Return to Work

Get Ready for Permanent Hybrid Ways of Working


Near Term

Leaders must be able to understand what is happening inside their organizations on four different levels:

  • Keep employees engaged and protect their wellbeing: Distractions, changing habits, inadequate equipment and poor connectivity can take a toll on individual wellbeing and effectiveness. Questions to consider include:
  • Are employees working as usual? Look out for sudden drops in levels of activity and those areas within the company undergoing the greatest change
  • How are employees adapting to the disruption? Increases in IM, calls and meetings are expected as employees find alternatives to face-to- interactions. They may also indicate where collaboration is becoming less effective.
  • Is remote work affecting work-life balance? Look out for groups with unusually high levels of after-hours work and length of work week. These groups within the company may be at risk of burn-out
  • Maintain healthy interactions within teams: Employees are at risk of isolation, in turn creating fragmentation within teams. This increases the risk of falling productivity. Questions to consider include:
  • Are managers providing the right support? Look out for teams with low average weekly 1:1 time with their manager. Employees within these teams are at risk of becoming isolated.
  • Are team members staying connected? Look for drops in collaboration levels and interactions with colleagues as this can indicate a disruption in normal working patterns. These teams may be undergoing the greatest challenges.
  • Have business as usual activities been disrupted? Look for teams with sudden drops in recurring meetings as these groups may be experiencing a significant disruption in business as usual activities.
  • Enable collaboration between teams and organizations: Collaboration between teams may break if employees can only maintain a subset of their usual interactions. This increases the risk of fragmentation and creating silos. Questions to consider include:
  • How are internal networks evolving? Look out for drops in average network size and breadth. This can indicate areas at risk of isolation
  • Has cross-functional teaming been disrupted? Look out for drops in collaboration levels between teams as this can indicate a disruption in normal working patterns
  • Stay aligned with customers and suppliers: External connectivity may suffer as other
  • companies experience similar disruption. External interactions at risk of being cancelled or
  • postponed. Questions to consider include:
  • How are external networks evolving? Look out for drops in average network size and breadth. This can indicate external-facing areas of the company that are being disrupted
  • Have external engagements been disrupted? Look out for changes in key metrics as these can indicate a disruption in normal working patterns.

Longer Term

So the question is what is going to be the new normal? Though organizations are going through a short-term disruption, by harnessing the power of collaboration data to
understand how work is getting done, many leaders will be able to make adjustments to minimize the impact.

We are already hearing from companies that had little to no remote work up to now, realizing that business can actually be done with some percentage of their workforce
working remotely—and specifically in Microsoft’s case, a significant percentage of employees working entirely remotely. Many companies are coming to the realization that some percentage of their workforce will never come back to an office environment—they will be permanent remote workers. This shift is going to have significant impact on how companies think about office space, the real-estate footprint, infrastructure, and the technology that is going to have to be in place long term to support the new work paradigm.

Beyond near-term potential savings on space, the shift could have additional positive impacts. If done correctly, some of the challenges of remote work—feelings of isolation, increased after-hours work and so forth—may be offset by increased employee engagement and satisfaction through more flexible hours, more time with friends and family, savings on transportation costs and avoiding long commutes. There is a lot to figure out as we continue to manage the current situation. But the good news is that with tools, technology and insights to be able to make better decisions, we can look at ways to minimize disadvantages and embrace the positives.