It’s true what they say: change is the only constant, and the workplace is undergoing more shifts than ever before.
Workplace norms have evolved in ways we couldn’t have imagined due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and keeping up with these changes can feel challenging and exhausting – not to mention high-stakes.
The bad news: We can’t actually see the future. But here’s the good news: We’ve done our research and gathered some insights on upcoming workplace trends to help you better plan and prepare for the ever-evolving future ahead.
What are workplace trends?
What exactly are workplace trends? Well, we’ve already established they aren’t an exact look at the future of the workplace.
Workplace trends are anticipated business changes that will continue to grow and increase over time. These predictions are valuable because they help us understand what to expect in the world of work. Once you know the recent modern workplace trends, you can shift how your business operates to help keep up with the times.
And we don’t pull these workplace trends out of thin air. They’re based on market research, surveys, trend data, and talking to employees to understand what they want from employers. Rest assured that while we don’t have a crystal ball, they’re much more than a random guess at what workplaces will look like going forward.
Why is it important to know the future of work trends?
Here’s the deal: It’s impossible to avoid the future of work – no matter what it looks like.
While we can’t stay away from it entirely, we can try to understand it and provide businesses with the opportunity to prepare. That’s the crux of why employers should know and care about the future of work trends: ultimately, they help them stay competitive in the market.
Eight predictions of modern workplace trends for 2022
So, what does the next year or so hold? We’ve rounded up eight modern workplace trends we’re expecting to see in 2022 and the years that follow, including:
- More centralized communication
- Hybrid work models
- More focus on work-life balance
- Workplace wellbeing
- Coworking companies re-entering the landscape
- Shifting employment trends from The Great Resignation
- More personal and professional development
- Investments into DEI and more diverse workplaces
Let’s take a look at each one of these in greater detail.
1. A continued focus on centralized communication
With teams distributed across locations and time zones, centralized communication will continue to rise to the forefront to help combat communication overload and miscommunication amongst team members.
Years ago, instant messaging tools inundated workplaces and added a new, urgent layer of communication to the picture. A Report Linker survey revealed that respondents who used an instant messaging tool at work felt pressured to respond immediately and felt interrupted when concentrating on their work. Imagine how that pressure has increased with instant messaging tools becoming a primary form of communication amongst many teams as a result of the shift to remote work.
A McKinsey report suggested that when teams are better connected and communicating effectively, they see a 20-25% boost in productivity – a massive win for employers and employees. On the flip side, poor communication costs small companies of 100 employees an average of $420,000 per year.
For these reasons (on top of a growing distributed workforce), many enterprise companies are chasing consolidated communication platforms and streamlined work management. Consolidation can help alleviate confusion or, worse yet, a complete lack of communication that empowers employees to do their best work with all of the relevant information needed.
More centralized and streamlined communication is a modern workplace trend we’ve called out before, and we’ll continue to see it gain steam.
2. The (increasing) rise of a hybrid workforce
Hybrid work existed before the COVID-19 pandemic, but not to the extent that we will continue to see in 2022 and beyond.
A hybrid workforce can look like one day in the company’s workplace per week, two days of work in a coffee shop, and two from home. It can also look like two days in the company’s office per month and the rest from a remote location inside an Airbnb. Basically, employees have the autonomy to decide where they get their best work done.
Hybrid work models have become more common since the pandemic. These models aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, either, as companies strive to provide more flexible work structures and remain competitive in the marketplace.
Research at Microsoft revealed that employees want the best of both worlds, with over 70% of workers wanting flexible remote work options. On the flip side? Over 65% of people are also craving more time with their teams. As a result, 66% of business decision-makers leaned toward redesigning company workspaces to accommodate both sides of the spectrum — a hybrid work environment.
Where does this trend leave employers? They’ll need to consider what hybrid work means for their organization and find ways to give employees the flexibility they desire while simultaneously meeting the needs of the business. It can be a big win for both sides of the coin, but it requires crystal clear expectations, boundaries, and personal accountability.
3. An emphasis on work-life balance
Work-life balance has bumped its way to the top of employees’ needs list over the last few years, and we will continue to see an emphasis put on this job consideration. These days, it’s thought of as more than just a perk – it’s a necessity.
Sure, digital tools enable employees to work whenever and wherever. But the lines between work and home have become increasingly blurry, with many companies choosing to let their employees work remote-first permanently.
Hear us out: Remote-first organizations are fantastic, but it can be difficult for employees to find ways to separate work and life without the physical office and weekday commute as on and off switches.
In a recent IBM study that surveyed 14,000 consumers, employees were asked what employers should offer to engage employees. 51% of workers put work-life balance at the top of their list, making it the most-desired offering by far.
