Months into hybrid work, there’s a productivity disconnect between leaders and employees.

Flexible work makes measuring performance more challenging for business leaders, who must also contend with confusing economic signals, including rising inflation, shrinking budgets, and a tight job market.

Research shows that 87 percent of employees feel that they’re productive at work, whether they’re in the office or at home. But only 12 percent of leaders say they have full confidence that their team is productive. “Leaders are saying, ‘I can’t see the work happening. I don’t know how to measure it. This is new territory, and I don’t like it. It feels like I’m lost in a dark cave,’” says Jared Spataro, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for Modern Work. But productivity signals across Microsoft 365, like the number of Teams meetings, continue to climb.

Spataro returns to the WorkLab podcast to share key insights from the company’s latest Work Trend Index report . This special report is based on findings from a survey of 20,000 people in 11 countries, trillions of Microsoft 365 productivity signals, LinkedIn labor trends, and Glint People Science insights.

He is the first guest for Season 3 of Microsoft’s WorkLab podcast, in which hosts Elise Hu and Tonya Mosley have conversations with economists, technologists, and researchers who explore data and insights into why and how work is changing.

Three big takeaways from this conversation:

  1. Business leaders are experiencing “productivity paranoia.” “There’s a sense amongst management that, ‘Wow, I don’t think we’re as productive as we used to be. We need to get people back so we can get back to the models that I understand and know how to run,” Spataro says. “What we’re going to have to do collectively is recognize that you can be successful in these new emerging patterns of work, you’re just going to have to create new types of visibility.”

  2. Employees and employers are out of step with each other on when and why to go into the workplace. Fully 73 percent of employees and 78 percent of business decision makers say that they need a better reason to go into the office than just company expectations. It's increasingly clear that people come in for each other. “We’ve all tried different things to get people back, but research shows that the number one thing that people say will bring them into the office are their colleagues,” Spataro says. “My team has team Tuesdays or team Thursdays where we’re encouraging people to come in, even when they normally wouldn’t. And one of the reasons that we cite is, hey, this is good for the team.”

  3. It’s increasingly clear that companies need to “re-recruit” their existing employees with more opportunities for learning and growth. Employees consider opportunities to learn and grow to be the number one driver of great work culture , a jump from 2019, when it was ranked number nine. But 55 percent of respondents say that the best way for them to build their skills is to change companies. Spataro notes, “We’re in a world of incredible volatility, and I read the data and it is employees saying, ‘Look, if I’m going to stick with you, you had better be helping me get the skills I need to insulate myself and the people I care about from that volatility. Help me every minute I’m on the job to gain additional value so that I’m going to stay employed.’ That’s what any smart employee is doing right now.”

WorkLab is a place for experts to share their insights and opinions. As students of the future of work, Microsoft values inputs from a diverse set of voices. That said, the opinions and findings of the experts we interview are their own and do not reflect Microsoft’s own research or opinions.

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Here’s a transcript of the Episode 1 conversation.

TONYA MOSLEY: This is WorkLab , the podcast from Microsoft. And I’m your host, Tonya Mosley. On WorkLab , we hear from leading thinkers on the future of work—economists, technologists, researchers. They all share surprising data and explore the trends transforming the way we work.

JARED SPATARO: It’s people. People who are motivated, people who are empowered with the right tools, and then people who move forward and work with others to create magic. That’s what work is. It is not an office. It is not an org chart. It’s not even a structure.