Don't spy on staff to ensure they're working, Microsoft says

SEATTLE - More than two years after remote work and hybrid jobs became widespread, there is still a stark divide over how it is going: About 85 per cent of managers worry they cannot tell if employees are getting enough done, while 87 per cent of workers say their productivity is just fine.

That was the finding of a survey on corporate attitudes by Microsoft, the workplace software giant and owner of LinkedIn.

Managers' fears about idle workers are creating what Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella calls "productivity paranoia", with undesirable results like spying on employees.

"Leaders think their employees are not productive, whereas employees think they are being productive and in many cases even feel burnt out," he said in a Bloomberg Television interview.

Microsoft has been surveying global employees in a variety of industries a few times a year amid the coronavirus pandemic - the latest data polled 20,000 people in 11 countries - aiming to track trends and adjust its technology to fit the needs of customers.

The data has continually shown a disconnect between managers and the rank and file, and Microsoft has been offering tools like its Viva employee experience software to bridge the gap.

Viva now has more than 10 million active monthly users at companies like PayPal and Unilever, which use it to help teams align their goals and stay in touch.

But even though new communication tools are putting bosses in closer contact with their employees, Microsoft wants executives to know that workplace surveillance is not the answer to boosting productivity.

"There's a growing debate about employee surveillance, and we have a really strong stance - we just think that's wrong," said Mr Jared Spataro, a Microsoft vice-president.

Meanwhile, other pandemic work trends, like mass quitting, seem to be petering out.

For the first time in 18 months, what LinkedIn and Microsoft dubbed the "Great Reshuffle" and others called the "Great Resignation" is slowing.

According to LinkedIn CEO Ryan Roslansky, the year-over-year growth in people changing jobs on the platform is now flat, and more job listings are for in-person roles.

Before the pandemic, 2 per cent of jobs on LinkedIn were listed as remote, a number that went up to 20 per cent by March 2022. It is now down to 15 per cent, he said.

Mr Spataro said many senior corporate leaders are longing to return to the pre-pandemic days of in-person work. But Microsoft still recommends a flexible approach.

Mr Nadella said: "People come to work for other people, not because of some policy."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 24, 2022, with the headline Don't spy on staff to ensure they're working, Microsoft says. Subscribe