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According to Microsoft’s annual work trend report, flexible working is most definitely here to stay and leaders are out of step with employees want on the matter.

These are a couple of the key takeaways from the tech giant’s just-published report, The next great disruption in hybrid work – are we ready?

“The world is on the brink of a disruption as great as last year’s sudden shift to remote work: The move to hybrid – a blended model where some employees return to the workplace and others continue to work from home,” explained Rosalind Quek, GM for the modern workplace at Microsoft Asia.

“The choices you make today will impact your organisation for years to come. These decisions will impact everything from how you shape culture, to how you attract and retain talent, to how you can better foster collaboration and innovation,” she added.

The past 12 months has fundamentally changed the nature of work and shows that we are on the cusp of workplace disruption.

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The study revealed that the workforce in Asia is: More likely to change professional paths (47%), more connected with co-workers, freer to be their authentic selves (55%), more productive but exhausted and stressed, prioritising work-life balance and more likely to move now they can work remotely.

In response to the findings, the report indentified seven trends that HR and business leaders need to know. These are:

#1 Flexible work is here to stay: More than three-quarters (73%) of employees surveyed want flexible remote work options to continue, while two-thirds (67%) are craving more in-person time with their teams.

#2 Leaders are out of touch with employees and need a wake-up call: Research shows that 61% of leaders say they are thriving right now – a hefty 23 percentage points higher than those without decision-making power.

#3 High productivity is masking an exhausted workforce: More than half (54%) feel overworked and 39% feel exhausted. Australia and China were the only two countries where weekly meeting time didn't triple year-on-year.

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#4 Gen Z is at risk and will need to be re-energised: A total of 60% of this generation — those between the ages of 18 and 25 — say they are merely surviving or flat-out struggling.

#5 Shrinking networks are endangering innovation: Aggregate trends across billions of interactions revealed the use of broader networks diminished with the move to remote work.

#6 Authenticity will spur productivity and well-being: Coworkers leaned on each other in new ways to get through the last year. One in six (17%) has cried with a colleague, especially those in healthcare, travel and tourism, and education.

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#7 Talent is everywhere in a hybrid work world: Almost half (46%) of respondents are planning to move to a new location this year – suggesting people no longer have to leave their desk, house or community to expand their career opportunities.

The 2021 Work Trend Index collates findings from a study of more than 30,000 people in 31 countries and analyses trillions of aggregate productivity and labour 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.

Surveyed countries for Asia include India, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.

Image: Microsoft