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Ray’s Ramblings: “Hybrid Work” Is A Phrase That Pays

Long before anybody in Furnitureland ever heard of Covid-19, the need to recruit young people into our sector was already at pandemic levels.

And as is the case with most tough problems, it was always much easier to talk about the fact that we had a problem than it was to come up with viable solutions to the problem.

It still is, because like it or not, I’m not aware of any silver bullet capable of putting a quick fix to a longstanding problem.

But wait… the problem has gotten more interesting because now, the problem has a problem. It has been dubbed the Great Resignation, and much like Covid 19, it is on a tear and seems destined to prompt the employees we still have left to up and quit.

According to statistics from The Bureau of Labor Statistics, a whopping 47.8 million workers quit their jobs last year. That’s an average of some 4 million employees a month.

And from where I sit, I don’t think we are seeing any kind of a slowdown. Recent numbers from the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics say we broke a record— a record 4.53 million workers quit their jobs in March 2022 and that number has the dubious distinction of topping the previous series high of 4.51 million in November 2021.

So, before anyone can stop the bleeding, one needs to know where the wound is and what caused it.

A recent study from Microsoft that was based on surveys with more than 30,000 workers in some 31 countries seems to shed some light on the issue.

The input from the employees helped Microsoft identify seven major trends that underscore how the world of work has been reshaped by the pandemic.

Here are the seven trends Microsoft identified:

  • Flexible work is here to stay
  • Leaders are out of touch with employees and need a wake-up call
  • High productivity is masking an exhausted workforce
  • Gen Z is at risk and will need to be re-energized
  • Shrinking networks are endangering innovation
  • Authenticity will spur productivity and wellbeing
  • Talent is everywhere in a hybrid world

Commenting on the report, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, said, “Over the past year, no area has undergone more rapid transformation than the way we work. Employee expectations are changing, and we will need to define productivity much more broadly — inclusive of collaboration, learning, and well-being to drive career advancement for every worker, including frontline and knowledge workers, as well as for new graduates and those who are in the workforce today. All this needs to be done with flexibility in, when, where, and how people work.”

The study also suggests that some employees are experiencing “digital exhaustion” and went on to note that with the shift to remote working, saying, “much of the spontaneous sharing of ideas that can take place within a workplace was lost.’’

And very much a challenge for us — and others hoping to attract and recruit young workers — is that Gen Z, which starts with people born in 1997, might suffer the most from digital burnout.

Even so, the Microsoft study concluded that quitting one’s job was not relegated to just one age group. The study found that more than 40% of workers are thinking about leaving their current employer this year.

And with remote work gaining ground, the study also concluded that a whopping 46% of those surveyed were thinking about relocating as a result of the flexibility remote working offers them.

This churn and burn has got to be keeping employers up late into the night, as it should.

According to the study, the word hybrid work is going to be the phrase that pays—and may have the best chance of keeping existing employees and recruiting new ones.

The study also said that an inflexible, location-centered approach to work is likely to encourage 41% of people thinking of leaving to go and find somewhere with more location flexibility. 

Robert Zimmerman nailed it way back in 1964 when he wrote and recorded The Times They Are a-Changing.  

Maybe the real takeaway is this: You can’t fix today’s challenges with yesterday’s solutions.

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