A Microsoft survey of global workers found the majority feel they are struggling or just surviving in pandemic work conditions and a large percentage are considering leaving their employer this year. Meanwhile most business leaders polled said they are “thriving.”
A total of 46% of respondents said they are planning to move to a new location this year, a reflection of the greater flexibility to work from home. And 41% of those surveyed said they’re mulling leaving their jobs, according to Microsoft’s Work Trend Index released Monday, which polled 30,000 people from a variety of companies in 31 countries and used trillions of data points around labor and productivity from Microsoft’s 365 software and LinkedIn network.
The data found burnout is widespread—54% of workers said they are overworked and 39% said exhausted.
But the struggles of employees in the midst of the upheaval that has sent many out of their offices to work remotely are being overlooked by their managers and company leaders, who were the only group polled in which a majority said they are thriving. Gen Z workers, those 18 to 25 years old, are faring among the worst—the researchers theorize that their feelings of isolation are higher because they are more likely to be early in their careers and single. While the leaders who are doing well are mostly male, the survey found women, frontline workers and new employees also reported challenges.
“Leaders are out of touch,” said Microsoft Vice President Jared Spataro. “Sixty-one percent say they are thriving—that’s 23% higher than the average worker, so there is a disconnect there. They’re like ‘this is great!'”
While the study showed the use of Microsoft’s Teams chat and teleconference product is going up, it also flagged that this unstinting growth is draining for workers. Time spent in Teams meetings has more than doubled and keeps rising, meetings are 10 minutes longer on average and the typical Teams user is sending 45% more chats a week, with 42% more of them after typical work hours.
“There’s this feeling that all of a sudden the boundaries are gone—’my boss somehow thinks he can wake me up at seven and keep pinging me at 7 or 8 or 9 p.m.,'” Spataro said. “We think it’s important for people to recognize, ‘look humans perform better on a schedule.”
Companies seem inclined to allow flexibility about remote work even as the pandemic eases in some countries. Job postings on LinkedIn for remote work are up five times and Microsoft said diverse groups of workers are more likely to apply for those positions. But remote work has led to shrinking networks—Teams and Outlook email data show a decrease in messages sent to whole teams, larger groups or groups outside a worker’s main area, and a rise in focusing on a tighter circle of co-workers. The software maker worries this trend can hurt innovation.
Microsoft has said it will reopen its Redmond, Washington, campus later this month, bringing back employees who wish to return. Even then conference rooms will remain off limits for the time being, Spataro said. The company has told workers that even after offices completely reopen, they are free to work from home half of the time without special permission.