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Microsoft study finds 50 percent of leaders have plans for a full return to the office

Microsoft is releasing results from its latest Work Trend Index study, announcing a new $800 webcam for the Surface Hub 2 and providing some updated timelines for promised Teams and Outlook features.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor
Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft is posting the first findings from its 2022 Work Trend Index study today, March 16. Microsoft uses these survey findings to help inform how it shapes its software and services. Microsoft's second annual study results come from a survey of 31,000 people in 31 countries, plus an analysis of "trillions of productivity signals" in Microsoft 365 and labor trends on LinkedIn.

Officials said today the data shows the "Great Reshuffle"/"Great Resignation" is far from over and that 51% of hybrid employees say they are considering a switch to remote. At the same time, 57% of remote employees say they will consider a switch to hybrid. And 43% of employees are somewhat or extremely likely to consider changing jobs in the coming year, which is up slightly year-over-year (from 41%). 

In spite of these desires for more flexibility by employees, 50% of leaders say they have plans for a full in-person return to the office this year.

Employees who were surveyed said they want a reason why they should come into the office, yet only 28% of companies have established team agreements about who should work from where. And 53% of those surveyed say they are more likely to prioritize their health and wellbeing over work. In spite of people saying they are more tuned into their health, weekly time spent in meetings by the average Teams user is up 22% since March of 2020, and after-hours and weekend work has grown at 28% and 14%, respectively.

Microsoft, which has stated its intentions to field both work and consumer metaverse offerings, says there's a strong indication that "the metaverse is coming to work." The company's study found 52% of employees are open to using digital immersive spaces in the metaverse for meetings or team activities. And 47% of employees are open to using avatars like what Microsoft has shown off with Mesh for Teams demos in the next year. Gen Z and Millennials are the most open to this trend, while 16% of employees say they don't expect to do any work in the metaverse, and 13% of employees say they don't know what the term "metaverse" means. (Don't worry, confused folks. No one really knows.)

Microsoft also used today's Work Trend Index reveal to announce it is making a new smart webcam available for Surface Hub 2. Microsoft describes the device as the first AI-powered camera from Microsoft, as it provides automatic reframing and intelligent image correction that doesn't depend on conference room size or configuration.

The Surface Hub 2 Smart Camera is available as of March 16 in all markets where Surface Hub is sold for $800. Surface Hub 2 The Smart Camera will be sold with Surface Hub 2s 85-inch model beginning May 31 for $2,200. This camera is for the Surface Hub 2 only and isn't made to work with other Surface or non-Surface devices.

Microsoft also provided a few updated delivery dates for a number of Teams-related features it already announced last fall. Officials are highlighting these features as examples of updates that will help address some of the employee and leadership desires and pain points highlighted in its Work Trend Index study.

The eagerly awaited and delayed Teams Connect shared channels, which allows users to work as a single extended team while staying in their own Teams environment, is going to be available in public preview this month. (More on this here.) 

Loop (Fluid Framework) components are currently available in Outlook Mail for Office Insider testers. Teams Front Row, designed to make hybrid meetings better, has been rolling out since February this year. Outlook RSVP, which allows people to RSVP to meetings and note whether they plan to join in person or virtually, will be available in public preview in Outlook on the Web in Q2 2022. Promised enhancements to Teams Room companion devices, which will handle tasks like turn laptop video on but keep it hidden from the front-of-room screen when entering a conference room, will be generally available in Q2 2022. PowerPoint Cameo will be available in Q2 in 2022. Microsoft will bring together Cameo and its Recording Studio for PowerPoint, already generally available, in Q2 2022. And Speaker Coach in Teams is another Q2 2022 deliverable.

Language interpretation, via which live interpreters can convert what speakers say into another language in real-time, is coming in Q2 2022. Whiteboard in Teams features like contextual reactions are coming in Q2 2022, as well.

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