Hybrid working has proved its worth during 2021 and looks set to become the de facto norm for most workforces going forward.

Colin Erasmus

But, while this model has solved some of the issues brought about by the pandemic, it also creates new challenges, says Colin Erasmus, Modern Workplace and Security Business Group Lead at Microsoft SA.

Arguably the biggest of these are employee experience and collaboration.

“At the end of the day, employee experience comes down to collaboration and teamwork,” says Erasmus. “So, this is what any user device has to enable.

“We’ve made some major investments in our Surface devices range, to ensure that the employee experience is as good as it can get, enabling collaboration and sharing.”

Erasmus cites a recent Microsoft Workplace Trends Index which demonstrates that most employees enjoy the flexibility that remote work allows them – but they simultaneously miss the collaboration that working in the office fosters.

“This is causing an interesting inflexion point, and companies need to find models that allow both models to co-exist,” Erasmus says.

The study, conducted by Edelman Data x Intelligence, found that 41% of employees are considering leaving their current employer this year, and 46% say they’re likely to move because they can now work remotely.

Erasmus points out this is driven by the massive changes that have disrupted people over the past year, so they are re-evaluating priorities, home bases, and their entire lives.

“More people than ever before are considering what their next move should be. And the way companies approach the next phase of work — embracing the positives and learning from the challenges of this last year — will impact who stays, who goes, and who wants to join your company.”

This calls for a new organisational model that puts people at the centre, and considers three dimensions that inform their ability to work and thrive: workplace; location; and working hours.

Within these parameters, the organisation needs to ensure individual wellbeing, the maintenance of community and change culture; and allowing employees to grown.

This means looking after issues that range from wellbeing and engagement to development and coaching, purpose and alignment; communications and knowledge, Erasmus says.

Remote working was a necessity forced upon most companies, and in many instances, it played out very differently to what could have been expected, he adds.

“For instance, we are seeing a lot of burnout. Companies need to be aware that often people are working harder than ever and battling to find a balance between work and home.

“Managers need to be cognisant of the issues at play, and whether the culture of the organisation is providing the right levels of support.”

Employees are also concerned about whether their managers are able to see the work they are doing, and they worry that they may miss promotion opportunities – all concerns that might drive them to work longer and harder.

The Work Trend Index study recommends that companies set aside the traditional notions of space and time to rather embrace flexibility.

By implementing five strategies, they can require their operating model and make sure the shift to hybrid work is successful, Erasmus says.

  • Create a plan to empower people for extreme flexibility – This plan should cover policy, physical space, and technology.
  • Invest in space and technology to bridge the physical and digital worlds – Consider how to equip all workers with the tools they need to contribute, whether they’re working from home, the manufacturing floor, in the office, or on the go.
  • Combat digital exhaustion from the top – Think about how to reduce employee workloads, embrace a balance of synchronous and asynchronous collaboration, and create a culture where breaks are encouraged and respected.
  • Prioritise rebuilding social capital and culture – Teams need to reframe network-building from a passive effort to a proactive one, encouraging and rewarding managers to prioritise building social capital at work, and seeking to create a culture where social support thrives.
  • Rethink employee experience to compete for the best and most diverse talent – The talent landscape has shifted, and employee expectations have changed. The best leaders will empathise with the needs of everyone in their organisation and see remote work as a lever to attract the best and most diverse talent.


The role of technology

Erasmus explains that technology has a major role to play in helping users find a balance and collaborate more effectively, while giving managers the tools to assist employees.

Microsoft encourages organisations to adopt an employee experience platform (EXP) to help people and teams reach their potential.

Microsoft Viva is an employee experience platform that brings together communications, knowledge, learning, resources, and insights in the flow of work.

Powered by Microsoft 365 and experienced through Microsoft Teams, Viva fosters a culture that empowers people and teams to be their best from anywhere.

It helps employees make learning a natural part of the day by bringing learning into the flow of work with the tools they already use and promoted a culture of growth and development.

The platform is personalised and relevant, so employees can find the right content and discover new skills quickly and easily.

Viva helps organisations to foster a culture where employees, managers and leaders can all thrive.

The system offers employees personal insights and recommendations to prioritise wellbeing and boost productivity.

At the same time, it empowers managers to foster productivity and wellbeing for teams, whether large or small. This helps managers to proactively drive a healthy team culture and improve team effectiveness.

Leaders get insights that identify opportunities to improve wellbeing and engagement.

Technology innovations introduced in the Surface devices help to foster better user experience. These include two microphones to ensure speech clarity, processors to take out noise interference, immersive speakers and a camera that includes a sensor.

“End user devices are not just about the software and security, they should be about the whole experience,” Erasmus stresses. “Surface technology is designed to ensure that everyone in the team has a voice and can contribute regardless of where they are sitting.”


Explore what Surface can offer your team here