Featured in today's briefing:
- New research on the ideal number of days in the office.
- How self-employed workers are using ChatGPT for brainstorming.
- How feeling trusted impacts productivity.
AI and Work Radar
- Artificial intelligence could automate up to 30% of working hours by 2030, according to a new McKinsey report, with resulting job losses concentrated in low-wage roles and those in office support, food service, and customer service. The report also suggests that women are 1.5 times more likely than men to be displaced by automation, and that workers of color and those with less education are similarly disproportionately vulnerable.
- Within the industries most exposed to AI, a minority of workers believe that AI will have a net negative impact on them personally over the next 20 years, a new Pew analysis found. Some 11% of workers in the information and technology sectors said that AI will hurt more than help them, compared to 15% of workers overall.
- Some solo entrepreneurs are using ChatGPT to recreate the dynamic of brainstorming with other people. “I’m used to being surrounded with brilliant brains and tons of experts and people to bounce ideas off of,” one self-employed worker, who now relies on the chatbot as a sounding board, told WorkLife.
- A piece of job-search advice from recruiters: Ask a generative AI chatbot to rewrite your resume so it’s tailored to the role you’re applying for, including the use of relevant keywords.
Focus on the Sweet Spot for In-Person Work
Research has shown the benefits of hybrid work—but what’s the ideal amount of time for colleagues to come together in person?
McKinsey has analyzed a raft of data—including anonymous surveys and behavioral data—about its roughly 4,000 teams working around the world at any given time, and has found that being on-site roughly 50% of the time works better than all-or-nothing approaches. There’s some nuance to this; for McKinsey’s teams, it doesn’t necessarily mean the same number of days in a given week.
To better understand the findings and the implications for other organizations, we reached out to Katy George, McKinsey’s chief people officer and a senior partner at the management consulting company. Here are excerpts from our recent exchange by email, edited for space and clarity:
When you say that a 50% on-site configuration ‘works better,’ does that mean better productivity, engagement, satisfaction?
McKinsey found that hybrid work—defined as spending roughly 50% of working in-person at a client site or an office–works better than all-or-nothing approaches, as it strikes the right balance for apprenticeship, workforce sustainability, and client impact.
Client co-location: Our recent research suggests that spending at least 20% of their time with a client can yield improved individual, team, and client outcomes. This of course varies by team, depending on the nature of work, the length of a project, and the roles of the individuals on the team.
Team co-location: We have found that teams see steep increases in development, connection, trust-based relationships, and overall team performance when roughly 50% of their time is spent in-person, over the course of a project. For example, colleagues are 10x more likely to feel that they are working well together when co-locating 50% of the time.
You also found that more than 50% in-person didn't necessarily lead to better outcomes…
Our research shows that co-locating 50% of the time is the ‘hybrid sweet spot.’ When over 50% of time is spent in-person, we see trade-offs begin to emerge, with individuals and teams having less flexibility, and less time for focused work.
For example, colleagues who co-locate no more than 50% of the time are twice as likely to have sufficient recovery. Co-locating above 50% can start to have detrimental impacts on an individual’s recovery.
As the labor market—and employer and employee expectations—continue to evolve, it’s important that workforce strategies also continue to evolve. That’s why we are using people analytics: so we can continue to make informed decisions to evolve the ways our teams work by using real-time insights.
Can you share a few specific examples of the tasks or projects that benefit from in-person time or virtual?
There are multiple examples of when in-person work is beneficial, including: mentorship and sponsorship, with data showing the perceived quality of mentorship increases by 25% when time is spent in-person; the ability to foster organic touchpoints to build short- and long-term connections with colleagues; and when a project requires complex coordination across roles, and therefore effective collaboration.
Individuals who are working remotely are more likely to have significant time for focused work, and feel it has a lasting impact. All roles reported most of their heads-down time happens when a colleague is at least partially remote. Technical colleagues benefit from more ‘heads-down time’ available to them in remote settings, and report improved psychological safety and alignment when not in-person.
What are you doing differently now as a result of this learning?
McKinsey had already established a strong people analytics team that was collecting data through an annual employee survey and using advanced analytics to generate longer-term predictors of employee satisfaction and performance. After the onset of the Covid pandemic, we saw a need to push this capability further to access more immediate employee sentiment in addition to the foundational longitudinal data. In short, we needed to build a continuous-listening strategy that would allow us to quickly identify important changes that were affecting colleagues in the moment and determine how best to address them in real time.
Based on our learnings, here are a few examples of changes we’ve made:
Making data accessible in real time: In response to demand from managers, the people analytics team built a self-service portal through which pulse-survey-driven reports can be filtered by date, population, and other characteristics. The portal also allows users to compare the reports with longitudinal data to guide real-time decisions.
