Research from Microsoft shows that huge numbers of people may leave their current jobs . As a result, businesses will have to recruit huge numbers of new employees. And they’ll have to do it amid what the Microsoft Work Trend Index calls “a disruption as great as last year’s sudden shift to remote work: the move to hybrid.”

Over the last year, workers have spent less time physically in offices than ever before—which for many has led to feelings of disconnectedness from their teams . But that is only one reason for the expected turnover. As vaccination rates increase and the pandemic eases, many people are contemplating a major life change—because they’re burned out or merely looking for new opportunities. And those opportunities may be plentiful, given that numerous companies are permanently shifting to hybrid work, which breaks down geographic barriers for job seekers.

Many employees have held on to jobs as islands of normalcy and stability amid so much upheaval. LinkedIn’s latest Workforce Confidence Index reports that no less than 74 percent of employees have stayed in their current jobs out of a need for security during the pandemic. Key factors include keeping household finances stable (59 percent), job perks and benefits (30 percent), and “having no time or energy to focus on a job switch” (14 percent).

LinkedIn senior editor-at-large George Anders says that a significant number of workers are now contemplating a new role, a new employer, or even a new career. “For millions of Americans, a successful 2021 means more than just leaving the pandemic-era difficulties behind,” he writes.

The LinkedIn index reports that 49 percent of employees in sales and HR are willing to pivot to new job functions, a number that rises to 56 percent for administrative workers. Microsoft’s Work Trend Index reaches similar conclusions, showing 41 percent of the global workforce considering a job change in the next year, with 46 percent planning to make a major career transition.

Microsoft’s Work Trend Index shows that 41 percent of the global workforce are considering a job change in the next year, with 46 percent planning to make a major career transition.

Illustration by Valerio Pellegrini

The tectonic shift to remote work makes job hopping easier for some. “Information workers are seeing lots more jobs opening up for them, because they can now work from anywhere,” says Jorie Foss, product marketing manager for Microsoft Viva , an employee-experience platform that helps organizations bring together knowledge, learning, resources, and insights.

The Work Trend Index notes that remote job postings on LinkedIn have more than quintupled during the pandemic, and plenty of workers are eager to take advantage of them; 46 percent of remote workers say they plan to relocate to a new place since they may no longer need to be physically in the office. This may seem like a boon for companies—without geographic restrictions, they’ll have bigger pools from which to recruit. But it’s a double-edged sword: They’ll also face stronger competition from faraway companies vying for those same employees

Many employees are already on the move. A recent PwC survey found that 12 percent of office workers have moved more than 50 miles away from their company’s core office location since the pandemic began, and another 22 percent are considering following suit. Many are abandoning the coastal cities for states with cheaper housing and lower taxes, like Texas and Florida. Even as COVID-19 risk levels drop, some will simply stay put and find new jobs.

There will be those workers who just want a change after a year-plus of lockdown. “Turnover has been very low for the past year, so there’s a pent-up desire to try new things,” says Brian Houck, head of the productivity team for Microsoft Azure engineers.

The potential consequences of a surge in turnover for companies striving to get back to some sort of normalcy will be profound. What can companies do to keep employees from cutting ties permanently? How can managers help new hires feel connected to coworkers, understand company culture, and receive the training and support they need in a hybrid work situation? To slow the rate of churn, companies will need to rethink traditional approaches to retention to meet the new realities and possibilities of the hybrid era.

Holding On to Talent

The most critical enticement that will be necessary to keep existing workers happy, and to recruit new ones, will be allowing those who want to work remotely to do so, at least some of the time. Study after study shows that most employees want to continue to work remotely for at least three days a week.

“Flexibility is the number-one ask,” says Anders. “People want geographic mobility and to have control over their hours. They’re saying, ‘I want more time with my kids, and I don’t want to commute, so I want to knock off at 4. But I’m willing to give you back an hour at 9 p.m.’ ”

Most employers seem to have heard the message: A recent KayoCloud survey from March of this year found that more than 80 percent of companies are embracing a hybrid model. Brands including Twitter, Spotify, and Facebook are extending their work-from-home options for employees.

Twelve percent of office workers have moved more than 50 miles away from their company’s core office location since the pandemic began, and another 22 percent are considering following suit.

Illustration by Valerio Pellegrini

In this new work world, managers will be more important than ever. With hybrid work arrangements—where hires won’t have the same degree of informal access to peers—managers will need to support them with extra one-on-one contact. A recent Microsoft survey found that the company’s new hires are relying increasingly on managers and less on peers for help during onboarding.

