By Andrew Keshner
Zoom /zigman2/quotes/211319643/composite ZM -2.01% and Google /zigman2/quotes/202490156/composite GOOGL -2.02% meeting invitations are inundating workers’ inboxes. Employees, eager to show how engaged they are in their work, are firing off emails and Slack messages at all hours of they day and night.
Nevertheless, managers rarely feel that their staffers who work from home are being as productive as possible.
Only 12% of managers say they are fully confident about their team’s productivity with hybrid work, according to a new survey from Microsoft /zigman2/quotes/207732364/composite MSFT -0.27% . Compare that to the 87% of workers who say they are productive when working from home.
Just under half (49%) of managers with a hybrid work team said they struggled to trust that their employees were turning in their best work, versus 36% of managers with in-person teams.
The divide is fomenting a “productivity paranoia” that “risks making hybrid work unsustainable,” researchers said.
The findings, released this month, relied on poll responses from 20,000 people across 11 countries, as well as LinkedIn data and information distilled from Microsoft 365, which includes Microsoft Outlook and Teams.
If company leaders want to keep employees from jumping ship — and many surely do, considering the tight labor market — the researchers advised them to clearly establish priorities for workers to lessen the risk of burnout.
“Defining what work doesn’t matter is just as important as defining what does — in a world where everything is important, nothing is,” the researchers said. “We’ve reached a point of diminishing returns due to overwork. If leaders don’t intervene, they put productivity in jeopardy.”
Workers who said they had clear expectations from their managers were 4.5 times more likely to say they were happy at work and 7 times more likely to say they rarely looked around for a new job, the data showed.
The findings are a reminder that job burnout is alive and well, to the detriment of workers and bosses alike. Indeed, roughly half of all workers and managers participating in the survey said they already felt burned out from work.
But the research also comes as the return-to-office debate continues between white-collar workers and their bosses.
Almost three years into the pandemic, remote work has evolved from an emergency backup plan to a widespread segment of white-collar work, at least for those privileged enough to be able to work from home.
Several weeks past Labor Day, an array of data — from the swiping of corporate keycards to the volume of lunch orders — suggest more people are coming back to offices more often, but it’s still not a torrent.
Just telling and then expecting people to show up will only go so far, the survey indicated. Around three-quarters of both workers (73%) and business leaders (78%) said there has to be a good reason compelling people to get back to the office; merely emphasizing that it’s the company’s expectation that they do so is not enough.
People can be drawn back to the office in a more persuasive way, the researchers noted. Among workers, three-quarters or more said they’d be more motivated about in-person work if it gave them the chance to socialize with colleagues or bond with teammates. Just knowing their co-workers would be at the office at the same time would be a motivator, they said.
While companies keep thinking about whether home or office is the best place to work, some U.K. businesses are experimenting with the length of the workweek.
Midway through a trial period, the majority of businesses testing a four-day workweek say things are going smoothly and they’re likely to stick with the condensed week when the six-month experiment concludes.
Instead of simply shoehorning five days of work into four, the hybrid model is making businesses rethink how to work best, one participant said.