Escape Business Solutions Blog


In choppy economic waters, new data points to three urgent pivots for leaders to help employees and organizations thrive

September 22, 2022

Illustration by Vanessa Branchi



Months into hybrid work, not everyone agrees on how it’s going.onths into hybrid work, not everyone agrees on how it’s going. Employees and employers are divided. Employees have embraced flexible work and its benefits and are rejecting a return to hustle culture.

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Hybrid Work Is Just Work. Are We Doing It Wrong?

At the same time, many leaders yearn for the office life of 2019—hallways abuzz with chatter, coffee overflowing. Add to that what can only be described as one of the strangest recessions the world has ever seen: business leaders must contend with rising inflation, shrinking budgets, and, paradoxically, a talent marketplace that remains incredibly tight.

Now more than ever, it’s the job of every leader to balance employee interests with the success of the organization, aligning everyone around the most impactful work. One thing is clear: “Thriving employees are what will give organizations a competitive advantage in today’s dynamic economic environment,” according to Satya Nadella, Chairman and CEO, Microsoft. And, creating a culture and employee experience to meet the needs of today’s digitally connected, distributed workforce requires a new approach.

To help, we surveyed 20,000 people in 11 countries and analyzed trillions of Microsoft 365 productivity signals, along with LinkedIn labor trends and Glint People Science findings. The data points to three urgent pivots for leaders to drive alignment and empower people for the new ways we work. Because when employees thrive, organizations flourish.

Key Findings

The three pivots leaders need to make:

  1. End productivity paranoia 
  2. Embrace the fact that people come in for each other 
  3. Re-recruit your employees 


End productivity paranoia

People are working more than ever, while leaders—already worried by signals of macroeconomic decline—are questioning if their employees are being productive. The majority of employees (87%) report that they are productive at work, and productivity signals across Microsoft 365 continue to climb. This spring, we found that the number of meetings per week had increased by 153% globally for the average Microsoft Teams user since the start of the pandemic, and there is still no indication that this trend has reversed, suggesting this peak could become the new baseline. On top of an already high meeting load, overlapping meetings (being double-booked) increased by 46% per person in the past year. And users are flooded with meeting invites—even as the overall meeting acceptance rate has remained fairly steady (growing by only 3%), declines and tentative RSVPs have soared in the past two years (84% and 216% growth, respectively). The strain is clear: in an average week, 42% of participants multitask during meetings by actively sending an email or ping—and that doesn’t include practices like reading incoming emails and pings, working in non-meeting files, or web activity.

At the same time, 85% of leaders say that the shift to hybrid work has made it challenging to have confidence that employees are being productive. And as some organizations use technology to track activity rather than impact, employees lack context on how and why they’re being tracked, which can undermine trust and lead to “productivity theater.” This has led to productivity paranoia: where leaders fear that lost productivity is due to employees not working, even though hours worked, number of meetings, and other activity metrics have increased.


of leaders say the shift to hybrid work has made it challenging to have confidence that employees are being productive.

Many leaders and managers are missing the old visual cues of what it means to be productive because they can’t “see” who is hard at work by walking down the hall or past the conference room. Indeed, compared to in-person managers, hybrid managers are more likely to say they struggle to trust their employees to do their best work (49% vs. 36%) and report that they have less visibility into the work their employees do (54% vs. 38%). And as employees feel the pressure to “prove” they’re working, digital overwhelm is soaring.

Productivity paranoia risks making hybrid work unsustainable. Leaders need to pivot from worrying about whether their people are working enough to helping them focus on the work that’s most important. 81% of employees say it’s important that their managers help them prioritize their workload, but less than a third (31%) say their managers have ever given clear guidance during one-on-ones. Solving this issue needs to start at the top: 74% of people managers say more guidance on prioritizing their own work would help their performance, and 80% say they’d personally benefit from more clarity from senior leadership on impactful priorities.

