New data from Microsoft shows a clear shift in South African work habits over the past year, as what employees expect from work and what they are willing to give back has changed dramatically.
“We are simply not the same people who returned home to work at the start of 2020. Employees in South Africa are rethinking what they expect from work and voting with their feet when these new expectations are not met.
“The challenge facing every organisation is to adapt to changing employee priorities while balancing business outcomes in an unpredictable economy,” says Colin Erasmus, director of modern workplace and security at Microsoft South Africa.
Microsoft data shows four key labor trends in South Africa right now.
It’s not worth coming to the office
While most employees in South Africa are supportive of the idea of a hybrid working model, data shows that people are generally unsure when to come to the office and why. Many employees also find the commute unnecessary and prefer to spend valuable time with family.
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“That means leaders face a key challenge – make the office worth the trip. The data reveals, however, that few companies around the world have created new team norms, such as hybrid work meeting etiquette, to ensure time spent together is intentional.
“The biggest opportunity for business leaders is to rethink the role of the office and clarify why, when, and how often teams should meet in person,” Microsoft said.
Is it worth it?
Perhaps one of the most valuable insights from the index is that employees have a new “worthwhile equation” and are more likely to prioritise health and wellness at work than before the pandemic.
This is particularly the case in South Africa, which is part of a region where 50% of employees report a high sense of daily stress, Microsoft said.
“It’s also clear that employees are acting on this new priority to achieve a better work-life balance. In fact, more than half of employees in the broader Middle East and North Africa region say they will prioritise a new job in 2022.”
“Managers feel stuck between leadership and employee expectations. They think leaders are disconnected from employees and don’t feel empowered to help their teams. Employees agree, with about 84% of workers across the region saying they are not engaged,” Microsoft said.
The group noted that managers can help bridge changing employee expectations and leadership priorities, but according to the data, most lack the influence and resources to make changes. on behalf of their team.
In fact, nearly 70% of managers in the Middle East and Africa say they struggle to empower their employees, Microsoft said.
Flexibility versus always on
Although employees appreciate their new flexibility, there is still a need to combat digital burnout.
Leaders in South Africa are reporting productivity levels equal to or better than before the pandemic, but this has hurt employees’ work-life balance.
For the average Teams user, meetings, chat, length of the workday, and working after hours and on weekends have all increased over the past two years. In fact, since February 2020, the average Teams user has seen a 252% increase in their weekly meeting time.
“If leaders want to give employees true flexibility, they need to focus on activities rather than impact. Opinions about productivity are changing and according to the Work Trend Index, most employees believe it’s important for employers to reward the impact on hours worked,” Microsoft said.