A year into the Great Resignation spurred by the Covid-19 pandemic, more employees are considering quitting their jobs now than in 2021, according to a survey by Microsoft Corp., which also found that more than half of younger workers are mulling a job change within the next year.
Microsoft’s second annual Worker Trend Index, which examines global employee attitudes, showed an increase in respondents who said they are somewhat or extremely likely to consider a job change in the coming year. The overall number jumped to 43% of respondents, up from 41% in last year’s survey—a result that Microsoft at the time dubbed the Great Reshuffle. Others dubbed it the Great Resignation, which saw U.S. workers quitting jobs in record numbers.
Among Gen Z and millennials, or workers under age 41, 52% in Microsoft’s poll said they might switch jobs, while only 35% of the older Gen Xers and baby boomers said they were thinking of leaving their workplaces.
Workers who have been doing their jobs remotely some or all of the time still aren’t sure if they want to physically be in the office at all. Among hybrid workers, 51% said they may want to switch to fully remote, while 57% of those who are working from home said they’re willing to consider returning to the office at least part of the time.
“The people who are coming back into the office now are not the same people who left,” said Jared Spataro, Microsoft’s vice president for modern work. Attitudes toward jobs are changing—more than half of the respondents said they are prioritizing health and well-being over work, according to the index, in which Microsoft surveyed 31,000 people across 31 countries and combined those results with data from LinkedIn and Microsoft’s Office programs.
While the software giant is hawking tools to make hybrid workforces function better, a flexible culture is more important than technology to keeping employees happy and productive, Spataro said. A wide gulf remains between workers and the top leadership at their companies, with mid-level management increasingly saying they’re having trouble reconciling the different ideas between the two groups. Among middle managers, 74% said they don’t have the influence or resources to make changes, while 54% said upper management was out of touch with the rank and file.
“There’s kind of been a widening gap in expectations, and these poor managers are meant to shoulder that,” Spataro said.
Part of that may be return-to-work expectations that are out of line with what staffers want. When it comes to employees in information work roles that can be done remotely, half of company leaders say their firm already demands or plans to require in-person work full-time in the coming year. In manufacturing, retail and consumer goods, the number was even higher.
As it seeks to capitalize on the shifting trends, Microsoft, the biggest maker of productivity software, is updating Office programs with new features to make the experience of meetings between in-person and remote employees less confusing and disorienting. A new Outlook email tool will ask users to specify when they RSVP whether they’ll be in-person or virtual, so the organizer can keep track. For large or formal virtual meetings, organizers can set up multiple translators in 16 language combinations starting in the second quarter.
Microsoft has also discussed plans to help ease some of the remote-work disconnection with metaverse applications, or tools that create a virtual environment that could bridge the gap between staffers in the office and those at home. In the latest Worker Trend Index, more than half of employees were open to using some sort of “digital immersive space in the metaverse” in the coming year, and 47% percent said they’re willing to appear as an avatar in meetings.
Still, 13% of workers polled said they didn’t know what the term metaverse means.