Kiwis embrace hybrid work but employers want them back in the office - Microsoft report

An example of someone working from home.
People want to make a difference at work and will leave their jobs to do so. Photo credit: Getty Images

Nearly three quarters of New Zealanders want to be rewarded by their employers for the impact they make instead of just the number of hours worked, according to new research.

The report commissioned by Microsoft entitled 'Great Expectations: Making Hybrid Work Work' also found a disconnect between what employees want and what employers were prepared to offer in Aotearoa.

That includes hybrid work, which is a popular option amongst those surveyed but could be a problem in the near future. Nearly a third of New Zealand employers surveyed said they will require staff to return to the office full-time within the next year.

Survey respondents identified meeting business objectives, positive client feedback and achieving individual goals as the most important KPIs to hit. In response, 32 percent of New Zealand employers are rethinking how to measure productivity within the next year.

Being more flexible could make meaningful differences in the era of the 'Great Resignation', Microsoft said, particularly with people increasingly seeking employment that enables them to make a difference, either at their current company or in a new role.

"By embracing modern ways of working beyond simply measuring time spent in the office, Kiwi businesses have an opportunity to really make hybrid-work work," Robert Havranek, modern work and security business group lead at Microsoft NZ said.

"With the new tools and technologies available, we're better able to measure the elements of work that can help local businesses unlock greater productivity, innovation and prosperity."

The COVID-19 pandemic and the associated lockdowns have seen people's priorities, identities and worldview changed, Microsoft said. That's led to people focusing on more of what's important to them, like health and family time.

"As a result, employees' 'worth it' equation - what people want from work and what they're willing to give in return - has changed," the company said.

"The power dynamic is shifting, and perks like free food and a corner office are no longer what people value most."

The study showed 47 percent of those surveyed were more likely to put their personal lives and family ahead of work compared to before the pandemic.

Meanwhile, over half surveyed - particularly parents (55 percent) and women (56 percent) - said they were more likely to prioritise health and wellbeing over work than previously.

Microsoft's annual Work Trend Index report surveyed a total of 31,000 in 31 countries, including Aotearoa, and additionally found Kiwis placed an especially high value on relationships in the workplace.

Around half of New Zealand employees felt they have good work relationships, despite long lockdowns and most of the country working, at least partially, remotely for the last two years.

They've also realised that collaboration is key to success, the company said, whereas emailing and other admin-heavy tasks just give a visual display of being busy, rather than necessarily achieving anything.

Almost half (45 percent) of global employees report they wanted to spend more time networking than on admin tasks and a third want to be able to create more of an impact through mentoring colleagues.

"When work-life balance is out of whack, most people cut out relationship-building for more urgent matters," Constance Noonan Hadley, an organisational psychologist who studies workplace relationships, said.

"Regardless of remote status, building relationships will still feel like a luxury workers cannot afford unless there is a shift in how time is prioritised and valued by managers."

The key findings in Microsoft's survey were:

  • Employees have a new 'worth it' equation
  • Managers feel wedged between leadership and employee expectations
  • Leaders need to make the office worth the commute
  • Flexible work doesn't have to mean 'always on'
  • Rebuilding working relationships looks different in a hybrid world.