Clarity is key

Employees who report having clarity about their work priorities are:


as likely to say they plan to stay at the company for at least two years


as likely to say they rarely think about looking for a new job


as likely to say they’re happy at their current company

Source: Glint, 2022

48% of employees and 53% of managers report that they’re already burned out at work, so prioritization must go beyond simply reordering an overflowing to-do list. Leaders need to create clarity and purpose for their people, aligning work with the company mission and team goals. And defining what work doesn’t matter is just as important as defining what does—in a world where everything is important, nothing is. We’ve reached a point of diminishing returns due to overwork and overwhelm—if leaders don’t intervene, they put productivity in jeopardy.

Showing employees that you care requires creating a continuous feedback loop—listening and taking action consistently. Only 43% of employees can confidently say their company solicits employee feedback at least once a year—meaning over half of companies (57%) may rarely, if ever, ask and hear about their employees’ experience at work. And even if their company is collecting feedback, 75% of employees (and 80% of managers) think it’s not often enough, and 75% of business decision makers say it’s not actionable enough. In an era of ongoing volatility, timely, actionable employee insights are critical to gaining and maintaining a competitive edge. To ensure that decisions are driven by the most up-to-date information, leaders need to consistently take a pulse on how their employees are doing.

Productivity Paranoia

There is a stark disconnect between the portion of leaders who say they have full 
confidence their team is productive (12%) and the portion of employees who 
report they are productive at work (87%).Pie chart showing that fully 87% of employees report they are productive at work, but just 12% of leaders say they have full confidence their team is productive.

Survey respondents were asked, “On a typical day, how much do you agree or disagree with the following? ‘I feel productive when I work’” Survey respondents in a leadership role were asked, “How much of a challenge is the following when thinking about new changes brought about by the shift to hybrid work? ‘Having confidence that my employees are being productive’”

Illustration by Valerio Pellegrini

Closing the feedback loop is key to retaining talent. Employees who feel their companies use employee feedback to drive change are more satisfied (90% vs. 69%) and engaged (89% vs. 73%) compared to those who believe their companies don’t drive change. And the employees who don’t think their companies drive change based on feedback? They’re more than twice as likely to consider leaving in the next year (16% vs. 7%) compared to those who do. And it’s not a one-way street. To build trust and participation in feedback systems, leaders should regularly share what they’re hearing, how they’re responding, and why.

Take action:

  • Set goals like OKRs to ensure that employee work aligns with company goals. Also, establish NO-KRs, or what employees should not do in order to get the most critical work done.
  • Create and reinforce a culture that rewards employees’ impact, not just activity, or risk people LARP-ing their jobs.
  • Collect employee feedback regularly at organizational, departmental, and team levels to keep a pulse on your people—and empower managers and leaders to actively listen, coach, and make better decisions to improve the overall performance and wellbeing of their teams.


Embrace the fact that people come in for each other

The return to the office has been a struggle at many organizations—with some employers rolling back plans after one-size-fits-all policies failed to generate a great return. So how can leaders inspire people to prioritize in-person time together? The data shows that people come in for each other to recapture what they miss: the social connection of being with other people. In other words: rebuilding social capital can be a powerful lever for bringing people back to the office.

While 82% of business decision makers say getting employees back to the office in person is a concern in the coming year, the fact is that people now expect flexibility and autonomy around how, when, and where they work. Policy alone will not reverse this reality: 73% of employees and 78% of business decision makers say they need a better reason to go in than just company expectations. While a less certain job market may motivate some employees to spend more time in the office, a more lasting, effective approach requires concerted efforts to rebuild social capital. Organizations that fail to use in-person time to rebuild and strengthen team bonds may risk losing out on attracting and retaining top talent.


of employees say they need a better reason to go into the office than just company expectations.

The data reveals a better way to bring people back together to engage and energize them. Connecting with colleagues is a key motivation for working in person. 84% of employees would be motivated by the promise of socializing with co-workers, while 85% would be motivated by rebuilding team bonds. Employees also report that they would go to the office more frequently if they knew their direct team members would be there (73%) or if their work friends were there (74%).

