Microsoft lead: 'It's about redefining and redesigning productivity for today'

Microsoft's recent report found a hybrid disconnect – HR leader reveals how to interpret the data

Microsoft lead: 'It's about redefining and redesigning productivity for today'

Managers are feeling stranded in the middle, experiencing a disconnect between their leadership team and employees over whether people working from home are productive or not. That’s one of the findings to come out of the 2022 Work Trend Index: Annual Report from Microsoft. HRD previously reported on the new report, which found that flexible work is now a ‘must have’ for employees, with more than half saying they are likely to switch to hybrid or remote work in the year ahead.

Following the initial release, HRD sat down with Jane Mackarell, Microsoft’s modern work lead, who revealed how leaders can look at redesigning productivity for a new era of working.

Productivity through a new lens

“Leaders and managers used to rely on the visibility of the office to get a sense of organisational productivity,” Mackarell says. “There was certainly a shift that we were thrown into where leaders needed to get a measure on productivity in a different way, so it’s not really a surprise that there is now this disconnect. However, if leaders and managers don’t work out a new way for getting a sense of productivity and embracing hybrid work, the unpredictable economic climate and incredibly tight talent pool will mean that disconnect is only going to grow wider.”

It’s easy to understand why leaders might see a return to the workplace as the best solution. The alternative is much more complex. Simple measures of productivity are no longer applicable as we adjust to hybrid working. Microsoft’s own research suggests managers need to take a more expansive view of productivity that embraces well-being, social connections and collaboration that all lead to innovation and motivation.

“It is about redefining and redesigning productivity for today,” Mackarell says. “We aren’t going back to the same office culture we had in 2019 – if organisations try to force it, they will lose out in the fight to keep and attract good talent.”

It would be a mistake to view hybrid work as simply replicating the old way of work in digital form. It is also a mistake to think that hybrid working can be measured in the same way that full-time, in-person work was measured.

A new roadmap for productivity

  • Measure what matters: Create clarity on the work that is most important and listen to what employees need to make the biggest impact
  • Focus on connection, in and outside of the office: Give employees a reason to come into the office and use it for rebuilding social capital, but consider that not all work needs to be done from the office
  • Technology has a role to play in helping nurture connection, but also helping people stay in the flow of work (such as dedicated focus time, prompts for follow-ups or tasks, and well-being time carved out in diaries)

At Microsoft, Mackarell says there is a level of accountability within each team where each team decides what is going to work for them when they come into the office and what the week looks like from a hybrid perspective.

“It’s an ongoing discussion and in my team I am certainly not worried about productivity,” she says. “We have worked out a hybrid model where we come in together to collaborate in person but everyone makes hybrid work, work for them.”

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