Flexible working is productive, according to new Microsoft research

Flexible working is productive, according to new Microsoft research

To drive innovation, businesses must empower employees and support management staff

Elly Yates-Roberts |

Businesses that have implemented flexible ways of working are enabling sustained – or greater – levels of productivity, according to new research from Microsoft, Boston Consulting Group and KRC Research.

The Covid-19 pandemic has forced many organisations to deploy a remote working strategy, with an increase from 15 per cent in 2019 to 76 per cent in 2020. Senior executives have seen that remote teams can be highly productive, with 82 per cent of participants saying they saw productivity levels hold steady or increase as people shifted to remote work. Many of these also believe flexible working can boost employee engagement, with over half saying that “it will be a powerful way to retain top talent”.

However, the study also showed that a strain on team culture seems to be hampering innovation. 

“It seems that employees are able to hunker down and get less distracted while working remotely,” said Michael Parke, assistant professor of management at The Wharton School of University of the Pennsylvania and research collaborator. “However, the cost seems to be a loss of sense of purpose, which at work, is largely driven through strong and cohesive relationships and seeing how your tasks have impact on others. Both of these are more easily accomplished when people work co-located and are more challenging when working virtually.”

To continue to drive productivity and boost innovation with remote working strategies, Microsoft suggests that businesses should empower their employees to make their own decisions and approach their jobs in a way that works best for them; help staff devote their full attention to tasks by making use of technological functions such as ‘do not disturb’ mode in Microsoft Teams; and support managers by revisiting training programmes to develop the skill sets needed to collaborate with team members while working remotely.

“The key takeaway from all of this is that the success of teamwork in a more hybrid world goes beyond just having the right technology tools,” said Microsoft. “Innovation is fuelled when people feel empowered to connect with colleagues, take smart risks and speak up when they have new ideas.”

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