a person sitting in front of a window

Flexible ways of working are here to stay – New research shows the impact on innovation and productivity

Nathalie Regniers

Nathalie Regniers

Sr Product Marketing Manager

Read Time, 3 min.

Since the beginning of the Industrial Age, the workforce throughout Western Europe has been largely rooted in a predicable rhythm of business – a workday that consists of clocking in at 9, clocking out at 5 and two hectic commutes on either side.  With the onset of Covid-19, we’ve seen that 200+ year-old model completely up-ended.  

With organizations across Western Europe adapting to the new normalMicrosoft commissioned new research with Boston Consulting Group and KRC Research to help our customers navigate this uncertain time and best support their talent. Engaging with thousands of workers and leaders across Western Europe, we asked people about their experiences with remote working as well as about their expectations for the future.   

95% of surveyed business leaders cited the importance of changing their firm’s ways of working to become more innovative and flexible

Both leaders and workers agree flexible, hybrid working is here to stay    

 While employees still see value in working from a main office at least some of the time; on average, people would like to spend approximately one-third (31%) of time outside of the traditional office setting. Working remotely during the pandemic, they have discovered the benefits of working from home, including spending more time with family and friends, dressing more casually or have more time for hobbies. People see time spent in the office as a powerful way to maintain bonds with their colleagues.   

 Similarly, leaders expect a different way of working for the foreseeable futureSenior executives see the opportunity to maintain productivity gains while, at the same time, improve employee engagement. Our research found that eight of 10 leaders reported equal or increased productivity with remote working, and well over half see it as a powerful way to help retain their best workers. Consider this: last year, a small minority (15%) of companies had a set remote work policy, now a healthy majority (77%) do. 

a person sitting on a table

Working at home.

What businesses have learned about working more virtually: ensuring productivity is easy – promoting innovation less so    

Many business leaders state that the challenge with more remote working has not been related to business continuity or productivity. Rather, the issue is around ensuring teams continue feeling tight-knit and very much connected to the pulse of company’s culture.  

 When people are physically together five days a week, it’s easy to bond – whether it’s sharing joke at the watercooler, having a casual team lunch, or hunkering down together to meet a deadline. Further, in an office setting, senior staff literally have the ability to “walk the halls” and talk with employees in a more informal way.  

All of these seemingly little things add up to have a big impact on the health of a business.  

Bold new thinking thrives when people feel like they are part of a trusted team and feel like they are a valued part of something bigger themselves. So, it’s a red flag when we see employees’ top-three challenges with remote working 

  1. Maintaining a conducive work culture  
  2. Team cohesion  
  3. Coping with increased silos.  

And, it’s only logical to expect to see a drop innovation, as it’s hard for new ideas to thrive in an environment where people feel more disconnected from their employer and their teams:  similar research last year found 56% of leaders thought their companies were innovative around core products and services – this time it has fallen to 40%.  

The key takeaway from all of this is that the success of teamwork in a more hybrid worldalthough highly dependent on having the right technology tools, goes beyond it. Innovation is fueled when people feel empowered to connect with colleagues, take smart risks and speak up when they have new ideas.  So, the challenge for businesses will be ensuring people feel connected to their teammates and to clearly see how the work they do as a team contributes to realizing the vision of the company. Successful teams will not only be characterized by how productive they are, but by the sense of comradery, empathy and trust each team member feels.  This is the very human key to innovation.  

Discover what makes teams work better in our new eBook

Free eBook: The Psychology of Workplace Collaboration

Discover more related articles per industry:

Education

  • a person sitting at a table using a laptop

    How to enhance traditional teaching methods with Microsoft Teams

    COVID-19 has had a huge effect on the daily routines of millions of educators and students across the world. The Microsoft Education team has remained committed to helping everyone stay connected and engaged through remote learning. And now, as countries begin to emerge from the crisis, Microsoft is helping schools shift to ‘blended learning’ – […]

  • a young boy using a laptop computer

    Escolaglobal: a digital-first school for blended classroom and remote learning

    “This weekend, our preschool teachers created another video for the students – just saying hi and checking everyone was ok at home. Each teacher has their own Microsoft Stream channel, and the feedback from the kids and parents is amazing: “Hi, teacher! How are you? I remember you so well!” Nuno Moutinho, CEO of Portuguese […]

Government

  • a man and two women standing in front of a brick building

    Ajuntament de Lleida: transforming the public sector with a modern, virtual workplace

    “At Ajuntament de Lleida, we think differently. We embrace new technology. And when we see that it could add real value to the work we do, we find a way to make it happen.” Carles GinéSabaté, Systems Implementation Planning Manager at Ajuntament de Lleida, is reflecting on his organization’s open-armed approach to digital transformation and […]