What does this mean for employers? Competitive salaries aren’t the only perks of the job employees are looking for anymore. Workers want to work for their paycheck and find time to use that hard-earned cash to enjoy their lives outside of work.
4. Workplace wellbeing will be a priority
It’s no secret that the working environment is much different than it looked a few years ago. The kitchen table where employees eat dinner with their family every evening might also be where they take their Zoom calls during the workday. Add in uncomfortable furniture, poor posture leading to headaches, and extended working hours that lead to burnout, and you have the ultimate recipe for poor wellness.
To address these issues as employees continue to work from home or a remote location, we expect to see workplace wellbeing as a major priority.
Wellable published a 2021 Employee Wellness Industry Trends Report in which they highlighted that 88% of employers invested in mental health, 87% in telemedicine, 81% in stress management/resilience, and 69% in mindfulness and meditation. Employers are taking notice of the need to shift and focus on supporting employee wellbeing, so be on the lookout for more of these types of programs in the coming years (and prepare to offer them if you want to remain competitive in terms of recruitment and retention).
5. Coworking companies will be on the rise
Did you know? The Coworking Space Global Market Report 2021 revealed that the global coworking market is on a growth trajectory expecting to surpass $13.03 billion by 2025. Before the pandemic, some employers incorporated corporate coworking spaces into their flexible work strategies and budget planning. The need for these centralized and individualized workspaces is on the rise to support hybrid work models.
Generally speaking, employers turn to coworking spaces to decentralize their corporate office space, support employees who work remotely, and reduce their long-term lease commitments to free them from the financial burden of an expensive office. Take Pinterest, the social-sharing giant, who paid $89.5 million to terminate its San Francisco office lease so the company could reconsider how to better plan for a distributed workforce going forward.
According to Forbes, coworking companies like WeWork and its competitors may be in a favorable position as remote employees seek other locations for their workday outside of their homes. Coworking spaces can offer similar group working conditions and camaraderie without employers having to take on corporate real estate costs, which makes this a trend we certainly anticipate seeing more of in 2022.
6. Employment trends will continue to react to “The Great Resignation”
We’ve already mentioned that the work landscape has drastically changed following the COVID-19 pandemic. But the truth is that’s a vast understatement.
You might have heard of something coined “The Great Resignation,” — a radical shift in employment (or voluntary unemployment) occurring across nearly all industries.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that a record 4.4 million Americans quit their jobs in September 2021. When we say employees are leaving their jobs in droves, we mean it. But this market impact is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. Evidence suggests various reasons for high turnover rates, including family pressures at home, reopening of corporate offices, stagnant pay, and, perhaps most significantly, a newfound desire to do more meaningful work.
We can’t say for sure what this means as we look towards the future, but we expect to see turnover rates continue to be impacted as we head into 2022. The workforce is still evolving into its new future state coming out of the pandemic, so all we can do is buckle up and enjoy the ride.
7. Personal and professional development will take center stage
Office perks like free lunches, company-sponsored happy hours, and ping-pong tables for breaks between meetings are being replaced with personal and professional development opportunities. The former perks are harder to offer in the remote environment, but employees also want to take control of and invest in their growth and development.
Employers who offer strong personal and professional development opportunities and resources not only provide employees with the growth they’re craving, they also reap a host of benefits, including higher employee engagement, an easier time attracting top talent, and less turnover and retention.
Consider this statistic: 94% of employees said they would stay at a company longer if their employer invested in their careers. Development is an attractive benefit that isn’t going anywhere any time soon, especially as companies work to curb increased turnover rates as part of The Great Resignation.
8. Equality and inclusion in the workplace will require more than lip service
This has been a hot topic of conversation in recent years, and it will continue to be a core focus area as we head into 2022.
Companies across the globe have started taking action to revisit and strengthen their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) strategies. Still, we imagine we’ll see more action on these fronts in the coming year, particularly when it comes to filling positions to help support these initiatives.
In 2020, SHRM reported a 55% rise in DE&I-related job openings in response to nationwide protests against racial injustice. Aside from treating people equally being the ethical thing to do, companies tend to see other benefits when they prioritize equality within their organizations. Diverse companies reflect society more accurately, speak to a broader audience, and are more creative, leading to more profitability.
What can you expect to see? One study revealed that 79% of organizations are committing to DEI as a priority and are planning to allocate more budget and resources to make a more diverse company culture their reality. With this, we can expect DEI strategy development, more inclusive and equitable company policies and procedures, and the expansion of DEI departments.
Moving full steam ahead into 2022
If there’s anything we’ve learned over the last couple of years, it’s that the future is wildly unpredictable and might not look the way we expect. But you don’t have to fear the unexpected.
Keep these eight modern workplace trends for 2022 in mind, and you’re sure to rise to the top and succeed in whatever challenge you meet at work – whether that’s tomorrow or the next year.