As the world enters into its third year of the pandemic, businesses across the world are beginning to officially shift to the “post-COVID” workplace. Along with the growing acceptance of hybrid and remote workers, the expectations of employees has changed radically since the beginning of the pandemic. As a result, the way we manage our workforces must change too – whether in the office or over Slack.
In this article we will explore the rising trends in workforce management, which you can expect to see in 2022.
- Hybrid Environments Go Mainstream
- Rethinking the Physical Office Space
- Understanding the Rise in Employee Autonomy
- Automation and Optimization
- Post-COVID Work Perks
2022's Workforce Management Trends
As the world continues to change, so does the way we manage our workforce. With COVID prompting the greatest change in the workplace in decades, the way both employees and employers think has shifted. Prompted by these changes, we have identified the five workforce trends to expect in 2022:
Hybrid Environments Go Mainstream
Admittedly the discussion on the hybrid workplace has become a bit over blown, especially considering it was the trend of 2021. Still, as the world continues to adapt in the wake of the pandemic, hybrid work remains a top topic.
Now becoming a global trend, over half of workers in the US, UK, and Australia have acknowledged they would like to continue some form of hybrid work. In their internal surveys, Microsoft found that 70% of employees wanted remote work to remain an option; 65% said they would like more in-person encounters.
The amount of companies pledging to adapt to the hybrid model is constantly growing, and includes major names like Apple, Salesforce, Siemens, and more. No longer just a concept floated after the start of the pandemic, businesses of all shapes and sizes are actively buying in new workplace models.
We won’t over blow this topic, but the trend is obvious: hybrid is here to stay.
Rethinking the Physical Office Space
Running parallel to the discussion on hybrid workplaces is the idea of reworking the physical office space. With vaccination rates reaching all-time highs, and businesses continuing to reopen, reinventing the office space will be a common trend in the workforce for 2022.
Health and Safety
As COVID cases spike internationally, safety procedures should continue to be a top priority and consideration for every business. When it comes to making changes to the physical workplace, health and safety policies must be a primary factor in the decision making process.
As non-dispersed businesses have already found out, maintaining appropriate procedures can fluctuate based upon local, state, and federal health regulations. Although these changes can be frequent, frustrating, and overwhelming, it is essential that in-person offices stay consistent with up-to-date health suggestions and regulations. While businesses should continue to keep a close eye on these changing policies, employers can expect more stability in 2022 due to climbing vaccination rates.
With health and safety policies in mind, the office model is in prime position to be revolutionized.
Modernizing the Office
Like Silicon Valley’s introduction of the open room concept in the 2010’s, expect the way we think about our physical workplaces to change dramatically.
As the hybrid workforce model becomes a mainstream hit, offices have the opportunity to change their spaces in numerous ways. Less ambitious companies will of course simply maintain the status quo as much as possible for their hybrid employees – including leaving their desks. More imaginative business leaders, however, will see the hybrid wave as a catalyst for complete redesign. Even those with non-dispersed forces have a ripe opportunity to observe, evaluate, and innovate their environments.
Employers can redesign their offices to better incorporate their remote employees, such as creating collaborative spaces that can facilitate virtual meetings. For companies with hybrid employees, they can create new workspaces to provide private and collaborative environments to accomodate for rotating employees; these new workspaces can of course be used by the full-time in-office employees too. No matter what, using space and technology to better integrate employees is the way to go.
Along with the changes made to accommodate remote employees, workspaces are trending towards removing individual spaces and adding social spaces. With many workers craving for social interaction throughout the pandemic, businesses appear to be dropping desks and offices for collaborative environments and open seating areas. As Future Office author, Nicola Gillen, noted to the BBC, ““the amount of individual space – desking, offices, that kind of thing – halving from where it was in terms of best practices before Covid.”
Along with improved collaboration, this shift creates prime opportunities for training, learning, and mentoring.
Office Redesign Considerations
With offices becoming nearly blank canvases for workplace redesign, there is opportunity to experiment and find what layout works best for your business. Beyond cultural needs, the following factors will influence a company will adapt their physical office:
- Industry requirements
- Space needed
- Employee needs
- Type of workplace model (in person, remote, hybrid)
- Local health regulations
Better Meeting the Needs of Employees
Coinciding with a cultural shift in the American workplace is a worker revolution not seen in decades. Disrupting job markets for every position from burger flipper to sales manager, the simultaneous pressures of the Great Resignation and active labor stoppage have turned the focus squarely onto the employees. Like never before, employees are vocalizing their needs and taking it upon themselves to make changes if they are not met – even leaving careers.
While the two movements are running parallel with one another, and differ in many ways, their core triggers are fairly similar. The trend of American workers quitting and/or resisting positions, even in the face of financial risk, can be broken down to a few common reasons:
- Higher wages relative to value
- Better healthcare options
- Improved working conditions
- Greater emphasis on employee wellness and health
- More say in workplace decisions
- Better training and career development
- Greater emphasis on work/life balance
There is disagreement on how to handle this unprecedented job market. Beyond more unique recruiting efforts and changed interview tactics, many companies are beginning to focus directly on the stated needs of their prospects, employees, and the overall job market. An almost obvious answer to the Great Resignation, this approach is a rising trend and will continue through 2022.
