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Hybrid Workplace – is this the normal in this ‘never normal’?

Updated: Jan 18, 2022

✦ Are we ready for a hybrid workplace?


Stressed out, disconnected and unmotivated - that´s how people are feeling in today’s environment according to the 2021 Work Trend Index by Microsoft titled “The Next Great Disruption is Hybrid Work – Are We Ready?”.


The report says that the hybrid workplace, a blend of flexible work or work-from-home and on-site work where some employees work in the office, will be the norm. Adapting to this new norm requires rethinking among business leaders.


1. What is this study by Microsoft on work trends?


The 2021 Work Trend Index is based on a study of more than 30,000 people in 31 countries and the analyses of trillions of aggregate productivity and labor signals across Microsoft 365 and LinkedIn. This report also includes perspectives from experts who have studied collaboration, social capital, and space design at work for decades.


Some of the numbers are staggering.

147%

40.4B

45%

66%

Meetings

Email

Chat

Documents

Weekly meeting time has more than doubled for Teams users and is still rising

​Increase in number of emails delivered in February 2021 vs February 2020

Weekly Teams chats per-person are up 45% and still rising

​Number of people working on Office documents is up 66% year over year


2. What is this Work Trend Index for and who should use it?


This report is meant for business leaders, stating that society is on the cusp of a new era of work and leaders must see that adapting to the new hybrid model of work requires rethinking of the workplace.


3. What are the key findings in this report?


There are 7 key findings:

  1. Flexible work is here to stay

  2. Leaders are out of touch with employees and need a wake-up call

  3. High productivity is masking an exhausted workforce

  4. Gen Z is at risk and will need to be re-energized

  5. Shrinking networks are endangering innovation

  6. Authenticity will spur productivity and well-being

  7. Talent is everywhere in a hybrid work world


4. Is the hybrid model or flexible work really here for good?


It looks like it. Even for Singapore which has declared that it will be moving forward to live normally with COVID-19, unlike Australia, New Zealand and China which are aiming for zero cases, the government quickly implemented snap measures such as work from home (WFH) and no cross-deployment of workers to multiple worksites beginning 27 September to curb the wave of infections.


5. How are businesses in Singapore dealing with the hybrid workplace?


In the building and construction industry, hybrid workplace works for some but not for others.


For Construction Professionals Pte Ltd (CPPL), Singapore’s longest serving infrastructure and building construction professional organisation, working on-site at construction projects had been the norm. A hybrid model would not work. The reason is due to the nature of work for CPPL.


“Construction projects require highly experienced, highly qualified and well-trained Resident Technical Officers (RTO), Resident Engineers (RE), Resident Architects (RA) and Design for Safety Professionals (DfS Professionals) throughout the duration of the project. Whenever any of the workers on-site test positive, the entire construction site needs to close for what is known as Safety Time-Out (STO). During this time when the site is being disinfected, construction work must be on hold for health and safety reasons. After the STO, we resume work,” said Cheng Chuah Tan, Managing Director of CPPL and PM Link.


However, for PM Link Pte Ltd, one of Singapore’s best-known independent project management firms, employees have adapted to a flexible work environment. The company provides project management services from initial planning stage to construction project management stage to help developers and building owners achieve their building and infrastructure project goals and objectives.


6. Gen Z are feeling the impacts of hybrid workplace. Why?


According to Microsoft, sixty percent of this generation between the ages of 18 and 25 say they are merely surviving or flat-out struggling. Why are they feeling this way?


Apparently, this generation are more likely to be single and early in their careers, lacking the financial means to create proper workplaces at home. They face difficulties feeling excited about work, getting a word in during meetings or bringing new ideas to the table.


7. How are companies helping them?


PM Link, where 80 per cent of employees are below the age of 40, has been proactively engaging with team members with recreational, social and teamwork initiatives.

“At PM Link, we tend to attract young people such as fresh graduates who want to make a difference in the development of Singapore’s built environment. This year, in celebration of our 20th anniversary, our young project managers (PMs) planned and organised team activities for all staff,” said Cheng Chuah.

The young PMs are also given opportunities to form committees where they are tasked to explore new ways of improving work for everyone.



“We have four committees to study four topics including training, technology and quality, try these out and share their findings or recommendations across the company. For instance, the committee looking into training examine the necessary skills and competencies for PMs at different levels of seniority, taking into consideration competition and changes in the marketplace. They will present their findings, and these will generate more discussions among the employees,” explained Cheng Chuah.

The idea with this is to move away from a top-down culture in which the management decides what is the best, to an environment where the working level decides the pathways that they want to create or undertake.


FoodXervices Inc, one of the top foodservice distributors in Singapore, has a workforce of more than 180 employees, around 60 percent of whom are under the age of 40, COVID-19 has caused the company to implement a flexible hybrid workplace.


“We have implemented and encouraged a more flexible working environment, including allowing work-from-home (WFH) arrangements even after the COVID-19 pandemic eases. We also have regular check-ins with employees to ensure their well-being as we understand that WFH has blurred the lines between work and play. We hope to create a more balanced environment for our employees to minimize the possibility of burn out and also support them in establishing a healthier work routine at home,” said Duncan, Human Resources Manager of FoodXervices Inc.


“We are all in for a hybrid workplace and have recently introduced new policies that would appeal to employees. For those that prefer working from the office, we have made XPACE a family friendly place with modern and trendy facilities for staff welfare,” added Duncan.

The company’s new building XPACE is a food space for avid dreamers. Conceptualised back in 2016, XPACE is aimed at helping the local Food and Beverage (F&B) community to collaborate and innovate. Within that building, there are co-working spaces and central kitchens for rent to F&B players.


“We are constantly on the lookout and open to giving our employees opportunities for career development and inter-department/mid-career switches. We also regularly send our staff for re-training courses. Ideally, we will have happier and better skilled employees in the company where everyone feels that they are able to contribute to the best of their abilities. In turn, we hope this will result in a vibrant and exciting working environment that will attract the best talent in the industry,” said Duncan.


8. What can business leaders do now to help employees adapt to the hybrid workplace?


Culture takes time to build, according to Cheng Chuah, but the step forward to shape the culture for a better workplace is to empower employees.


“Employees of any age must be empowered. To do so, we as leaders and managers need to establish trust with workers and vice versa. In fact, I see that trust and empowerment work hand-in-hand.”

Explaining more about this type of leadership, employees who are given the space to explore and guide others, will be motivated to create new pathways for the collective group of their fellow colleagues.


To read the full report on 2021 Work Trend Index by Microsoft, see here.


PM Link


Construction Professionals Pte Ltd

Sign up for their courses to advance your career as a modern construction professional at www.constructionprofessionals.com.sg


FoodXervices


Author

Koh Joh Ju, Communications Strategist at Vermilion Pinstripes


Singapore:

+65 9681 7045

 

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