Microsoft CEO: 'Care is the new currency'

Do your employees actually want to work from home?

Microsoft CEO: 'Care is the new currency'

Microsoft’s Chairman and CEO Satya Nadella weighed in on the latest trend in the world of work: the hybrid paradox. According to Microsoft’s findings, employees want the flexibility to work remotely but they’re also missing the human connection you get from being in an office. How can leaders manage both ends of the spectrum? Nadella emphasised on empathy and compassion being key to successfully chart a clear path in our virtual world.

“It’s not always about the tools,” Nadella said in a fireside chat attended by HRD. “It’s about even greater management and employee connection. The empathy of managers is probably at the highest demand today because in order to discern what flexibility is needed, you need to have that compassion [and] empathy as a leader.”

READ MORE: How to be a more compassionate leader

The paradox with hybrid working

In Microsoft’s annual report on work trends, employees listed their preferences and top reasons for them:

  • Staff preferred being in the office due to better collaboration opportunities (70%) and social interaction (61%).
  • Those who chose WFH cited skipping the commute (61%) and a healthier work-life balance (59%).

A deeper dive into the data showed even greater divide between employees’ views. While 12% of employees cited work-life balance as a reason to come into the office, another 59% said they’d prefer to stay home to maintain the balance. About a quarter (23%) said online meetings made working from home a desirable option, but 70% believed team collaboration was better in person. Majority of employees (58%) also cited the ability for ‘focused work’ as a top reason to head into the office. Meanwhile, a separate 58% said ‘focused work’ was a reason to stay home.

READ MORE: Microsoft reveals key trends around our 'new normal'

What do managers prefer for their teams?

The report also found a gap between what employees wanted versus what they expected from their team members. Only a third of managers (35%) said they had no personal preference on how often employees came into the office. Others were more vocal about their expectations:

  • 8% of employees planned to come to the office every day, while only 1% of managers expected team members to do so.
  • 48% of employees planned to come to the office three to four times per week. Only 28% of managers have that expectation.
  • 31% of employees planned to come to the office once or twice weekly. About 25% of managers expected the same.

READ MORE: Are managers ready to handle hybrid teams?

Managers, however, expected to spend much more time in the office than team members: about 45% of managers said they’d spend bulk of their working time on site than those in non-managerial positions (39%). The report suggested that the gap was most attributed to a diversity in working styles that went beyond job functions. Hence, managing hybrid work arrangements will be more complicated than just providing the co-working-enabled workspaces and seamless technology.

“If there’s any piece of advice going into this world of the hybrid paradox…is that what’s most needed is great leadership,” Nadella said. “[It] truly enables us to connect with the changing expectations all around us. Flexibility is what people desire, but you need to be able to discern that flexibility and to really be in touch with the people [to show] that we care. Care is the new currency.”

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