Flexible work, positive culture top reasons for work moves, study finds

But global study shows employees, business leaders at odds over office return

Flexible working hours, strong health and wellbeing policies and a positive work culture are among the factors pushing Irish workers to change jobs as the pandemic experience continues to shape the job market.

That was according to a study from Microsoft, that found poor company culture and a negative impact on mental health are among the top reasons employees left their roles last year.

The research was a part of a global study on work trends that questioned 31,000 technology and healthcare workers in 31 countries, including 600 in Ireland.

The Work Trends Index found positive work culture was top of the list for Irish workers, with 59 per cent placing the most value on it, while flexible working hours were important to 50 per cent of those questioned, and 43 per cent found benefits that promote positive health and well-being the most important.



The survey could provide employers with important insights as the struggle to attract and retain staff continues and “the great resignation” continues to pose a threat to businesses. Although the number of irish workers who had changed jobs in the past year was lower than the global average at 14 per cent, almost 40 per cent said they were thinking of making a change in 2022. Just over one in five said they would be moving to a new role in the same industry, while 16 per cent are considering a shift to outside the industry.

Of those who had changed jobs, new remote opportunities or a lack of flexible working opportunities were among the top reasons for the change.

Despite the search for flexibility, the hybrid work environment is causing issues for some workers. Almost a third of Irish workers said they found it difficult to disconnect from work, and more than a quarter are struggling to stay motivated or inspired. Some 23 per cent said they felt removed from the company culture and senior leadership. Forty-four per cent said the new ways of working had made it more difficult to build trust with colleagues, and more than a third said that their team culture had deteriorated or that they felt lonelier. Some 37 per cent said remote or hybrid working made being innovative or creating new ideas more challenging than it was before the pandemic hit.

However, to counterbalance that point of view, a third of workers said they felt more included in meetings via online platforms, as they felt they had more ways of being heard.

Technology has played a key role here, with 50 per cent of employees saying technology and digital solutions were important in supporting employees to learn new skills, with 37 per cent saying it had helped them manage their time better, and 30 per cent citing it as a way of making remote or hybrid collaboration easier.

Engaged workplace

Among the digital solutions backed by employees are an employee experience platform to help foster a more engaged workplace, high-tech hybrid meetings rooms, and artificial intelligence to make work more efficient.

Microsoft Ireland general manager Anne Sheehan said the trends indicated in the research weren't surprising, given the experiences of the past two years. While employees had embraced more flexible working, there were also obstacles to navigate.

“Even though you have a hybrid, remote workplace and people loved the flexibility it gave them, that was countered by this feeling of disconnection, particularly with people that moved roles either within a company to different parts or changed,” Ms Sheehan said. “A lot of the networking, particularly in the Irish market, that would be done on a face to face basis, all that was gone during Covid.”

The global study found almost half of remote workers do not feel included in meetings, and only just over a quarter of leaders said their company has developed hybrid meeting etiquette to ensure everyone is included and engaged.

Ms Sheehan said the next 12 months would be a pivotal time for many business leaders as companies try to navigate the necessary changes to the workplace, with culture topping the list. change for their team.

“I think for employers now, looking forward, there has to be a look at organisational policies. What does the building stand for now? Is it used more for social connection? How do you marry that with the people who want to work hybrid?” she said. “Another thing that came out of the report was that people want really great technology for their hybrid experience; if you are dialling in, you don’t want to feel left out. The technology needs to be strong, it needs to work, and the people who are dialling in need to be able to participate as much as someone that is in the office.”

The global findings also highlighted the issue of managers feeling caught between the expectations of employees and those of the company leadership. Half of business leaders say they have plans for a full in-person return to the office this year, at odds with the employee preference for flexibility.

More than half of managers said they felt out of touch with employee expectations, with three quarters saying they don’t feel they have the influence or resources they need to implement

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist