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Hybrid transformations are becoming more and more the norm. New research reveals what employees want from their workplace, during and post-pandemic.

The COVID-19 crisis is certainly one of the biggest challenges to the norms and barriers that have previously kept employees from working remotely.

Now, employees are wanting their organisations to prioritise more flexible, hybrid working models, while executives are also predicting a greater mix of remote with on-site work will become more commonplace. But beyond that, the details about hybrid work become more imprecise. A hybrid work plan is a new point of difference that most – if not all – organisations would be wise to take on.

Productivity – Will it rise with hybrid work?

Even though globally the last century has seen massive growth in productivity, New Zealand organisations haven’t kept pace, seeing us going from being once one of the most productive economies to now one of the least.

In part, it’s likely to do with a problem in how we’re measuring it. Unable to include production itself, productivity itself is represented as the number of hours of paid work, not the hours actually worked.

Additionally, there’s no certainty about the impact of economic disruptions on productivity growth. It’s a two-sided coin – on the one hand, losing business confidence is shown to reduce efficiencies; on the other, the weakest firms may fail, leading to the so-called ‘cleansing effect’ which raises overall productivity.

Innovation and technology change, which is at the centre of growth, is set to be key to continued global development.

Flexible work environments are here to stay

Earlier this year, the 2021 Work Trend Index – a survey of 30,000 people in 31 countries, including New Zealand – signalled the hybrid working model is here to stay.

The research analyses trillions of aggregate productivity and labour signs across Microsoft 365 and Linkedin, and draws on viewpoints from authorities on collaboration, space design and social capital at work.

  • Flexible work endures: Most (71%) of New Zealand workers surveyed want flexible working options to continue while simultaneously a most (65%) are craving more time spent in-person with their teams.
  • The writing’s on the wall, but some leaders are out of touch: Most (76%) of New Zealand leaders report thriving, in contrast to only 41% of those without decision-making power saying they are thriving.
  • Raising productivity may be exhausing the workforce: Just over half (51%) of New Zealand workers feel overworked, while 45% feel exhausted.
  • Gen Z is at risk and needing re-energisation: Of the generation between the ages of 18 and 25, over half (54%) percent say they’re merely surviving or all out struggling.
  • Shrinking networks are threatening innovation: Interactions have suffered with the shift to remote work, with 17% of New Zealand workers decreasing their contact with cooworkers.
  • Productivity and wellbeing is spurred by authenticity: Coworkers have become closer in the last year, especially in healthcare, tourism and travel industries. The research reports 40% of New Zealand workers feeling like they can “be their full authentic selves at work this year.”
  • Talent surrounds us in a hybrid work world: More than half (56%) of New Zealanders surveyed are planning to move to a new location given new possibilities with remote working. Relatedly, the research showed 48% of workers and 66% Gen Z in New Zealand are likely to think about leaving their employers this year.
  • Work-life balance is a priority for more employers: Most New Zealand workers (61%) think their employer cares about their work-life balance.

CCL are New Zealand’s Modern Workplace Experts

If you didn’t already know, CCL has an established Modern Workplace service. Using Azure Virtual Desktop, it solves the problem of hard-to-move legacy apps.

Any Windows application can be launched within a virtual desktop, with public cloud convenience, expertise and tools bringing Azure desktops and apps to every device.

Communication gap

New Zealand findings reflect those from overseas. A global survey from McKinsey at the start of the year found a communication gap between most organisations, and employees wanting to embrace a more flexible way of working.

  • Most employees said they would like to work from home one to four days a week
  • Even for organisations indicating a general intention to embrace hybrid work, most employees had not yet received a detailed vision of what this would look like
  • Nearly half of the employees who had not received communication on their company’s hybrid approach said the lack of information was causing them concern or anxiety, with symptoms of burnout
  • Employees said they want more collaboration – both leaders who listen and responds to them, and opportunities to connect with their colleagues within small, often spontaneous, encounters.

All in for leadership

Without leaders addressing these sources of employee anxiety, the productivity gains made in the last year could prove to be unsustainable going into the future.

Not one of us knows, definitively, what the post-pandemic world will look like. Still, there are tried-and-tested steps about what works for workplace cultures – those that are open to change.

As a first step, leaders can counter employee fears by laying out the basics. They can provide clarity around work hours and what else is expected, guidelines toward organisational norms of behaviour, and the right digital tools and training. Facilitating company-specific experiences will help foster a common culture, built upon shared trust.

A second consideration for leadership is to consider the diversity of their workplace – that not all employees will have the same preferences or expectations around the ideal hybrid working scenario. Tailoring work arrangements to different segments of the workforce will help employees know their uniqueness – and value – is being understood and factored into longer-term business sustainability.

Our productivity future

Despite being an early trendsetter, New Zealand has seemingly struggled to sustainably ramp up its productivity. Yet a review of current local and global research clearly reveals New Zealanders may be looking for a different way of doing things, with flexible work and hybrid business models more popular than ever.

The question remains: Will we take these insights on board, and be the leaders our cultures and companies are looking for?

For more on this topic, please read “Do You Have Digital Whiplash?” and “People Talent Never Comes Second with a Strategic Cloud Transition“.