Illustrating the hybrid work paradox in India, nearly three-fourths (74%) of Indian employees say they want more flexible remote work options, while at the same time, 73% of them are also craving more in-person time with their teams. These were the findings of Microsoft India’s first annual Work Trend Index, which reveals insights, challenges, expectations, and motivations that will shape the future of work in India.
According to the Work Trend Index, extreme flexibility and hybrid work will define the post-pandemic workplace. The last year has fundamentally changed the nature of work and shows that we are on the cusp of workplace disruption. The move to remote work in 2020, boosted feelings of inclusion for workers, because everyone was in the same virtual room. However, the move to hybrid will need to ensure employees are given the flexibility to work when and where they want, as well as the tools they need to equally contribute from wherever they happen to be, the report added. To prepare for this change, 73% of business decision makers are considering redesigning physical spaces, to better accommodate hybrid work environments.
Rajiv Sodhi, chief operating officer, Microsoft India, said, “If we have learnt one thing in the last year, it is that we are no longer bound to traditional notions of space and time when it comes to how, when and where we work. The Work Trend Index findings attest that remote work has created new opportunities but there are challenges ahead as well. We believe hybrid work is the future and a successful hybrid strategy will require extreme flexibility. As every organisation fundamentally reimagines itself for the hybrid work era, we are collectively learning and innovating on how we will shape the future of work in India. It is time to embrace work as a frame of mind, not a place you go.”
The Work Trend Index study revealed the following trends among the workforce in India:
Work has become more human and authentic
Coworkers leaned on each other in new ways to get through the last year. One among four (24%) Indian employees said that they cried with a colleague and 35% people are less likely to feel embarrassed now when their home lives show up at work. As living rooms made way for work meetings, 37% people got to meet their coworkers’ families. People who interacted with their coworkers more closely than before experienced stronger work relationships, reported higher productivity and better overall wellbeing. The genuine interactions with coworkers are helping to foster a workplace where 63% of Indian workers said they are more likely to be their full, authentic selves at work.
Digital overload is real and rising
Self-assessed productivity has remained the same or higher for many employees over the past year but at a human cost. 62% of the Indian workforce says their companies are asking too much of them at a time like this and 13% say their employers do not care about their work-life balance. More than half (57%) of Indian employees feel overworked and 32% feel exhausted.
The digital intensity of workers’ days has increased substantially in the last year. The time spent in Microsoft Teams meetings has more than doubled (2.5X) globally, 62% of Teams calls and meetings are unscheduled or conducted ad-hoc and the average Teams meeting is 10 minutes longer, up from 35 to 45 minutes year-over-year. The average Teams user is sending 45% more chats per week and 42% more chats per person after hours. In spite of the meeting and chat overload, 50% of people respond to Teams chats within five minutes or less.
Gen Z is struggling more than other generations
India’s first generation of digital natives, or Gen Z, appears to be suffering and need to be re-energised. Nearly 71% of this generation – those between the ages of 18 and 25 – say they are merely surviving or flat-out struggling. Survey respondents reported that they were more likely to struggle balancing work with life and to feel exhausted after a typical day of work when compared to older generations. Gen Z also reported more difficulty feeling engaged or excited about work, getting a word in during meetings and bringing new ideas to the table when compared to other generations.
Workplace networks are shrinking
Anonymised collaboration trends between billions of Outlook emails and Microsoft Teams meetings, reveal that the shift to remote work has shrunk our networks. Between April 2020 and February 2021, the number of people sending chats posted in a Teams channel – designed to include the whole team – have decreased by 5%. In contrast, the number of people sending small group or one-on-one chats have increased by 87%.
Strong workplace networks impact innovation and productivity. Respondents who reported weaker workplace relationships were less likely to report thriving at activities that lead to innovation, like thinking strategically, collaborating or brainstorming with others and proposing new ideas. Among the Indian workforce, 29% have experienced decreased interaction with coworkers.
Talent is on the move in a hybrid world
A vast talent marketplace is one of the brightest outcomes from the shift to remote work. Remote job postings on LinkedIn increased more than five times in the last year and people are taking notice. Almost 62% of India’s workforce (including 51% of Gen Z) expressed their intention to switch jobs this year. Globally though, 41% of employees are considering leaving their employers this year. Being able to work remotely now, nearly 68% of Indian workers are likely to move to a new location. This fundamental shift expands economic opportunity for individuals and enables organisations to build high-performing, diverse teams from a near-limitless talent pool.
The 2021 Work Trend Index outlines findings from a study of more than 30,000 people in 31 countries and analyses trillions of aggregate productivity and labor signals across Microsoft 365 and LinkedIn. It also includes perspectives from experts who have studied collaboration, social capital, and space design at work for decades.
The future of work is here and it is hybrid
The shift to hybrid work is a strategic business opportunity for every organisation – one that requires a new operating model.
People: Every organisation needs a plan and policies that put us on the path to extreme flexibility and help us build digital empathy into every aspect of our culture – from global guidelines to team-level meeting norms that help everyone feel included and engaged.
Places: Relying solely on shared physical location to collaborate, connect, or build social capital is no longer viable. Nevertheless, spaces and places are still important and reimagining them starts with prioritising employee safety and maintaining consistent person, reference and task spaces for all employees, whether they are on-site or remote.
Processes: The shift to hybrid work presents a rare opportunity to transform key business processes in bold new ways. Cloud readiness, digitisation of business processes, and a ‘zero trust’ security architecture will be key enablers in adapting to the new hybrid reality.