News story

Frontline workers closer together but deep divides emerge with leaders

MicrosoftLearning News

The COVID-19 pandemic has helped bring frontline workers closer together but has exposed deep divides with leaders, according to research from Microsoft.

  • 46% of workforce planning to move because they can now work remotely.
  • Remote job postings on LinkedIn have increased over 5X since the pandemic.
  • Weekly meeting time has more than doubled for Teams users since February 2020 - up by 148%.
  • Huge increase in emails delivered in Feb. 2020 vs. Feb 2021.

Read the 2021 report

The stress of living through the COVID-19 pandemic has created closer bonds between frontline workers in the UK, who feel overworked, exhausted and unsupported by their bosses. 

New research released by Microsoft reveals that employees in sectors such as retail, healthcare, hospitality and manufacturing want to work in places that have a healthy culture, with more help to use technology in their jobs and greater communication with management. 

Many companies and organisations risk losing these valuable staff members unless they place a greater focus on employee wellbeing. 

Microsoft’s Work Trend Index Special Report, entitled Technology Can Help Unlock a New Future for Frontline Workers, found that 78% of frontline workers in the UK felt “very bonded” to co-workers because of shared stresses brought on by the pandemic. 

Teams working in customer-facing industries such as retail, healthcare and hospitality have been hit hard by the pandemic as they are more likely to be exposed to people carrying the virus, causing staff shortages and pressure on services. The study revealed that 57% of UK frontline staff say worker shortages are making it difficult for them to do their job, with 69% believing that work stress will stay the same or worsen in the coming year. The top concerns were too much work (47%), long work days (43%) and low wages (42%). 

To make matters worse, UK workers felt little support from management, with 55% saying they do not feel valued as an employee, 63% wanting more help with physically exhaustion and 58% needing more mental health support. A further 70% say company bosses do not prioritize building a workplace culture and 68% say they never receive messages from leaders. 

This is leading to many frontline employees to move jobs, with more money, a better work-life balance and the chance for pay increases cited as the top reasons. 

Emma Williams, corporate vice president of Modern Work Transformations at Microsoft, said: “The frontline workforce, which represents nearly two billion people worldwide, is the backbone of communities and economies around the world. In fact, 88% of organisations employ people in frontline roles. When frontline workers say something’s not working, we can’t afford to ignore them.” 

Microsoft’s report revealed that bosses can prevent this talent exodus by listening to their staff and responding to their concerns over pay, staffing levels and digital tools. For example, more than half (56%) of UK frontline workers are excited about the job opportunities that technology can bring, with automation of repetitive tasks cited as one of the most appealing use cases.