Career Coach, Professional Resume Writer, Freelance Writer
The world of work is changing at a massive scale. Many businesses are debating whether they should go fully remote or adopt a more hybrid working style. On the other hand, millions of individuals are reconsidering their priorities and proactively changing careers, jobs or setting up their own business. Despite the economic recovery marked across countries, thousands of companies are still struggling to fill key positions to drive business growth.
These new trends have introduced a major shift in power. Employees, perhaps for the first time in history, have real agency in deciding how, when and where they work. Many have taken their time in lockdown to reconsider the type of work they want to do and the type of employer they want to work for.
These shifts are disrupting the workforce. Many companies and HR professionals are actively rethinking their hiring practices, employment packages and workplace environments to attract more talent. As we approach the new year, we’re looking at future workplace trends that will define 2022 and what these mean for businesses and the workforce of the future.
Among the future workplace trends mentioned, this is one that was introduced in 2020, spiked in 2021, and will be following us into 2022.
Before the pandemic, remote and flexible work belonged to the few companies who were ready to experiment at the fringes of corporate culture. In 2021, 32% of all employees worldwide have worked remotely. Meanwhile, 61% of workers in the U.S. were willing to take a pay cut if it meant long-term remote work. So because this is a trend that isn’t necessarily “new”, you may be wondering…..
How is this relevant?
Well, the change in attitudes have forced employers to reconsider their approach towards flexible work. In the past year, the number of job ads that list remote work as a perk has more than doubled. Likewise, many tech giants are switching to a fully remote or hybrid work style. Albeit, some of them are more reluctant than others.
For many, this decision is accompanied with serious considerations around what flexible work actually looks like. From flexible working hours and work-from-home policies to compressed workweeks and hybrid work styles, there are many versions of what flexibility at work actually looks like. A Microsoft study has found that 66% of employers are also looking at redesigning their physical spaces to accommodate flexible working arrangements and boost employee engagement.
This just goes to show that proper flexible work decisions will be one of the major future workplace trends that will have a heavy influence on employee loyalty and retention in 2022. Most employers will have their own limits on how far they’re ready to go with their flexible working options. However, employees will have the ultimate say in deciding how, when and where they work. “Bring-your-own-schedule” will be the norm employers would have to embrace in order to attract and retain talent. This will not only make them more attractive as an employer, but 43% of workers actually believe that flexible work helps them be more productive, making this a true win-win scenario.
Shift Towards Contracting
We recently talked about the rise of the gig economy which saw countries such as the U.S., UK, France and Japan report record number of incorporations in 2020. People used the government assistance and the additional free time during lockdown to reflect on their priorities and take decisive steps towards a more desirable career path.
As a result, many industries are feeling the pressure as recruiters struggle to fill key positions. Even businesses are forced to rely on the few staff they have to drive growth. While many companies are trying to be creative and offer ever more enticing employment packages, it’s inevitable that contracting would be one of the major future of work trends.
This isn’t necessarily bad news. It’s merely a reflection of the increased agency people have over their working lives. In fact, hiring contractors over full-time employees can be a positive thing for businesses. This is especially true if it lacks the financial stability to maintain a large workforce after the pandemic.
Contracting comes with much fewer strings attached than full-time employment. Therefore, it gives businesses more flexibility to fill in talent gaps if and when they need it. It also removes the need to cover healthcare and pension contributions. This allows companies to repurpose their revenue towards other business activities like innovation and penetrating new markets.
Pro-active Focus on Retention
The third of the future workplace trends ties hand in hand with the second point. As a result of more people entering the gig economy, people are leaving their jobs in droves. In September alone 4.4 million U.S. workers handed in their resignation. Meanwhile, 40% of the global workforce considered leaving their job this year. Those that do stay are taking a more critical view of their employer and assessing the company on things beyond salary, like corporate social responsibility, diversity and their overall corporate culture.
These unprecedented figures are bringing many HR professionals back to the drawing table. For instance, many have started conducting “stay interviews” as an attempt to understand employees’ overall feelings. Opposite of exit interviews, they’re meant to give employers an insight into any rising issues. This also creates an opportunity to intervene well in advance before an employee decides to leave.
Another new trend is the focus on mental health and wellbeing. PwC, for instance, announced that it will pay $250 for every week of holiday an employee books, up to $1,000 a year. Zendesk, on the other hand, has joined forces with Modern Health to offer therapy and coaching services to its global workforce.
Finally, up-skilling is becoming an important factor in both retaining talent and covering skills gaps for hard-to-fill vacancies. Forty four percent of employers who struggle to hire for specific roles are looking at up-skilling. This has become a way to offer professional development while covering existing skills gaps within their ranks. Up-skilling and re-skilling is also the number one priority for many learning and development departments. Although it serves as a retention strategy, it also serves to “future proof” the skills the workforce.
Increased Adoption of New Technologies
The past year has seen a massive proliferation in digital tools aimed at improving remote team collaboration, project management and data-sharing. As remote and hybrid work become more mainstream, technology is bound to take over more aspects of our work. In turn, it will allow people to focus more on problem-solving and creative tasks.
There are several areas in which technology is transforming the workplace. For instance, workflow and project management tools are introducing automation to help to reduce manual work and standardize processes. In fact, 65% of knowledge workers report that automating manual tasks helps them feel less stressed.
Another growing area is the use of AI in data-driven decision making and improving the overall employee experience. Seventeen percent of businesses report using AI in their HR function. This number is expected to grow to 30% in 2022. Some of the biggest applications of AI are seen in recruitment, employee performance and skills development. That said, some experts warn against the inappropriate use of AI as it can introduce bias and impact innovative thinking.
Finally, flexible work has introduced a massive shift from counting hours to looking at employee output. Productivity apps which track a person’s online activity, the amount of time spent in meetings and emails are becoming popular among workers who want to achieve more in less time. Slack, for instance, already lists dozens of productivity apps users can add to their Slack workspace, making it much easier for employees to manage tasks, files and projects straight from their team collaboration space.
The Workplace Revolution is Here
There’s no doubt that these future workplace trends will make working in the future look a lot different than it did only a year or two ago. As industries evolve and people’s attitudes shift, HR departments have a major task on their hands. Not only is there a need to prepare the workforce of the future for the challenges lying ahead. They also need to respond to their increased need for meaning and wellbeing in the workplace.
Government support and reduced spending has allowed people to try self-employment. However, it doesn’t mean that many of them won’t go back to full-time employment for the right job. Provided that employers listen and adjust their strategies so that employees feel valued, supported and properly remunerated, the future of work can be bright for both businesses and employees alike.