Workers and the Workplace - What changes in 2022?

A Gallup poll conducted recently among all types of workers has predicted that even when people do return to work, 37% of desks will be empty. To be sure, some employees are chomping at the bit to return to in-person work (10%), but a majority want to see a hybrid schedule (60%) and some (30%) never want to step foot inside an office again.

Employees who had felt overworked and consumed by their jobs were granted an unexpected reprieve when a majority of the workforce transitioned into remote work. Many beleaguered employees were suddenly met with more flexibility and free time than they’ve had in years, allowing them to spend time with family. Their long unproductive commutes were suddenly repurposed into time for exercise, making a great cup of coffee or eating a decadent breakfast.

While some relished in remote work, others noticed negative impacts on their work over time. The people who want to return tofull in-person work cite the lack of growth and development opportunities, the culture that’s formed in the office, and a rapport with coworkers.

As we enter 2022, what’s top of mind for considering how and where we will work in the New Year?

  1. “Hybrid as a spectrum”

Offices that can will most likely end up balancing both perspectives by going the hybrid route, but what does that mean? Richad Tobaccowala, former Chief Growth Officer and Chief Strategist for Publicis, one of the largest global communications firms, speaks to an emerging mindset that isn’t as simple as spending some days in the office and some days at home.

Instead, he presents the idea of an “unbundled workplace” that combines four different spaces for where work will take place.

  • Many employees will continue to work from home. As we are certainly not out of the woods yet, COVID-19 wise, a lot of people will feel most comfortable maintaining what they have been doing, working from home. Working from home grants employees a flexibility that in-person work just does not have. Not only does working from home offer workers more flexibility, it also helps to save them time and money by not commuting to work, spending money on food, etc.
  • Co-working Spaces: Because employers don’t necessarily need the big offices they once had, many are investing in smaller coworking spaces that bring handfuls of employees together. These allow employees to collaborate and experience the feeling of being in an office without employers needing to commit to a lease for a large space that they most likely will no longer use (to the fullest extent at least).
  • Team building events/excursions: Rishad highlights companies like Automattic. Automattic has an 1800 person team, dispersed across the globe. They get together one week every year to collaborate, brainstorm and bond with their coworkers. Something that, try as we might, is hard to establish with remote work.
  • Home base: While some companies may keep their original brick and mortar location, chances are it will be only an echo of its former glory. Where it used to be a bustling office space, it may now only host the occasional meeting and house members of senior management.

To read more about all these please read Rishad Tobaccowala’s article here.

In addition to thinking about how companies will need to structurally adapt to a hybrid structure, top of mind for many is how to keep employees happy and healthy in the face of the challenges that hybrid working presents.

  1. Employees

Of course, many professions don’t have the option to operate remotely but the ones that do will have to balance the unique employee needs and concerns that come up in each of those scenarios.

So let’s talk about some of the benefits and concerns that arise from having a hybrid working environment and what you can do to solve them!

  • Culture: How are we supposed to build culture for our organizations when everything is happening behind screens. What happens when there’s no water cooler moment or lunch break conversations? How is culture formed now that face-to-face interaction is the exception, not the norm? You may now have to be much more intentional about your culture than ever before. You need to send clear messages to your employees and leaders in your organization about what you expect from them. Talking about your culture openly and honestly is one of the best ways to build a strong culture in a remote world.
  • . Camaraderie: In addition to culture, camaraderie is another thing that’s hard to build in a largely remote world. Sure, a lot of your employees will have worked together before the pandemic hit but what about the employees who joined when you were remote? The ones who have never set foot in your office or seen their coworkers face to face? The best way to build camaraderie is to make sure leadership in your organization prioritizes it. But what exactly does that look like? Set aside a time during the workday for your employees to connect about something other than work. Set aside time in the morning before things get too crazy or in a slow period in the middle of the day. This should be like a happy hour for your employees, but don’t make it after work hours. This should be a fun time for employees to connect without the pressures of work.
  • . Communication: While initially thought to be a huge barrier to remote work, so many new technologies have either emerged or grown in popularity during remote work. We now have remote collaboration tools, video communications, messaging tools. We can only expect more growth here. So while communication may be a bit harder than it was when you could just pop over to a colleague’s desk, all signs point to remote communications getting better and better.
  • Growth/Development: Lastly, if you’re operating within a hybrid work model, it may feel challenging to treat employees equally and employees may feel that if they chose to stay home they’ll have fewer opportunities for growth, learning and promotions.

If employees are dispersed, it can be hard to make sure everyone is listened to and included. This may lead to employees who work on site getting preferential treatment or even just being perceived as getting preferential treatment.

Make sure you have very clear policies in place for how you promote/incentivize/recognize employees. If you do this, it will help you to avoid preferential treatment for those that come into the office. Make sure you have regular check-ins with both your in-person employees and remote employees. Check to see how they’re feeling, if they feel seen, heard, appreciated, etc.

  1. Be Prepared For Change

The most important thing to remember is that you need to be ready for whatever life throws at you (and anyone who has lived through the past two years knows that can be a lot!). Working from home is no longer thought of as playing hooky or goofing off: “Deskless workers…make up almost 70% of the global workforce” (You can download Josh Bersin’s HR predictions for 2022 here). If you remain open, and ready to adapt to life’s challenges you should fare well.

There’s a lot of unfamiliar territory that companies will have to traverse as a result of the pandemic and our now fundamentally changed attitudes around work. The companies that are successful will be the ones willing to try new things and listen to feedback from their employees.

You might also like
these new related posts

If you’re interested to view all our blog posts, click here.