Just one of the many ripples of the pandemic, an emphasis of employee autonomy, more adequate pay, and better conditions is at the center of our current market. With more jobs available than ever before, only foolish companies would resist even hearing what their employees have to say. By no means is anyone suggesting radical changes, just measures that reflect the sentiment of your employees and ideal hires.
The trend of meeting the needs of ideal employees to “win” the current labor market upheaval will likely be one that continues to move in the years to come. While no two companies' approaches will be similar, and there is surely no perfect recipe, the key to success is simple: respecting and providing for the needs of employees is a strong method to navigate the current job market.
Proving the Trend
For example, Dr. Bronner’s Soap, a family owned business for 5 generations, introduced a progressive business model to more adequately meet the needs of their employees. In practice, this has included capping highest-paid compensation at five times the lowest-paid full-time position, fully paid health insurance for all employees, significant retirement and profit-share plans, up to $5,000 in childcare, and more.
While Dr. Bronner’s practices are more radical than most businesses would be willing to introduce, their reasoning reflects the sentiment consistently shared in the current job market:
“Our philosophy: treat employees as we would treat our sisters and brothers—create a healthy environment and programs that encourage personal wellbeing and growth—promote from within whenever possible—give employees every opportunity to thrive and take pride in their contributions to the broader world community through their work at Dr. Bronner’s.”
Confirming their theory that their progressive policy would improve operations, Dr. Bonner’s reported $188 million in revenue for 2020, nearly $60 million more than 2019. Additionally, in 2021 they launched a new product line: chocolate. Their progressive model is a result of years of intentional efforts to better bridge the gap between employer and employee.
Observing the 7th edition of their yearly financial report, it’s clear that efforts to improve the wages, conditions, and lives of their employees has improved overall business for Dr. Bonner’s Soap.
Automation and Optimization
For some companies, the tight labor market has caused them to look inwards at their operations – looking for areas that can be improved to eliminate unnecessary labor costs. This focus on automation and optimization can be expected to continue during 2022.
Automation and integration tools, like Jira and Zapier, will continue to be implemented across businesses in the US. Manufacturing environments will continue to optimize their approaches as well. Even more fast food restaurants will continue adopting mobile ordering apps to replace cashiers. Prompted by the threat of a tight labor market, businesses will continue to pursue optimized approaches to improve their bottom line.
Beyond contemporary improvements to automation, as well as new digital integration tools, AI is expected to grow in popularity and mainstream use. While it’ll initially be used to replace more mundane tasks, it’ll also allow companies to focus their human labor on projects that are better fitting, such as creative, emotional, or high-level thinking jobs. By 2025 there could be as many as 97 million roles opened as a result of automation.
The response to the labor market is split, but this half is all about reducing the need for labor through optimizing procedures.
Post-COVID Work Perks
Perks from the workplace are as American as apple pie. From anniversary gifts, to company cars, to free phones to ping pong tournaments, the perks employees want have changed.
Signaling a need for a new wave of perks, Perkbox found 4% of employees say their current perks are right for them. Based on Perkbox’s finding, employees are looking for perks like:
- Discounts (supermarkets, eating out, clothes, etc.)
- Greater recognition at work
- Unlimited/more PTO
- At-home entertainment (free rentals, streaming subscriptions)
- Remote working options
- Free breakfast, lunch
- Subsidized gym memberships
- Learning and developmental tools
From the list it seems pretty clear: much like the rest of the changes in the workplace, the changes to perks will be oriented towards overall wellbeing and work/balance.
The Future is in Reimagining
It's evident that the way we work is changing rapidly. Unlike the last two years, however, we are no longer just feeling the effects of an active pandemic. Conversation, focus, and opinion on the American workplace has changed dramatically since 2020, influencing the way we manage our workforces. While these shifts can cause uncomfortable adjustments for some businesses, it's clear that the trend for 2022 is reimagining the way we operate.
Following the trends of 2021, the way we see the workplace is radically different than before the pandemic. Hybrid work is officially here to stay to the cheers of many. This, combined with a new emphasis on employee wellness, provides an ample opportunity to redesign the American office. As employers continue to navigate their return to the office, many can be expected to make changes to their layouts and environments.
Much how the pandemic dictated the trends of 2020 and 2021, the current labor market is expected to largely influence the way we operate in 2022. With a market flush with workers resigning from positions and resisting jobs that don’t meet their needs, how to respond to the Great Resignation and labor stoppage should be at the top of every employer’s mind.
With opinions divided upon different viewpoints, two clear trends in responding to the labor market have risen. On one hand, genuinely responding to the heavily verbalized needs of ideal employees will be a popular decision, especially given growing public support for workers. While potentially damaging to the bottom line, the progressive approach seems to be a clear answer to the labor market. Alternatively, automating and optimizing procedures to eliminate labor needs will also be popular. In addition, solutions like AI could not only automate mundane tasks, but open up opportunities for new jobs.
Many of these trends will be more impactful than others. While we are able to foresee the changes on the horizon, it won’t be until 2023 that we can know how it all works out. To help manage your business through any type of transition, CAVU HCM has designed a premier workforce management solution. Users can tailor the software to their business’s needs with payroll services, HR management tools, talent management solutions, and more. To learn more about CAVU HCM, click here.