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5 workplace trends for 2022: What you need to know for a successful year

A year ago, this kind of article would be full of buzzwords like ‘the new normal’ and speculation about what work would be like in the post-COVID era… the good news is that we can spare you all of that for 2022!

We’re now at the stage where we’ve got cold hard numbers on how we work, how people feel, and where we’re all headed as we enter that new age of hybrid working, evolving priorities and a changing role for the office as we knew it. 

Hybrid working is here to stay… so what next?

Depending on where you’re reading this, working from home might have gone from an order to an option. Blanket instructions to remain remote are coming to an end, and we’re seeing people returning to offices. The question is how often and how does that impact how we work in 2022?

Loom’s The State of Modern Work Report posted some interesting findings on how and where people want to work moving forward, surveying 500 US software professionals. 

Firstly, managers and employees seem to be on the same page – which is always nice to see.  Employees (64.4%) and managers (66.4%) spend similar percentages of their week working from home, contributing to an overall average of 65.2% versus 34.8% in an office space.

Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen a generally positive response to remote working, and 90% still claim they’re happy working from home at least part of the time. Just under 50% believe it’s improved their working relationships, while just over 50% encounter fewer distractions at home.

But the biggest change hasn’t happened in offices, it’s taken place in people’s heads. Whereas working from home was seen as a perk and potentially less productive a few years ago, our mindset is that it’s now becoming the norm. As we head into 2022, it’s crucial that you’re not treating it as a novelty, and you’re tweaking processes to facilitate effective hybrid working. Until now, offline policies might have been shoehorned into the online world – which isn’t a long-term option.

Challenges and concerns for the remote and hybrid worker

It’s easy to get distracted by the happy majority, but there’s still a considerable number of people struggling. Around 20% believe working from home has been worse or much worse than the office for distractions, collaboration, camaraderie and fear of missing out. The good news is that remote technology isn’t the issue, with just 1.2% of people unhappy with their current stack.

Many wished for faster decision making, more effective meetings and less unnecessary chit chat to drive more productive remote collaboration. Half of respondents said “that 40% or more of the time spent on video conference calls was unproductive and wasteful. In other words, just under half of every meeting is a waste of time!”

But one of the biggest challenges was finding relevant information. The data, knowledge and resources to do their job better, especially when they’re working independently. As you’ll see below, information being scattered all over the place and the amount of effort taken to track it down are serious pain points.

Loom Report on pain points for remote workers
Source: Loom’s The State of Modern Work Report

It’s almost as if Loom were teeing us up to pitch HowNow as an easy way to ease that pain!

We bring all your scattered resources together at the end of one search, in a system that uses AI to serve more relevant content to people as they look for knowledge. At the same time, everyone can contribute knowledge and use our all-in-one learning platform as a place to collaborate on learning and development.

We’ll show you how to clear this hybrid working hurdle in style, you’ll just need to complete this short form

Breaking up with our offices or at least changing the relationship

For a little while last year, offices felt like the toastie makers, waffle irons or smoothie blenders gathering dust on the kitchen counter. We couldn’t remember the last time we used them, we weren’t sure we ever would, and yet we still couldn’t bear to part ways.

But if we’re not returning to our offices full time, what do we do with them? WPP Chief Executive Mark Read put it very succinctly when he said that “people are working from home three to four days a week so we probably need 20% less space…” while Capita has closed 49 out of 294 since the pandemic began and Lloyds Bank are also planning to reduce premises by 20%. 

You only need to look at the demand for flexible office space and the fortunes of WeWork to understand that where we work is shifting. NBC didn’t pull any punches with their recent article on how “WeWork imploded in 2019. The pandemic brought it back to life.”

Marcelo Claure, executive chairman of WeWork, recently stated that demand for the company’s services was “higher than it was prior to the pandemic” and Julia Sullivan, a spokesperson for the company, echoed that sentiment: “Over the last year, WeWork demonstrated the resilience of its business model and emerged as a partner of choice for businesses large and small looking for flexibility as they return to work.”

That desire for flexibility is backed up by research from Hubble, who are crushing the complexity of hybrid working with their flexible office space options. Their team reported that enquiries for flexible workspace have doubled since February 2020, with 86% of workers stating they’d like to work somewhere other than the office at least once a week. However, as this is where the need for flexibility is so clear, only 15% want to do it every day while just 8% are against their company having a permanent HQ.

