Microsoft Unveils Keys to Unlock Hybrid Work with Office 365

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Emma Okonji

Microsoft has released three keys that can unlock hybrid work and make work more flexible for workers to remain on their jobs for a longer period of time and become more productive. This is coming at a time when about 40 per cent of the

global workforce are considering leaving their current jobs in 2021.

Dubbed hybrid work, the new prevailing approach sees employees being given the freedom and flexibility to divide their time between working in an office and working remotely.

A recent Work Trend Index Report from Microsoft shows that flexible work is here to stay. Based on surveys from over 30 000 workers, in 31 countries, and drawing on data pulled from applications like Teams, Outlook and Office 365, the report also reveals that hybrid work is hard.

Speaking at the virtual Microsoft 365 Summit: Future of Hybrid Work event, which held recently, the Regional General Manager for the Middle East and Africa Multi-Country Region at Microsoft, Ibrahim Youssry, explained that companies must approach this next phase of work quite carefully because it will fundamentally impact who stays, who goes, and who seeks to join their teams.

According to Youssry, one must not forget that the mass move to remote working has had several downsides. For starters, an influx of virtual meetings and digital communication is causing employees to experience digital exhaustion. And a lack of spontaneous interaction can result in very siloed thinking because there is little opportunity for people from different teams to collaborate around how to solve a problem or to share creative ideas.

“Think flexibility, culture, and inclusion

How you shape your business culture going forward, what you do to attract and retain talent, how you respond to changes in your working environment and how you approach future innovation will all be key to success in the coming years,” Youssry said. He continued by outlining three interventions that businesses can implement to ensure that they get hybrid work right: enabling extreme flexibility; taking a proactive approach to company culture; and prioritising inclusion.

While this might make some feel uncomfortable, it’s important for organisations to sit down with their employees and take the time to find out what everyone needs to be as efficient and productive as possible. Youssry mentions that this will likely be different for each person and for each team. As such, coming up with policies that suit everyone requires a lot of time and careful consideration ahead of enabling extreme flexibility.

He said as for company culture, team-building efforts must be proactive, not passive.

“It’s critical to invest in strategies and technologies that bridge the gap between the digital and the physical worlds so that those working remotely don’t feel disconnected from those working in the office and vice versa. To break down siloed thinking, your teams must be presented with opportunities to brainstorm, collaborate, and share ideas – no matter where they are located.

“Inclusion is a non-negotiable priority. When you consider that one billion people with disabilities around the world have been disproportionately impacted due to the pandemic, it is every employer’s responsibility to prioritise their inclusion,” Youssry further said.

According to him, in today’s workplace, it has never been more important to include everyone. Accessibility is the vehicle to inclusion. He noted that there were no limits to what people can achieve when technology reflects the diversity of everyone who uses it.

He added that Microsoft’s investments in Artificial Intelligence (AI) aim to put emerging technologies in the hands of developers so that they can accelerate the development of accessible and intelligent AI solutions, designed by and in collaboration with people with disabilities.

“Just like everyone else, we at Microsoft have never done this before,” he concluded. “We’ve used this period as an opportunity to grow and evolve our workplace so that we can deliver capabilities that help our employees, customers and business thrive,” Youssry said.

Microsoft enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more.