Younger people are especially keen to use the office to establish themselves as part of their workplace community and feel more connected to their co-workers: younger generations are particularly looking to connect with senior leadership (78% of Gen Z and Millennials vs. 72% Gen X and older) and their direct managers in person (80% Gen Z and Millennials vs. 76% Gen X and older). Gen Z is also particularly motivated by working in person to see their work friends (79% vs. 68% of Gen X and older).

Social Connection Is Worth the Commute

Workers say they are even more interested in going into the office for their friends 
and peers than for managers and leadership.Gen ZMillennialsGen XBoomers213040506020%40%60%80%100%friendsdirectTeamimmediateManagerseniorLeadershipmy ‘work friends’ would be theremembers of my direct team would be theremy immediate manager would be theremy senior leadership would be thereI would go into the office more frequently if I knew…

Survey respondents were asked, “As an employee who is working in a hybrid environment, how much do you agree or disagree with each of the following statements?”

Authenticity Matters

We asked employees about how an authentic—open, honest, empathetic—manager impacted them. Here’s what they said:

The desire among employees to reconnect with co-workers dovetails nicely with a powerful organizational need: to rebuild social capital. 68% of business decision makers say that ensuring cohesion and social connections within teams has been a moderate/major challenge due to the shift to hybrid work. Employees are feeling this acutely, with roughly half saying their relationships outside their immediate work group have weakened (51%) and that they feel disconnected from their company as a whole (43%).

The office can’t be the only answer—technology plays a critical role in creating connection wherever, whenever, and however people work. And communication is crucial to keeping everyone engaged and informed: according to nearly all business decision makers (96%) and employees (95%), effective communication is among the most critical skills they’ll need in the year ahead. And communication will need to be authentic, not just informative. Employees list authenticity as the #1 quality a manager can have in supporting them to do their best work (85%), and 83% of business decision makers say it’s important for their senior leadership to show up authentically.

Take action:

  • Use in-person time to help employees rebuild team bonds and networks.
  • Build a digital employee experience to help employees stay connected to each other, to leadership, and to the company culture no matter where they’re working.
  • Create a digital community with modern communication tools to fuel conversation, empower people to express themselves, and connect leadership and employees.


Re-recruit your employees

Amid macroeconomic headwinds, now is the time for every organization to re-recruit, re-onboard, and re-energize employees. And the data shows if people can’t learn and grow, they’ll leave. As employees embrace a new “worth-it” equation, they’re increasingly turning to job-hopping, the creator economy, side hustles, and entrepreneurship to achieve their career goals. And in a still-tight labor market, leaders who were hoping for the tide to turn have so far been disappointed. Rather than ignore or fight these trends, the best leaders will prioritize learning and development to help both people and the business grow.

Younger generations are the most likely to aspire to be their own boss, with 76% of Gen Z and Millennials saying that this is a goal, versus 63% of those who are Gen X and older. These younger generations are also more likely to say that they’d stay at their current company longer if the company gave them the flexibility to pursue side projects or businesses for additional income (77% vs. 66%). And this spring, 52% of Gen Z and Millennials reported they were likely to consider changing jobs within the next year. Employers can’t ignore this next wave of the workforce: in the US alone, Gen Z employees are projected to make up approximately 30% of the workforce by 2030. And on LinkedIn, Gen Z employees are transitioning jobs at a faster pace than other generations, up 22% in the past year (far exceeding Millennials, whose job transition rate dropped by 1% in the same timeframe).


of employees say they’d stay at their company longer if they could benefit more from learning and development support

Across the workforce, employees are hungry for growth opportunities: 56% of employees and 68% of business decision makers say there are not enough growth opportunities in their company to make them want to stay long term. And many employees believe that learning requires leaving: 55% say the best way for them to develop their skills is to change companies. That sentiment increases as people rise through the ranks at their company, climbing from 51% among lower- and entry-level workers to 66% among upper- and mid-level managers, and 69% among executives. Making it easier for employees to find their next growth opportunity inside the company seems obvious, but the data shows organizations aren’t prioritizing internal mobility enough.

