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 woman sitting at a table using a laptop

    VSNU: coordinating a nationwide university digital transformation in one weekend

    “A lesson for us during this crisis, has been that new technology doesn’t just change how you work – it also changes people and culture, which is something you have to support everyone through.” Director of Accountability at The Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU), Reinout Van Brakel, is talking about the instrumental role […]

  • a woman sitting at a table in front of a laptop

    3 key ways Microsoft Teams enriches higher education teaching and learning

    Whether remotely, in class or hybrid , Microsoft Teams helps to simplify and structure higher education’s day-to-day digital environment – integrating seamlessly with all the solutions you’re already using. “My teaching is now entirely based on Teams. The interaction with students and the teacher is a better level than traditional teaching” – Pasi Vahimaa, Professor, […]

Government

  • Ineco

    Ineco improves employee productivity with modern tools and AI

    Struggling with software doesn’t help people get more done. Likewise, if sharing files and collaborating on documents is difficult, productivity takes a hit. Ineco, a Spanish public sector company, understands this, which is why it set out to change the way employees interact with technology and one another. By deploying Microsoft 365 to its over […]

  • How VR Group is using automation to secure Finland’s railways

    How VR Group is using automation to secure Finland’s railways

    “Being at the helm of a critical piece of infrastructure, we have a huge responsibility towards our partners and clients. That’s why safety and security are crucial elements of what we do and how we operate.” Mikke Maronen, CISO at Finnish railway company VR Group, is talking about the importance of protecting his business from […]

Healthcare

Manufacturing

  • 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 […]

  • 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

Discover more related articles per dossier:

Customer Stories

  • 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 […]

Digital Transformation

Security & Privacy

  • Lady on phone sitting in a taxi

    What’s your company’s cybersecurity score?

    It doesn’t matter if you’re a Fortune 500 company or a local bakery – today, cyberattacks threaten organisations of every size in every sector. And they can be costly to recover from. Attacks often damage brand reputation and cause significant disruption to productivity, which is why it’s so important to protect against cybercriminals. But in […]

Tips

  • a person sitting at a table using a laptop

    How to run the most successful and secure meetings with Microsoft Teams

    With so many people now working from home, it’s more important than ever to hone our remote working skills and stay productive. We have seen a huge spike in the number of people successfully and securely working together via Microsoft Teams. But whether you are brand new to the tool, or already conduct your meetings on Teams, […]