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Reflecting on another year that redefined work

What a year it’s been. As leaders, we’ve continued to navigate a test-and-learn approach for how, when, and where our teams work while learning how to serve our customers in a hybrid world. In the final weeks of 2021, I’d like to share some of the things that stood out for me over the past year

Driving business growth by truly caring for people

When we first went into lockdown, I told my team that I’d see them in a couple months. Two years after the first cases of COVID-19 were identified, I continue to retool my leadership skills for hybrid work. Here are a few reflections on some of the things I’ve tested and learned along the way:

  • Model, Coach, Care: Three years ago, Microsoft began asking leaders to follow the “Model, Coach, Care” framework as a way to practice a growth mindset with our teams. To help manage burnout during the pandemic across my team, I took breaks throughout the day to spend time with my family, which helped my team feel OK taking breaks as well, shortened meetings to avoid daily fatigue, coached my managers on how to support their direct reports, reminded them to take care of themselves as well, and started meetings with a two-word check-in to give everyone an opportunity to share and ask for help. “Model” and “coach” were important, but “care” is where our team grew the most.
  • Culture of trust and belonging: Our society has been through a great deal of conflict over the past year. We’ve seen civil unrest, racial attacks against Asian Americans, a rise in anti-Semitism, and so much more, all while living through COVID-19. As a leader, I spent time finding ways to create space for my team to connect as humans on these topics, learn from each other, and care for each other. Creating space that allows people to be vulnerable helps build a culture where people feel a greater sense of connection and bring the best version of themselves to work.
  • Flexibility: Flexibility recognizes that each of us are managing different things in our lives. I have older teenage daughters who are moving on to college, and I’ll soon need to adjust to life as an empty-nester. My situation is very different from someone who is single and living alone, just got married, had a baby, or is looking after a parent. My leadership team has been very intentional about ensuring flexibility is part of our culture so the care an employee receives is right for their circumstances.

End-of-year celebrations

View from above of two people making paper snowflakes on a large wooden table.

Creating a sense of togetherness has been top of mind for me and my leadership team throughout this past year. We learned that creating space to socialize each month can make a difference in how we strengthen our relationships with each other. As we head into the holiday season, we see this as the perfect opportunity to focus on ways to celebrate and enjoy time together.

For my team, this means we’ll be spending a dedicated afternoon over Microsoft Teams doing fun activities like gingerbread house competitions and cocktail making socials. The specific activities you select for your team should be inclusive and consider their health and safety concerns if you decide to have local, in-person gatherings.

What’s next for hybrid work

If anyone tells you they know what the future is going to look like, take it with a pinch of salt. Things change all the time, especially in the uncertain times we live in now, and it’s difficult to predict how leaders and businesses will respond.

What I will say is that I think hybrid work will simply become work. The Great Reshuffle is showing us that employees want to match their personal goals and beliefs to their job. They have an expectation of working from anywhere if they are in a profession where it’s possible and the technology supports it. We all will need to continue to adjust and adopt new, flexible operating models that take people, places, and processes into account.

Leaders and organizations that lean into this new work trend will capture the opportunity to attract great talent and accelerate growth. As you start thinking about your plans for the coming year, explore our Hybrid Work Center for insights on the lessons we’ve learned on our own journey and how we can help accelerate your digital transformation.

Happy holidays from our team to yours!