If People Can’t Learn, They’ll Leave

Many workers feel that they need to leave a company to develop their skills.

Survey respondents were asked: “How much do you agree or disagree with the following when you think about your future career? ‘The best way for me to develop my skills is by changing companies’”

Illustration by Valerio Pellegrini

2 out of 3 employees say they would stay longer at their company if it were easier to change jobs internally (68% overall, 73% Gen Z, 73% Millennials, 65% Gen X). That rises to 3 in 4 for people managers (75%) and business decision makers (77%), revealing a powerful retention tool for your leadership layer. This focus on long-term growth and skill development may explain why 68% of employees and 77% of business decision makers say they would rather make a lateral move that offers new skills than a vertical move that is more senior but has fewer learning and growth opportunities.

The connection between learning and retention is clear: 76% of employees say they’d stay at their company longer if they could benefit more from learning and development support. The numbers rise even higher for business decision makers (+7). In fact, employees consider opportunities to learn and grow as the #1 driver of great work culture, a jump from 2019 when it was ranked #9. So taken as a whole, prioritizing employee learning and growth presents a winning retention formula for organizations—or, alternately, if neglected, could pose an existential threat.

The skills gap puts daily work at risk

According to LinkedIn, the skill sets for jobs have changed by approximately 25% since 2015. And by 2027, this number is expected to double. But many employees don’t have the current skills they need, let alone ones for the future.

Take action:

  • Make learning and growth core to the employee experience—that means bringing the right resources and learning experiences into the flow of work to close the skills gap.
  • Recognize that people want opportunities not just for promotion but to broaden their skills. Organizations need to make internal mobility a key priority and help employees view their career as a climbing wall or playground, rather than a ladder.
  • Shift your mindset to create an internal talent marketplace where people can grow their skills, build their careers, and find purpose while helping the organization thrive.

The Way Forward

The changes that have swept the work world over the past few years are not temporary. Flexibility is a feature, not a fad. And 2019 leadership practices simply won’t meet the moment for a digitally connected, distributed workforce. Leaders who look to data—not just instinct—and focus on clarity, social capital, and career growth can realize both the promise of hybrid work and the full potential of their greatest asset: their people. Now more than ever, positive business outcomes depend on positive people outcomes.

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Hybrid Work Is Just Work. Are We Doing It Wrong?

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Migrating your files to Azure has never been easier

We pride ourselves on listening to our customers and then building products and partnerships that meet customer needs and enable every application to migrate to Azure. We recognize that migrating Virtual Desktop, Virtual Server, High Performance Compute, Analytics, and many other critical applications requires copying tens of terabytes to several petabytes of file data stored on file servers, NAS appliances, and Object Storage to Azure. Automated, intuitive, and scalable solutions are required to migrate file data between heterogeneous platforms and eliminate the inherent complexity and risk of these projects. Our customers have told us that copying unstructured and semi-structured file data to Azure Blob Storage, Azure Files, and Azure NetApp Files needs to be fast and easy so you can focus on innovating with Azure services.

Today we are announcing the Azure File Migration Program which gives customers and partners in our Solution Integrator and Service Provider ecosystem, access to industry-leading file migration solutions from Komprise and Data Dynamics—at no cost. These solutions help easily, safely, and securely migrate file and object data to Azure Storage.

Azure Migrate offers a very powerful set of no-cost (or low-cost) tools to help you migrate virtual machines, websites, databases, and virtual desktops for critical applications. You can modernize legacy applications by migrating them from servers to containers and build a cloud native environment. Our new program complements Azure Migrate and provides the means to migrate applications and workloads that include large volumes of unstructured file data.

