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Sixty percent of 18 to 25 year olds say they are merely surviving or flat-out struggling right now.

With over 40 percent of the global workforce considering leaving their employer this year, a thoughtful approach to hybrid work will be critical for attracting and retaining diverse talent. An overlooked demographic that appears to be suffering right now is Generation Z, categorized as those between the ages of 18-25. Sixty percent of this generation say they are merely surviving or flat-out struggling right now.

Microsoft, on Monday announced findings from its first-annual Work Trend Index. Titled “The Next Great Disruption Is Hybrid Work — Are We Ready?” the report uncovers seven hybrid work trends every business leader must know as we enter a new era of work.

“Generation Z” is more likely to be single and early in their careers, making them more likely to feel the impacts of isolation, struggle with motivation at work, or lack the financial means to create proper workplaces at home. Survey respondents reported that they were more likely to struggle balancing work with life (+8 percentage points) and to feel exhausted after a typical day of work (+8 percentage points) when compared to older generations. Gen Z also reported difficulties feeling engaged or excited about work, getting a word in during meetings, and bringing new ideas to the table.

Ensuring that Gen Z feels a sense of purpose

New generations offer fresh perspectives and challenge the status quo. Their contributions are critical, and as the first generation to start their jobs in a completely remote environment on such a widespread basis, their experience will set expectations and attitudes toward work moving forward. Ensuring that Gen Z feels a sense of purpose and wellbeing is an urgent imperative in the shift to hybrid.

The report indicates that business leaders should resist the urge to see hybrid work as business as usual. It will require the rethinking of long-held assumptions.

The report uncovers seven hybrid work trends every business leader needs to know as we enter this new era of work:

  • Flexible work is here to stay.
  • Leaders are out of touch with employees and need a wake-up call.
  • High productivity is masking an exhausted workforce.
  • Gen Z is at risk and will need to be re-energized.
  • Shrinking networks are endangering innovation.
  • Authenticity will spur productivity and well-being.
  • Talent is everywhere in a hybrid work world.

“The choices you make today will impact your organization for years to come. It’s a moment that requires clear vision and a growth mindset. 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.”

Jared Spataro, corporate vice president for Microsoft 365

The findings suggest that this past year has fundamentally changed the nature of work:

Chart showing Gen Z struggles at work
Gen Z is struggling more than other generations The last year has been more challenging for Gen Z in many ways — from bringing new ideas to the table, to simply feeling engaged or excited about work.
  • Collaboration trends have contracted, but hybrid work will revive them.
  • Time spent in meetings has more than doubled globally, and over 40 billion more emails were delivered in February of this year compared with last.
  • Work has become more human.  Nearly 40% say they feel more comfortable bringing their full selves to work than before the pandemic, and one in six have cried with a colleague this past year.

They also show that we are on the cusp of a workplace disruption:

  • 73% of workers surveyed want flexible remote work options to continue.
  • Remote job postings on LinkedIn increased more than five times during the pandemic.
  • Over 40% of the global workforce is considering leaving their employer this year and 46% are planning to move now that they can work remotely.

Five Strategies to Help Business Leaders Adapt

In addition to uncovering what’s at stake with the future of work, they identified five strategies for business leaders as they begin to make the necessary shift:

  • Create a plan to empower people for extreme flexibility.
  • Invest in space and technology to bridge the physical and digital worlds.
  • Combat digital exhaustion from the top.
  • Prioritize rebuilding social capital and culture.
  • Rethink the employee experience to compete for the best and most diverse talent.

“During this pandemic we’ve observed a swift acceleration of certain pre-COVID trends. But perhaps one of the most exciting trends is this rise in remote work.”

Karin Kimbrough, chief economist, LinkedIn.

“As opportunity is democratized with remote work and talent movement, we’ll see a spread of skills across the country, and this is the time for business leaders to take the opportunity to access different skills and talent not previously available to them.” said, Karin Kimbrough, chief economist, LinkedIn.

Taken together, these trends show that we are no longer bound to traditional notions of space and time to work together. Instead, we can set aside our long-held assumptions and shift our mental model to embrace extreme flexibility. 

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