Hubble CEO and co-founder Tushar Agarwal hit the nail on the head when he said that “by not being tied into rigid, long-term contracts, employers will be able to retain flexibility in their workplace strategy and better allocate their workplace budget to address employees’ needs. At the same time, employees will be able to easily access whichever work environment best suits them…”

Earlier in 2021, 74% of Fortune 500 CEOs revealed that they expect a reduction in office space in the coming years. If they’re allowing staff to work from home 35% of the time or more, mass hot desking would really reduce their need for physical desks. At smaller companies, meanwhile, hybrid working might negate the need for a fixed office space altogether. 

The end of weird office perks and more benefits that make sense in 2022

What a difference a decade makes! 10 years ago, an article like this probably would have mentioned the rise in office nap pods or explained why 2012 was the year every company would have beer taps, pool tables and pizza Fridays. 

As we mentioned in our list of 2022 HR trends, it wasn’t that long ago that it got as weird as ‘posh bog roll guarantees’, free SCUBA certifications and even botox injections.

In 2021, however, we’re seeing the separation of office perks and the physical office, meaning benefits are no longer intrinsically linked to the buildings in which we work. Perkbox surveyed more than 1,500 UK employees to ask which perks they wanted moving forward, and as you can see, there’s not a single beer tap or ping pong table in sight.

Source: Perkbox

So, if we’re aiming for happier employees in 2022, there needs to be a mindset shift when it comes to benefits. People want discounts on the things they enjoy outside of work, they want to work less and travel more, and they want also flexibility or recognition as they succeed in their role.

The same study revealed that 74% of employees think their pay should increase if the employer saves on office costs, while more than half would like a contribution to household bills. So when a company does cut down on office space or change the way they work, it’s crucial they communicate it carefully and considerately to the rest of the team. 

The ‘Great Resignation’ and potential for job switching en masse

If you’ve ever been through a crisis, big or small, you’ll know that itch to evaluate whether you’re happy as you are or if things need to change. Typically, that might be mid-life leading you towards sports cars, late piercings or tattoos, but 2020 really forced us to take a long, hard look at everything – including our careers.

The result? The looming ‘Great Resignation’. In April 2021, a Microsoft study of more than 30,000 global workers revealed that 41% were considering quitting or changing professions in the coming year. And even if that’s just a consideration, some might find that their hands are being forced. 

McKinsey’s The future of work after COVID-19 report revealed that more than 100 million workers, or one in 16, “will need to find a different occupation by 2030”, and that’s a result of high-wage occupations growing and low-wage occupations declining. That figure is 12% higher than their pre-pandemic estimation. 

Movement through these wage brackets is likely to be determined by skills and a changing landscape for what’s required. But it’s also likely to influence how you hire and train people over the rest of the decade. Current employees might need training to attain the new and emerging skills required to progress, while you might need to present your commitment to development as the job market becomes more competitive.

Gartner’s 9 Future of Work Trends Post-COVID-19 highlighted the changing role of skills and how they relate to jobs as we enter the new era of work:

“To build the workforce you’ll need post-pandemic, focus less on roles — which group unrelated skills — than on the skills needed to drive the organization’s competitive advantage and the workflows that fuel that advantage.

“Encourage employees to develop critical skills that potentially open up multiple opportunities for their career development, rather than preparing for a specific next role. Offer greater career development support to employees in critical roles who lack critical skills.”

Managing employee wellbeing and mental health better

A statistic on how employees are struggling at work seemed to lurk around every corner over the past couple of years, shining a much-needed light on employee wellbeing. Recent KPMG Research revealed that 94% of employees were feeling stressed, while ADPRI’s People at Work 2021 report highlighted fears over financial and job security – in all four regions they surveyed, more than 70% expressed these concerns. 

The good news is our latter study showed that two-thirds of employees believe employers are supporting mental health and 59% feel financial wellbeing advice is also now available.

So, it’s a trend that’s already going in the right direction and should continue to do so in 2022. The best way to phrase it is that employers are now being proactive as opposed to reactive. CIPD’s Health and wellbeing at work 2021: survey report found that just 27% said their organisation was ‘much more reactive than proactive’ – a fall from 41% in the previous year. 

It also seems that there’s a restructuring of priorities rather than simply an increase in spending. 59% of respondents stated that their budget for wellbeing benefits had stayed the same, and only 26% said it had increased as a result of COVID, highlighting the restructuring of perks and support we discussed earlier.  

The study also showed that 74% of organisations offer access to counselling services and employee assistance programs. However, the room for improvement appears to be in those financial wellbeing services, as “just 13% believe that their organisation has allocated an adequate budget to improve employee financial wellbeing.”