A woman sits on a bench in the park with her dog. The woman is reading the newspaper.
PHOTO: Adobe

It is clear that the issue of remote working in the workplace of the future is creating quite a debate. Debate is always good, particularly when it comes to shaping the future workplace and the most recent salvo is particularly interesting. In fact according to Microsoft’s 2021 Work Trend Index, with over 40 percent of the global workforce considering leaving their employer this year, a new approach to hybrid work will be critical for attracting and retaining diverse talent.

This is not just the usual run of the mill survey. Its findings are based on an enormous sample consisting of 30,000 people in 31 countries and an analysis of trillions of productivity and labor signals across Microsoft 365 and LinkedIn. It uncovered all kinds of other trends too, so depending on what you are looking for there is something there for everyone and not a few contradictions. The research found that while employees want the best of both worlds; over 70 percent of workers want flexible remote work options to continue, while over 65 percent are craving more in person time with their teams. There is clearly a lot of conflicted thinking around the new workplace which can be broken down into seven principal themes, notably:

  1. Flexible work is here to stay
  2. Leaders are out of touch with the workforce and need a wake up call
  3. High productivity is masking an exhausted workforce
  4. Gen Z is at risk and will need to be re-energized   
  5. Shrinking networks are endangering innovation
  6. Authenticity will spur productivity and wellbeing   
  7. Talent is everywhere in the hybrid world   

A lot of this makes sense, particularly those issues that impact employee experience and the clear risk of burnout. It is also surprising to find that the disconnect between enterprise leaders and employees is still a problem despite the fact that this was a common and often stated theme in the early 2000s when document management was still the major technology in the early digital workplace.   

Many business leaders, the research found, are faring better than their employees. Sixty-one percent of leaders say they are “thriving” right now — 23% higher than those without decision-making authority. They also report building stronger relationships with colleagues (+11% ) and leadership (+19%), earning higher incomes (+17%), and taking all or more of their allotted vacation days (+12%).

Workers are the ones feeling the disconnect. Thirty-seven percent of the global workforce says their companies are asking too much of them at a time like this. There are other figures that can explain that. The research found that time spent in Microsoft Teams meetings has more than doubled (2.5X) globally. It also showed that: 

  • The average meeting is 10 minutes longer, increasing from 35 to 45 minutes.
  • The average Teams user is sending 45% more chats per week and 42% more chats per person after hours, with chats per week still on the rise.
  • The number of emails delivered to commercial and education customers in February went up globally by 40.6 billion.

It could be that this will improve in the physical workplace of the future and it certainly looks like remote working is not going to be the only model in the future. Both Microsoft and Google are also looking at bringing workers back to the physical workplace too and it is likely that there will be many other big companies that do the same. However, the report concludes that, taken together, these trends show that we are no longer bound to traditional notions of space and time to work together. Instead, we can set aside our long-held assumptions and shift our mental model to embrace extreme flexibility.

Yammer's Improved Event Management Capabilities

Before leaving Redmond, WA-based Microsoft this week, there is one other small announcement that is worth a look. This time is from the oft-forgotten Yammer, which Microsoft has been slowly pulling back into the collaboration fold.

Over the past year, Yammer has become a valuable resource for hosting live events and ensuring collaboration with both internal and external parties in a business. Microsoft is now adding two new additions that will improve its capability as an event management tool. The two additions include:  

  • Yammer Live Events Insights: This organizes the information they need to measure engagement and reach when building online events. Event organizers will have access to the Insights dashboard before, during, and after the experience.   
  • Guest Access in Yammer: In December, Microsoft announced its preview for Azure AD b2b guest support in Yammer. Now, the functionality is generally available. It allows organizations to call in experts such as vendors, suppliers or consultants from outside the organization to supercharge collaboration.  

Both are a small addition to the other functionalities that already exist in Yammer. It also gives Yammer a growing role in the event management space which, according to Morder Intelligence was worth  $9.13 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach a value of $16.71 billion by 2026.  