This program offers free software licensing, an onboarding session, and access to the migration solution provider’s support organization. You can review a detailed comparison of the solutions, review the Getting Started Guides for Data Dynamics and Komprise, and watch videos showcasing their functionality. After choosing the solution that best fits your needs, you simply select the appropriate Azure sponsored offer from the Azure Marketplace.

We plan to expand this program going forward to include additional migration ISVs and target storage platforms to support any and every storage migration scenario—subscribe to this blog for updates as we expand the program.

Learn more about the Azure File Migration Program

To learn more about this program, please visit our Tech Community Blog where Principal Program Manager Karl Rautenstrauch has written a post to help you move forward and take advantage of this great offer! You can also learn more about migrating application workloads to Azure by visiting the Azure Migration and Modernization Center.

Microsoft Security delivers new multicloud capabilities

In times of great change, challenges and opportunities can be found in many directions. This is certainly true in IT and cybersecurity.

Today, while navigating a pandemic, frequent supply chain shocks, and global talent shortages, organizations around the world are forced to confront sophisticated ransomware and nation-state attacks. They’re continually staying ahead of stricter compliance requirements, and they’re doing all of this while focusing on the strategic edge they obtain using technology as a transformational advantage.

Cloud, mobile, and edge platforms have driven unprecedented business innovation, adaptation, and resilience during this time, but this broad mix of technologies also introduces incredible complexity for security and compliance teams. The security operations center (SOC) must keep pace with safeguarding identities, devices, data, apps, infrastructure, and more. Further, they must take stock of evolving cyber risks in this multicloud, multi-platform world, and identify where blind spots may exist across a broad new set of users, devices, and destinations. 

When you combine these business needs and rising concerns, it’s clear that security is the defining opportunity and challenge of our time. At Microsoft, our mission of empowering every person and organization on the planet to achieve more means anticipating these needs, slashing security complexity, and protecting organizations across their entire digital estate. We do this by making multicloud support central to our security strategy.

Today, we’re announcing new advances to help customers strengthen visibility and control across multiple cloud providers, workloads, devices, and digital identities—all from a centralized management view. These new features and offerings are designed to secure the foundations of hybrid work and digital transformation.  

Delivering the future of multicloud security

According to the Flexera 2021 State of the Cloud Report, 92 percent of respondents are using a multicloud model, meaning they rely on apps and infrastructure from multiple cloud providers. Another recent survey sponsored by Microsoft shows that 73 percent of respondents say it’s challenging to manage multicloud environments.2 For organizations to fully embrace these multicloud strategies, it’s critical that their security solutions reduce complexity and deliver comprehensive protection.

Today, we’re taking another step in Microsoft’s journey to protect our customers across diverse cloud systems by extending the native capabilities of Microsoft Defender for Cloud to the Google Cloud Platform (GCP).

With GCP support, Microsoft is now the only cloud provider with native multicloud protection for the industry’s top three platforms: Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS) (announced at Ignite last November), and now Google Cloud Platform (GCP). Microsoft Defender for Cloud provides Cloud Security Posture Management and Cloud Workload Protection. It identifies configuration weak spots across these top providers to help strengthen the overall security posture in the cloud and provides threat protection across workloads—all from a single place.

Support for GCP comes with out-of-box recommendations that allow you to configure GCP environments in line with key security standards like the Center for Internet Security (CIS) benchmark—protection for critical workloads running on GCP, including servers, containers, and more. Find out more in today’s announcement blog

Microsoft Defender for Cloud dashboard with connected Azure subscriptions, A W S accounts, and G C P projects.

Strengthening Zero Trust with identity security from CloudKnox

Despite all this innovation and change, security and compliance fundamentals begin with conclusively managing identity. Identities are the foundational piece that makes it possible to deliver apps, data, and services where they’re needed.

In a multicloud world, the number of platforms, devices, users, services, and locations multiplies exponentially, so securing those dynamically changing identities and permissions, wherever they are, is another core pillar of multicloud protection. 

