There’s no way around it…Hybrid Work is the future of work. And it’s here. Now. To help us better understand worker perceptions about our new normal and to unravel some of the largest challenges that remain for hybrid workers, we partnered with Momentive to launch a global survey to over 5,200 participants across industries. The survey results feature responses from roughly 2,100 individual contributors, 1,750 front-line managers, and 1,300 senior executives. Ultimately, our objective was to understand how the transition to hybrid work has disrupted pre-pandemic norms and furthermore, to identify what corrective steps we may need to take regain equilibrium.
Due to everyone’s personal situation and experiences over the past 20 months, our survey results are fairly mixed, and we only have a few responses that overwhelmingly swing one way or another. Interestingly, this one is the most concrete: 88.5% of respondents feel like their organization has successfully adapted to hybrid work…which is a testament to the resilience of organizations worldwide and their ability to remain productive during a very difficult situation. That being said, it’s not all gravy. Adaptability was driven by a force majeure, how workers assess their own situation is slightly more complex.
One of the key variables that seems to indicate hybrid satisfaction for an individual worker, is how their time is now allocated compared to their more office-bound days. For example, 74.1% of respondents agree that they now have significantly more meetings throughout the day than before the pandemic. Without the opportunity to tap someone on the shoulder or pop by someone’s desk for a quick debrief, scheduled meetings have started eating up calendar slots more than ever. Furthermore, 78.7% feel that the quality of their work would be better if they had less meetings.
Interestingly, this pain is more acute the more senior you are. 82.2% of senior executives acknowledge that they believe the quality of their work would be better if they had less meetings and 68.3% of senior managers admit to being anxious about their jam-packed calendars. Only 53.9% of individual contributors share the same concerns regarding their daily schedule. Furthermore, 64.2% of executives feel that they have less time during the day to get work done and 68.3% admit to spending more time in the evenings and weekends to catch-up. This doesn’t seem like a healthy scenario. It is interesting to note that comparatively, slightly less than half of individual contributors feel the same tension about working nights and weekends. This data starts to highlight why we have differing opinions about hybrid work…if you aren’t in meetings all day, you can still get work done. If you are in meetings all day, your workdays are getting significantly longer, which leads to 64.2% of respondents across all levels feeling burnt out.
Now beyond the time suck of meetings in a hybrid world, it’s important to acknowledge the quality and efficacy of those (mostly) virtual gatherings. One of the more general challenges of virtual meetings is inclusivity, and our data identifies the same challenge: 66% of respondents feel that their meetings fail to engage all participants. Furthermore, when asked about meeting focus, 78.6% of respondents agreed that their meetings typically default to whatever project is due next, versus more strategic and long-term topics. So, with this context it’s interesting to note that 67.3% of senior managers are frustrated that they rarely have strategic conversations and 63.3% feel like their creativity has been stifled since going remote. Only 50.2% of individual contributors acknowledge the same creativity hurdles those executives feel.
So it feels fairly definitive then that meeting culture in a hybrid world is wreaking some havoc at the top of the organizational structure. Meeting volumes are up, meeting topics are too tactical, and there is a disconnect in how we are supposed to get our best work done. But that’s not all. With calendars stuffed to the brim with meetings, there are other key organizational practices that get thrown out the window in a hybrid environment.
82.3% of respondents admit to having less frequent casual conversations with colleagues. Water cooler chats, break room hangouts, bullpen happy hours all feel like relics of the physical office. The problem is that these quick, informal discussions can often replace the need to schedule a 30-minute meeting which adds to an already overstuffed day. The loss of spontaneity has established an incredible burden on the hybrid organization. The impact is severe. In a hybrid world, 43.5% of respondents say that their teams have failed at team/culture-building and 42.8% say that personal relationship building has failed, whereas 76% agree that they are very successful executing individual project work.
So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise then that, when asked what the #1 thing our respondents missed about being in the office, they overwhelmingly said spontaneous conversations with colleagues. These off-the-cuff dialogues are the fuel of a successful, collaborative team and they are currently desperately in need. To put a finer point on it, 35.8% of hybrid workers are having less fun with their colleagues now and 62.1% are thinking about changing jobs.
When we start evaluating solutions, we need to seriously consider scaling back meeting culture to better mitigate meeting fatigue. Part of the answer is behavior change, but another part is a whole new field of virtual office technology that helps to simulate in-person experiences to ignite spontaneous conversations. In fact, 36.6% of respondents identified that the #1 piece of technology they would ask for to improve organizational collaboration is a virtual office that enables better side-by-side work and informal conversations. This type of next-generation technology was selected 4.5x more often than a unified calling and meetings application.
Is the grass greener? Can we have our cake and eat it too? Hybrid work enables first-of-its kind flexibility for workers, but it also puts extreme pressure on the existing tools and practices we have grown familiar with. It’s time to adopt a new kind of solution that brings fun back to the virtual office. Let’s work together to eliminate burn out and spruce up our days with more spontaneous chit chat. Everyone will be extremely grateful when meeting volumes go down and creativity starts to make its way back out of the bottle.
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