for the day or hour, while engineering teams may need dedicated collaboration spaces and workstations. To accommodate remote workers, we’re exploring offsite coworking hubs. Because we know how we work will continue to evolve, we’re building flexibility into every space we design.