A key pain point for many organizations here is the lack of visibility and control over their ever-evolving identities and permissions. To help address this, last year we acquired CloudKnox Security, a leader in Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management (CIEM), to accelerate our ability to help customers manage permissions in their multicloud environments and strengthen their Zero Trust security posture.

Today, we’re announcing the public preview of CloudKnox Permissions Management. CloudKnox provides complete visibility into user and workload identities across clouds, with automated features that consistently enforce least privilege access and use machine learning-powered continuous monitoring to detect and remediate suspicious activities.

CloudKnox Permissions Management dashboard with complete visibility into permissions across Azure, A W S, and G C P.

Reinventing the economics of security data with Microsoft Sentinel

To defend against today’s threats as well as tomorrow’s, security teams must have ready access to all security data. But as the volume of security data continues to grow exponentially, a one-size-fits-all model is no longer sufficient.

We’re working to reinvent the economics of working with security information and event management (SIEM) data and delivering new ways to access and analyze security data by embracing all data types, wherever they live, to provide the most comprehensive threat hunting solution. Today, we’re announcing new capabilities as the first step on this journey. We’re introducing basic logs, a new type of log that allows Microsoft Sentinel to sift through high volumes of data and find high-severity, low-visibility threats, and a new data archiving capability to extend data retention to seven years—beyond our current policy of two years—to enable our customers’ global data compliance needs. We’re also adding a new search experience to empower security analysts to hunt for threats more effectively. They can now search massive volumes of security data quickly and easily from all logs, analytics, and archives. Learn more about Microsoft Sentinel’s vision and new capabilities.

Delivering comprehensive protection

In today’s threat landscape, attacks are coming from anywhere and everywhere, including both inside and outside organizations. That’s why it’s critical to deliver comprehensive solutions that organize security, compliance, identity, endpoint management, and privacy as an interdependent whole while extending protection across platforms and clouds.

To that end, we’re announcing some updates across our portfolio that will help you better protect what’s most important to your business:

  • Secure workload identities with Azure Active Directory (Azure AD): We’re extending Azure AD beyond its core capabilities of protecting user identities to now also safeguarding workload identities for apps and services, as customers move more workloads into the cloud, and develop more cloud-native applications. We announced Conditional Access for workload identities last November, and now, Identity Protection can also be applied to workload identities. Learn more from our blog post.
  • Secure payment processing in the cloud with Azure Payment HSM: We recently launched a new service, Azure Payment HSM, in public preview, for payment card issuers and network and payment processors to securely process payments in the cloud. It provides the highest levels of protection for cryptographic keys and customer PINs for secure payment transactions.

Join us at the What’s Next in Security from Microsoft digital event

Cyber risks are inevitable and ever-evolving, but the more we build comprehensive, integrated, and cloud-powered defenses using automation to prevent, detect, and mitigate risk, the more we can empower organizations of all sizes to be fearless in their digital transformation and continue to innovate.

We’re committed to delivering comprehensive solutions that work seamlessly across platforms and extend to clouds and apps well outside our offerings so that our customers can secure their entire digital estate, end-to-end.  

In a new year full of perseverance and opportunity, I want to thank our customers and partners for placing their trust in Microsoft Security. I’d also like to invite you to join us at our What’s Next in Security from Microsoft digital event tomorrow February 24, 2022, where we will be joined by industry leaders to dive deeper into these evolving market trends, our multicloud protection innovations, and more. Learn more and register for the event here.

Learn more learn more about Microsoft Security solutions, visit our website. Bookmark the Security blog to keep up with our expert coverage on security matters. Also, follow us at @escapebusiness for the latest news and updates on cybersecurity.

12021 State of the Cloud Report, Flexera.

2Cloud trends show customers increasing investments in hybrid and multicloud, Erin Chappel, Microsoft. January 27, 2022.

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