It also helps with another conundrum around Yammer, notably what role Microsoft sees for it in the future. In a post in CMSWire in March Sam Marshall, in analyzing  the difference between Teams and Yammer summed it up quite simply by pointing out that Yammer is about people while Teams is about documents. It's obviously more complicated than that and there are many different ways of looking at this. However, it also shows that Microsoft has not forgotten Yammer and that there is more to come in the future.  

Google Workspace Tightens Storage Offering

Mountain View, CA-based Google has also been making changes to its productivity suite Workspace that will start rolling out in June this year. However, it is unlikely that these changes will be welcomed by many. The changes concern the “unlimited” storage that Google was offering in Workspace  — previously G Suite.  

The changes are not a surprise as they were originally announced last November. However, Google announced this week that it has made some changes to the original announcement which means that the changes to storage will go as follows:  

Google Photos: Starting June 1, 2021, any new photos or videos uploaded to Google Photos or Google Drive in High quality will count toward the storage limits for users in your domain. Currently, only photos and videos uploaded in original quality count toward storage quotas. Any photos or videos uploaded in high quality prior to June 1, 2021, will not be impacted by this change and will not count toward storage limits.  

Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, Drawings, Forms and Jamboard: Starting June 1, 2021, any newly created Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, Drawings, Forms and Jamboard files will also count toward the storage limits for users in your domain. Existing files within these products will not count toward storage, unless they’re modified on or after June 1, 2021.  

Given the amount of storage the different editions of Workspace offer, the changes are only likely to impact enterprises, or even large teams.  

In an explanatory note, published last November, Google indicated that over the past decade, Gmail, Google Drive, and Google Photos have enabled billions of people to securely store and manage their emails, documents, photos, videos and more. However, as people are uploading more content than ever before and more than 4.3 million GB are added across Gmail, Drive, and Photos every day. These changes to the storage policy, Google, indicated, are necessary to provide our users with a great experience and to keep pace with the growing demand.

M-Files Improves Collaboration With Hubshare Acquisition

Elsewhere, TX-based M-Files, has announced the acquisition of Hubshare to bolster external content sharing and collaboration and deliver an improved digital client experience. Hubshare offers a secure digital workplace portal that enhances user and engagement through collaborative working, secure file sharing and project management.  

Now part of the M-Files product portfolio, Hubshare brings with it a secure information exchange platform where companies can be forerunners in driving digitalization and improving the customer experience using branded, customizable client portals. The portals can be quickly and easily tailored to meet individual client needs which drives collaboration and productivity.  

According to Antti Nivala, founder and CEO at M-Files the integrated offering brings M-Files from the back office to the frontline customer's business and provides a digital window for customer's clients as they drive digitization across the organization.  

Unlike typical file sync-based document portal solutions where information is copied from an enterprise content repository, M-Files now offers a secure and integrated solution for internal and external collaboration without data duplication. M-Files connects siloed systems, applications and repositories and provides a full view to all relevant information across an organization. Delivering connected content. Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.

Worksoft Improves Automation Offers Process Improvement

Finally this week, TX-based Worksoft, which develops end-to-end enterprise automation for complex custom and packaged applications like SAP, Oracle, Salesforce and Workday has announced the expansion of its Connective Automation Platform. The upgrade will now include AI-driven analytics capabilities enabling the company to offer a codeless, scalable automation solution that connects process intelligence, business process testing and production automation and ultimately  process improvement.   

Process Intelligence provides a unified view of end-to-end business processes with actionable insights, delivering unprecedented enterprise process visibility and maximizing process efficiency by eliminating business and IT silos.   

Combining multiple data sources — including process mining, business process captures, test automation results, production performance, and more — it also  generates a real-time roadmap for automation and process optimization.   

This is a key element in digital transformation and automation strategies heighten the need to identify and understand business processes. The addition of process intelligence to Worksoft’s Connective Automation platform creates an unparalleled opportunity for enterprises to visualize and understand as-is business processes and identify and create resilient automation to enable continuous testing, RPA and Agile+DevOps development initiatives at speed and scale.