Tracking team health: The people analytics team rolled out a manager alert capability that combines pulse survey results and other employee data to identify issues that certain teams and groups may be experiencing. Leaders and managers use the alert tool to identify emerging challenges before they turn into deeper issues, facilitate more constructive team conversations, and guide teams toward more sustainable norms and practices.
Mental health: The people analytics team used free-text analytics to structure and quantify colleagues’ written submissions about specific mental-health-related topics that were top of mind for them and then identify potential solutions. Solutions resulting from the analysis have included events dedicated to acknowledging the stigma associated with mental health and discussing ways to access virtual therapists and other forms of digital support, as well as physical-fitness resources.
Do you have any advice for organizations that are hoping to apply this finding?
Through this continuous-listening process, business leaders can both monitor the pulse of the organization in the moment and create an ongoing dialogue with employees. This dialogue can engender trust and partnership and spur long-term and continuous improvements to employees’ workplace experiences and performance, as well as companies’ ability to retain top talent.
Read our conversation from earlier this year with Paul Bennett, the chief creative officer of IDEO, about the specific stages of projects that benefit most from in-office time.
What Else You Need to Know
Trust is a key predictor of worker satisfaction and performance, new research shows. Workers who feel trusted by their employer are twice as productive and more than four times as satisfied with their work as those who do not, according to Slack’s latest quarterly survey of more than 10,000 desk workers.
- At the same time, more than a quarter of survey respondents said they don’t have their employer’s trust, an answer that was linked to significantly higher stress levels and less sense of belonging at work. The absence of transparency, including organizations ignoring worker feedback, was a commonly cited symptom of a lack of trust.
- Other recent research from PricewaterhouseCoopers found another disconnect in workplace trust: While 79% of leaders surveyed said that employees trust their organization, 65% of workers said they believe the same.
Employees worked more efficiently as the year-long four-day workweek trial went on, according to new data from the 41 companies that participated in the US-based trial with advocacy and research organization 4 Day Week Global. After six months, employees had reduced their workweek by an average of four hours, even as their workloads remained the same. After 12 months, workers’ average workweeks were down to 33 hours.
- At the 12-month mark, employees reported greater work-life balance, higher job satisfaction, better physical and mental health, and less burnout when compared to baseline scores.
- All of the companies in the trial said they were leaning towards, planning to, or definitely continuing their four-day week, while 95% of employees across organizations reported wanting to keep the shorter week.
Greater flexibility for “hidden workers” could help solve the talent shortage. A new Harvard Business School and Accenture study analyzed survey responses from 1,500 part-time “hidden workers,” or those who want to work full-time schedules but currently don’t, and found that many are held back from working more hours by their circumstances.
- The most common factor preventing workers from taking on full-time schedules was caregiving obligations, a group that was almost entirely female. Others pointed to minimal relevant experience or resume gaps that held them back in applying for jobs.
- The authors argue that more flexible schedules, increased caregiver support, and less stringent qualification requirements could bring many hidden workers more fully into the workforce.
- A growing number of employers are dropping degree requirements and moving towards skills-based hiring, including the eight US states so far that have eliminated degree requirements for most public-sector jobs.
Remote work is propelling economic growth. The US GDP increased at an annual rate of 2.4% last quarter, beating economists’ predictions. The growth was driven largely by a 1.6% increase in consumer spending, with remote and flexible work leading to an uptick in spending on travel and experiences.
- Economists are becoming more optimistic about the US avoiding a recession: In a National Association for Business Economics survey this week, 71% of respondents said the odds of a recession over the next year are now 50% or less.
Here are some of the best tips and insights from the past week for managing yourself and your team:
- Curb feedback anxiety by imagining potential outcomes. If you’re worried about how a colleague might react to feedback, try using the worst case/best case/most likely exercise to mentally prepare yourself for the various ways it might play out.
- Connect your employee-resource groups to resources across the organization. Show institutional support for ERGs by giving them access to different teams and tools, like tapping your internal communications team to spread the word about an ERG event.
- Diversify your slate of networking events. Internal and external networking can be valuable for helping workers find new ideas and support for solving business challenges. Tap into this benefit by providing access to a mix of networking and mentorship opportunities, including in-person and virtual, group and 1:1 events.
Closing the loop on corporate jargon. Workers confused by difficult-to-parse buzzwords can move the needle by pivoting to leverage low-hanging fruit: a new online dictionary of business jargon that doesn’t reinvent the wheel.
A heated dress-code debate. Even as temperatures climb to record highs around the country, a new poll on men’s workwear finds that 41% of workers remain stalwart in their belief that shorts don’t belong in an office.
The handbook for this new era of business doesn’t exist. We’re all drafting our own as we go along—and now we’d like to start doing so together. You can sign up here to receive this briefing by email.