  • a group of people performing on stage in front of a crowd

    City of Liège: Facilitating decision making in difficult times

    For many organizations, social-distancing measures brought about by COVID-19 have drastically slowed day-to-day operations – and for some, even stopped them altogether. But for local governments across Europe, like the Belgian city of Liège, slowing down hasn’t been an option.  From supporting citizens and businesses to protecting frontline workers, Liège city had to quickly provide stability during this crisis and ensure important decisions could still be made in a democratic […]

Healthcare

  • NorthWest Clinics building

    Northwest Clinics: A new era in virtual healthcare

    “I am generally quite modest – I don’t like to brag about my achievements too much. But in this case, I want to make an exception. I want to tell the world what we have done.” For Ed de Myttenaere, CIO at Northwest Clinics hospital (Noordwest Ziekenhuisgroep) in the Netherlands, breaking with tradition is becoming increasingly normal. In responding to the COVID-19 outbreak, his team have implemented a virtual consultation solution that has the potential to redefine […]

  • Nurse and patient

    MOB: increasing healthcare workers’ time with their patients using cloud technology

    “Time is the most valuable currency in healthcare. That’s what this technology gives us: more time with our patients.” Fettah Erdal, Senior Administrator at Dutch healthcare provider MOB is talking about the impact that cloud-based technology is having on his organization’s ability to deliver more patient-centred healthcare. “All of our care workers are in the […]

Manufacturing

  • Mais on a sunny day

    COFCO International: How cloud technologies ensured business continuity during challenging times

    “I have worked at COFCO for 12 years, always in an office. But I have spent the last 63 days working from home.” Marcus Seelbach, Chief HR Officer at global agribusiness COFCO International, is talking from his home via video call about the transition he and all his colleagues have undergone since COVID-19 led to the closure of the company’s offices worldwide. “But thanks to the preparation and […]

  • Etex

    Etex uses modern tools to unite its business and better focus on customers

    When it comes to construction, all components must come together in a timely manner in order to produce the optimum product. While Etex, a Belgian building solution manufacturing company, helps make this a reality on a day-to-day basis, it wanted to find a way to enhance productivity and collaboration internally. With locations across more than […]

Retail

  • HeadBrands is ready for the future with Microsoft 365 Business

    HeadBrands is ready for the future with Microsoft 365 Business

    Since its creation in 2010, HeadBrands has continued to grow, rapidly becoming the leading retailer of hairdressing products in Scandinavia. HeadBrands needed a modern IT solution to increase its business productivity and improve collaboration, both within the company and externally. Its response to this challenge was to replace most of its previous services with Microsoft […]

  • Picture from the back of a person attending a Teams meeting with 2 colleagues, discussing about a furniture fabric.

    Zuiver: Supporting both business and culture through technology

    “Since moving to the cloud, there are no limitations anymore. And I’m certain without this technology, we would not have seen the growth we have today.” Jaap Landsaat, CFO and Head of IT at Dutch furniture designer Zuiver, is talking about the profound impact technology has had on the business he co-founded more than 20 years ago. “Back then, we had 100 orders a week […]

Discover more related articles per dossier:

Customer Stories

  • a woman smiling for the camera

    Etex Group: Future-proofing employees to work anywhere across the world

    When COVID-19 spread across Europe in early 2020, businesses entered a new digitally-dependent age. Social distancing measures had asked offices of all shapes and sizes to close their doors, sparking organizations to quickly find other virtual ways for colleagues to meet and collaborate remotely. But for Belgium building material specialist Etex, this was a step they were ready for – having already implemented a cloud-based infrastructure and collaboration tools […]

Digital Transformation

  • A smiling man wearing glasses looking at the camera

    HUS: sharing data securely to make life-saving decisions

    Illnesses and diseases don’t often play fair – an unfortunate truth that was proved by the COVID-19 outbreak in early 2020, heavily hitting healthcare organizations with challenges the world hadn’t seen in a century. Hospitals needed a rapid response to reduce spreading the virus without affecting patient care. A high-pressure situation for any institution, but […]

Security & Privacy

Tips

  • Lady on a Teams call at her computer

    5 reasons why you should start using Microsoft Teams today

    Collaboration and teamwork are the defining characteristic of modern organisations. Since its launch, Microsoft Teams has become the fastest growing app in Microsoft’s history with more than 330,000 companies worldwide using it. If you’re working in one of those companies, then you’re probably finding new ways to use the app on a daily basis. But […]