European study: Managers aim to maintain culture and innovation, while adapting to the new ways of working

Mihai Cristea 16/10/2020 | 17:59

The pandemic that the entire world has to face nowadays affects even our work since all of us, either we are employees or managers, have to adapt to the new rules and restrictions and face new challenges.


With some organizations across Western Europe starting to cautiously open office doors again and others shutting back down, Microsoft commissioned new research in order to determine how thousands of employees and managers from Western Europe deal with all of these changes and what do they expect next.

When asked about their business transformation priorities, almost every business leader (95%) mentioned the importance of changing their firm’s ways of working to become more innovative and flexible.

“The global, and of course local, economy is becoming more and more digital and the challenges that we are all facing, because of the pandemic, accelerate the importance of innovation emphasizing the agility needed by the companies in order to be able to cope with  this new hybrid world, says Violeta Luca, General Manager Microsoft Romania.  

“The educational component is extremely important and I have noticed that more and more companies nowadays have started to focus on the up-skilling of their own employees, so that they are going to adapt to the new ways of working easier, without lowering their productivity and their development capacities within the company”, Violeta Luca continued.

Although employees still see value in working from a main office at least some of the time, the research found that on average, people would like now to spend approximately one-third (31%) of time outside of the traditional office setting.

If last year, only a small minority (15%) of companies had a set remote work policy, now a healthy majority (77%) do.

Also, the study shows that 8 out of 10 leaders reported equal or increased productivity with remote working, and well over half see it as a powerful way to help retain their best workers as they see even other advantages, such as a decrease in their costs.

On the other hand, many business leaders say that the challenge with more remote working has not been related to business continuity or productivity. Rather, the issue is around ensuring teams continue feeling tight-knit and very much connected to the pulse of company’s culture.

So, when asked, employees rated three top-challenges with remote working, that they have to face: maintaining company culture, team cohesion and coping with increased silos.

And a drop in innovation was expected, as it’s hard for new ideas to thrive in an environment where people feel more disconnected from their employer and their teams. Similar research last year found 56% of leaders thought their companies were innovative around core products and services – only 40% of leaders agreed with that sentiment this year.

Also, in innovative companies, workers are far more likely to feel empowered to make decisions and approach their jobs in a way that works best for them, shows the Microsoft research. For example, they are much more likely to say they can make a decision without a manager’s involvement (57% vs. 33% of those working in less innovative companies).

Not least, for many team managers, this year marked the first time they were responsible for leading people who were working remotely. In fact, 61% of them said they feel they have not yet effectively learned how to delegate and empower virtual teams. In order to provide the best possible support for employees, it is essential that managers are equipped with the skills they need in this new hybrid world.

Microsoft commissioned research across 15 European markets in August 2020. The online survey was designed and conducted by KRC Research in partnership with Boston Consulting Group, having an average sample size of 600 respondents per country (500 employees and 100 managers), from the main industries in each state: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and UK.

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