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One year in: 7 urgent trends for leaders in the shift to hybrid work

In April 2020—just a month into a global pandemic that triggered a worldwide move to remote work—my team and I shared early research on how work was changing. There was so much we didn’t know back then, but we did know there was no going back. As I said at the time, “This moment will change the way we work and connect with each other forever.”

Now, one year in, we’re on the cusp of the next big workplace disruption. With widespread vaccinations rolling out across the globe, we’ve set our sights on a new normal: hybrid work. We can draw on the data, learnings, and human experience over the past year to take us forward.

Rewiring operating models for hybrid work

Today we’re publishing our first annual Work Trend Index: “The Next Great Disruption is Hybrid Work—Are We Ready?” We surveyed more than 30,000 people in 31 countries, analyzed trillions of productivity and labor signals across Microsoft 365 and LinkedIn, and talked to experts who have studied collaboration, social capital, and space design at work for decades. Our research uncovered seven key trends leaders need to know now to make hybrid work, work.

One thing is abundantly clear: We are no longer bound to traditional notions of time and space when it comes to how, when, and where we work. It’s a big mental shift—one that will require leaders and organizations to fundamentally reexamine and rewire their operating model.

And there are big changes ahead. Our research indicates that nearly half (41 percent) of the global workforce is considering leaving their employer this year, and 46 percent say they’re likely to move because they can now work remotely. Your approach to hybrid will ultimately impact who stays, who goes, and who seeks to join your company.

The 2021 Work Trend Index reveals seven key trends for leaders in the shift to hybrid work:

  • Flexible work is here to stay
  • Leaders are out of touch with employees and need a wake-up call
  • High productivity is masking an exhausted workforce
  • Gen Z is at risk and will need to be re-energized
  • Shrinking networks are endangering innovation
  • Authenticity will spur productivity and wellbeing
  • Talent is everywhere in a hybrid work world

As we begin our transition to hybrid work this month at Microsoft, we hope this research-backed guide can help business leaders on their own hybrid-work journeys. The next phase will bring challenges and opportunities, but we’re optimistic about the future. If we take what we’ve learned from overcoming a once-in-a-hundred-year challenge and use it to chart a path forward that gives people the flexibility they need, together we can build a better world of work for everyone.

Read the full report.