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Half of bosses out of touch with reality, study shows

Work Trend Index indicates things are about to get a little messy

Microsoft's second annual Work Trend Index report is out, and it highlights a massive disconnect between leaders, managers, and employees.

The study is based on responses from a survey of 31,000 people in 31 countries (along with what it can glean from Microsoft 365 and LinkedIn). The data shows that the Great Resignation (or "Great Reshuffle" as Microsoft puts it) is far from over. Half of the leaders in IT roles surveyed reckoned their company would require full-time in-person work from employees in the coming year while just over half of hybrid employees were considering a bigger shift to remote work.

Similarly, 54 percent of managers said leadership was "out of touch" with employees. You think?

During a briefing Microsoft's CVP of Modern Work, Jared Spataro, said the statistic "kind of blows my mind", highlighting as it did the clear tension between the needs of leaders and employees. And it is managers who are stuck in the middle, with 74 per cent saying "they don't have the influence or resources to make changes for employees" and more than half claiming that leaders were out of touch.

That said, remote or hybrid work is hardly a walk in the park. Microsoft pointed to digital overload, with meetings gobbling up more than their fair share of time.

The report highlighted a 252 percent increase in meetings for the average Teams user since February 2020 (although it did not specify how much of that was spent cursing at recalcitrant webcams and frozen apps or repeating "can you hear me?") and a 32 percent increase in chats sent per person since April 2020.

Microsoft also noted that the average workday span (the gap between first and last meeting or chat) for the average Teams user had increased by 46 minutes since March 2020.

For its part, Microsoft has reportedly told staff they'll be expected to come back to the office under a hybrid work model from 28 February. "Employees will have 30 days to make adjustments to their routines and adopt the working preferences they've agreed upon with their managers". Other tech firms are also easing their staff into office.

The report comes as Microsoft unveils a new camera for its Surface Hub 2S and Surface Hub 2 as well as making tweaks to Outlook for RSVPing to meeting to confirm in-person or virtual attendance and a vaguely creepy enhancement for PowerPoint to optionally drop your own cameo recording among the slides.

With the virtual party poppers still smoking from its five-year Teams anniversary, Microsoft was unsurprisingly keen to emphasize that remote and hybrid working looks set to stick around, regardless of the hopes of business leaders. "We're not the same people that went home to work in early 2020," the company intoned. "There's no erasing that experience," Spataro said, "Employees have a new worth equation and flexibility and flexible work is just here to stay."

Spataro's advice was for leaders to take the temperature of their workforce. "If they don't do that," he warned, "then I think the tension's going to play out in pretty messy ways." ®

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