The Future of Work: Key Trends to Look Out for in 2022
If there is anything that the past two years have taught us, it’s that you cannot be prepared for everything. At the same time, we’ve been living in the pandemic long enough to notice some tendencies or even predict new ones. Here are the biggest workplace trends that will shape the job market of 2022.
1. All forms of remote work are here to stay
The term “remote work” has become one of the main takeaways from the COVID era we are currently living in. And while the shift to remote work has been somewhat chaotic at first and managing remote teams is not something that came naturally to a lot of team leads, now we can catch a break and look at it in more detail.
Right now, there are three forms of remote cooperation commonly used by companies around the world, and all three of them will continue to dominate the way we work in 2022:
- Remote work, where the team members mostly work from home but live in relatively close proximity to one another and there is an office where they can all come and work together if necessary.
- Distributed work, where the team members are located in different cities, countries, and often even continents. They fully rely on collaboration tools to work together efficiently and deliver anticipated results.
- Hybrid work, where a part of the team works permanently from the office, another part works permanently from home, and there is a part that can switch locations. This is by far the most flexible arrangement that will likely be adopted by more companies in 2022.
2. Overcoming the bias of hybrid work
The rapid switch to hybrid work magnified the importance of overcoming proximity bias. The existence of this bias means that we tend to subconsciously favor those people we see more often. Within the hybrid work environment, it means that office workers are more likely to get rewarded and promoted than the ones who work from home.
In 2022, managers and HR executives will need to take active steps to eliminate proximity bias from their hybrid team setups. They can start small by using up-to-date collaboration tools and metrics to evaluate every team member’s input.
A more advanced approach is to go the extra mile and to actively try to include the remote employees in the discussions and tasks even when just asking the person from the office seems like a much easier option.
3. The rise of a remote-first approach
For most companies, the move to a remote work environment was abrupt and not exactly voluntary. Some of them fared better than the others, and more than half of companies expect to offer their employees an opportunity to work remotely at least once a week. This is already more than we had until early 2020.
However, 2022 will be about a different trend: the rise of remote-first companies. Remote-first, also known as fully remote or completely distributed companies, are companies that operate primarily remote. In many cases, they started out as remote, so there was no transition for them at all. These companies often don’t have a physical office space and their employees operate from multiple locations and time zones, which adds to the feelings of equality and team spirit.
4. An employee-driven workplace culture
Maintaining a strong workplace culture in a time where there are fewer office workers than ever is no easy feat. This is why employers are relying on the DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) model to foster connection. The more connected an employee feels to the organization, the less likely they are to leave and the more sizeable their contribution will be.
There are over a dozen factors affecting an employee’s connection to the organization. And while not all of them can be controlled by the employer, such as gender, age, or race, the employer should focus on the ones within their reach instead: ensuring fair pay, eliminating discrimination, and building trust within the teams.
5. The continued Great Resignation
The Great Resignation, otherwise known as the Big Quit, is a trend that started sometime around the spring of 2021 and is expected to continue well into 2022. People in the US and in other parts of the Western world are quitting their jobs at a faster rate than ever before. And it’s not just in the sectors where the staff turnover has been traditionally high, such as hospitality and customer service. White-collar workers are also participating in the Great Resignation.
The key reason for the Big Quit for being such a big part of the 2021–2022 job landscape is employees reevaluating their attitude towards work in general. They want more flexibility, a better work-life balance, and a job that rewards their personal contribution, so if their workplace is slow to adapt to the new reality, they won’t hesitate to move on to the next one.
6. Doing more with the time you have
One of the positive outcomes of the pandemic is that people value their time a lot more than they used to before 2020. A modern worker will not just accept daily 1-hour video calls when they can be weekly 30-minute calls and remain just as informative as a given. At the very least, they will question their necessity.
The same mentality is now applicable to every aspect of work. Time management, productivity, and doing more in the same amount of time are some of the biggest workplace trends of the upcoming year. And with the variety and quality of productivity and time management tools available today, this should be an easy transition.
7. Social responsibility that goes beyond promises
A few years ago, it might have been enough for a company to have an appealing Corporate Social Responsibility page on its website to attract younger, socially conscious employees. And even then, not many applicants would check it or take it into consideration when choosing their next workplace.
The situation has changed dramatically in the last few years and is expected to change even more in the near future. A survey found that 75% of young people would agree to a pay cut to work for a socially responsible company.
And another study showed that meaningful CSR policies can reduce employee turnover rate by as much as 50%. This can be a big asset in the era of the Great Resignation and employees generally feeling less connected to their employers.
8. Focusing on skills rather than roles
The shift of focus from roles to skills has been becoming more apparent in recent years. Companies are now moving towards flat organizational structures and leaving the traditional hierarchical framework behind. This shift is impossible without also going from caring more about roles to promoting the development of individual skills and competencies.
Skills, and not roles, are what helps businesses find their competitive edge. Creating an environment where the employees can develop their core skills can help businesses solve problems more effectively and give their employees more independence. In turn, the employees can capitalize on their skills and achieve their career goals faster.
9. The use of AI technology in ways it’s never been done before
2022 is going to become a year when AI will be more than just a buzzword when it comes to the workplace. At the very least, this can involve taking care of the more mundane tasks, such as transcribing video conference meetings or using various HR metrics to gauge employee satisfaction.
AI can also be used to make the workplace a more comfortable environment for everyone with the help of lighting, temperature, air quality, and security sensors and making appropriate adjustments in the office space. Next year, companies will continue to explore the possibilities for AI use in the workplace.
10. An increased need for contract work and outsourcing
For many companies and employees, 2021 has been all about flexibility, and it’s more than likely to stay that way for 2022. To achieve the desired level of flexibility, companies have been opting for contract work. With a fixed duration of the project and, in turn, the employee’s contract, employers feel like they have better control over the company finances and scaling decisions. Employees are also favoring gig work more than any time since the 2008–2009 financial crisis.
Another clear trend is the growth of outsourcing. This is one of the industries that was only aided by the uncertainty and the various restrictions caused by the pandemic. When you get to save money without compromising the quality of your product, there is no reason not to introduce outsourcing to your operations.
The only problem is that at the current rate, some of the most reliable outsourcing partners will become too busy with their existing commitments and unavailable for new partnerships. So if outsourcing is something you consider for your company, it’s better to act sooner rather than later.
It’s quite possible that we are now living in an era that will have the biggest impact on the job market in general and remote work in particular in decades. The change is going to concern most of us in one way or another, and the 10 trends we listed above are a good place to start getting equipped for the change that 2022 may bring.