Setting clear goals and priorities, and guiding new hires through the ways in which the job may have changed between when they were hired and when they started, will be vital. Managers will need to find new, creative ways to model behavior, coach existing employees to be role models, and show workers that they are cared for—all elements that Microsoft research indicates is essential to inculcating a growth mindset.

Human resources professionals will not only need to develop new skills; an August 2020 Harvard Business Review report predicts that HR departments will need to create a slew of entirely new positions as well. Companies might want to enlist a work-from-home facilitator, for example, who can help keep job responsibilities from creeping into family time and ensure that remote employees have the proper office space and tech to succeed at their jobs. At present, according to one Microsoft study , just more than one-third of remote workers have a dedicated home office. New technologies can help: Microsoft’s Viva employee experience platform (EXP) , for instance, provides data-driven recommendations to workers about carving out time for breaks, focused work, and learning while also tying them closely to the knowledge resources they need to do their jobs effectively.

Equal Access

In hybrid work arrangements, it will be vital for meeting leaders to be trained to not overlook virtual employees and to establish protocols for how they can signal when they want to speak up. Tech can help, too: Microsoft’s Teams is built with features explicitly aimed at making hybrid meetings feel more inclusive. Companies that offer travel reimbursements for employees who live far from the main office to encourage them to come in for important meetings may find themselves with an edge in helping colleagues feel connected.

“We need to ensure that people working remotely are not disadvantaged in some way,” says Houck. “We need to get better at things like digital whiteboarding and making sure everyone has the right equipment and is familiar with the tools.”

Employees will also have to become familiar with radically redesigned offices. Experts predict that we’ll see far fewer permanently assigned desks and more “hot desks,” collaborative hubs, and private spaces that can be booked.

Newer hires pose more specific challenges: How do you introduce a recent addition to the team, and to company culture, when everything’s been turned upside down? Many companies are experimenting with randomly pairing employees for informal digital “water cooler chats.” Similarly, it will be important to rethink mentoring to support less-experienced workers, who, surveys reveal, are more likely to want to spend time in the office than their veteran colleagues. Assigning new hires a partner—one who doesn’t manage them—can help, says Anders.

A third of employees would give up potential salary raises in exchange for paid time off for volunteer work. “Meaning matters more than ever,” says Dan Schwabel, managing partner at Workplace Intelligence.

Illustration by Valerio Pellegrini

One of the most powerful tools to both attract and retain talent is to offer a sense of meaning. More than one-quarter of employees surveyed by the IBM Institute for Business Value earlier this year said they took new jobs in the hope of finding more purposeful and meaningful work. Another PwC survey found that a third of employees would give up potential salary raises in exchange for paid time off for volunteer work. “Meaning matters more than ever,” says Dan Schwabel, managing partner at Workplace Intelligence, a human resources consultancy.

Hiring in the Hybrid Era

For some, evaluating new hires without ever seeing them face-to-face was a rougher transition than moving to remote work. Last summer, the staffing agency Addison Group polled 500 hiring managers across the United States for a report titled “Is Remote Hiring the New Normal?” It found that more than 56 percent of managers had never hired remotely before.

In some ways, finding the right candidates has never been simpler. “It’s so easy now to talk to lots of people quickly,” says Houck. “You can interact with candidates from all over the world.” But that also means the hiring pipeline can get overwhelmed. “We used to get thousands of applications for on-site workers here in Seattle,” says Foss. “Now, for remote positions, we’re getting tens of thousands!”

Artificial intelligence systems to help vet all those applicants seem certain to continue to grow in popularity—not only algorithms to sort through résumés, but chatbots that can screen candidates, assess their personalities, and answer some of their questions. Those systems need to be used cautiously, however: Several hiring algorithms have been found to be subtly biased against some racial groups and women. They can be useful tools, but only if hiring managers are careful to ask the right questions and do not blindly accept their recommendations.

Job candidates—especially younger ones—are likely to insist on being allowed to work from anywhere as a matter of course, not just as a perk. Meeting them where they are is wise counsel. “We found, at a deep human level, that people want control over where and how they work,” says Schwabel. “Not offering the option to work remotely inhibits your ability to recruit workers.”

Every business is unique, of course. Whether because of a company’s entrenched culture or the nature of the work itself, some will still require significant on-site time from workers, while others will fully embrace remote and hybrid work and tap talent across the country and around the world. But one thing is certain: Grinding out eight hours at the same desk five days a week is gone for good.