11 Future of Work Trends (Post-Pandemic)
COVID-19 took the western world by storm in March 2020.
Since then, public health experts have developed a vaccine. Over 66% of the U.S. population has received two doses (the amount needed to be considered fully vaccinated). The novel coronavirus pandemic is poised to become endemic.
Things may feel more “normal” nowadays. But in the near 30 months since the U.S. first shut down, life has changed. Here are 11 future of work trends that we’re already seeing in 2022—including plenty that will almost certainly be around for the long haul.
1. Hybrid work
Gone are the days of coming to the office each morning (at least for some members of the workforce). The future of work has taken a hybrid model, with many team members only working onsite when necessary—or on certain days of the week. Employees are driving flexibility unlike ever before, and company leaders must be willing to accommodate hybrid or remote work environments.
There are exceptions, of course. Many healthcare, education, and transportation jobs still require in-person attendance. But most organizations have become more flexible.
2. Talent shortage
The Great Resignation continues, with human resources teams more eager than ever to fill critical roles. Despite fears of a recession, over 4.3 million Americans quit their jobs in May 2022—and companies are looking to address this talent shortage. To do this, many are making it easier for employees to make lateral moves (or pursue promotions within the company).
This has created an internal labor market of sorts, benefiting both the employer and the employee. It’ll be imperative for HR leaders to keep teams staffed.
3. Emphasis on mental health
The pandemic prompted a 25% rise in anxiety and depression. Employers are taking an active role in addressing this—in large part by revealing their commitment to mental health services. Just as employees have become more vocal about their mental health needs, organizations are increasingly investing in the mental health of their people. Many prioritize it the same way they would their staff’s physical health.
Today companies like Microsoft and Netflix offer their workers free counseling and coaching sessions. Other businesses are following suit and playing an active part in addressing the mental health crisis.
4. Artificial intelligence (AI) and automation
AI and automation have long been corporate buzzwords. That said, they’ve transformed the workforce these last few years in particular, and they’re here to stay. By improving team engagement and ensuring productivity, AI and automation help companies streamline repetitive or complex tasks (as well as those prone to human error). Automated voice ordering and camera systems are just two examples.
For instance, the role of an agricultural worker who once checked produce for quality might now be obsolete. Instead, a machine can perform the same tasks with a higher level of precision.
5. Reliance on data
As turnover continues to climb, some company leaders are turning to data. Data, after all, can provide a clear picture of why team members are leaving the company. Known as “people analytics,” these data analytics come from workforce talent insights—and they’re helping employers understand what people want in the workplace. By looking at actual statistics, companies can fuel real change.
So what’s driving the turnover we’re seeing today? A desire for higher salaries, more flexible work environments, and greater innovation are some of the reasons for it.
6. New approach to management
In the wake of the pandemic, managers have begun to realize they need to be more sensitive to their workers’ needs. This means establishing more meaningful relationships with staff, shaping a better employee experience, and communicating with higher-ups on much-needed cultural changes. Essentially, manager-employee interactions should be more of a two-way street from here forward.
Both parties should stay respectful, of course. And managers still need corporate tools and training to excel.
7. Unpredictable consumer behavior
Inflation has caused food, gas, and housing prices to skyrocket—leading to a spike in unpredictable consumer behavior. As some people move through the world with limited (or reduced) purchasing power, companies need to adapt. Because while we may be (mostly) out of the woods where COVID-19 is concerned, we are still dealing with a crisis. And with that comes a number of challenges.
What does this mean for the workforce? People will have to get creative, scale back when necessary, and adapt to the times. There is still a great deal of uncertainty today.
8. Shorter work weeks
In June, thousands of employees in the UK began to trial a four-day work week. This future of work trend isn’t unheard of in the U.S. either. Shorter work weeks have been making waves for years as a compelling employee value proposition—but today, with unprecedented competition in the labor market, employers might have less of a choice. Many are actually reviewing how to move forward with a shorter work week.
Depending on their state labor laws, some employers might consider four 10-hour workdays instead. This offers the appeal of a three-day weekend without cutting back on teams’ hours.
9. Spotlight on sustainability
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, cities saw lower emissions. Yet climate change still looms, and we need to make significant shifts in order to prevent an environmental disaster. Many companies are dealing with this by focusing on sustainability. Some are taking a carbon-neutral approach, while others are incentivizing their staff to ride bikes or rely on public transportation rather than cars.
Regardless of what you’re seeing in the workplace, you’ll almost definitely notice employers amping up their sustainability initiatives. Kudos to them!
10. More Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts
In the U.S. in particular, people are honing in on DEI from an employment standpoint. Nearly 80% of workers claim they want to work for organizations that prioritize DEI—and employers are listening. Many are rewriting their corporate materials with more inclusive language, reviewing job candidate selections for potential biases, and diversifying their approach to marketing.
Rather than making DEI a mere item on their company checklist, employers should integrate it into everything they do. Culturally speaking, this can bring remarkable results.
11. Growth mindset
Now more than ever, workers are looking to upskill—or enhance their skillset to improve in areas like leadership, critical thinking, and creativity. The pandemic disrupted the workforce, ultimately bringing new opportunities for employees. People had to become more adaptable—and that became the expectation. So from here on out, teams will continue to reap the benefits of upskilling.
How so? Some companies are investing in their workers’ ongoing education and training. Others are offering mentoring programs. The sky is the limit. There are a variety of ways employers can help their teams upskill.
The world is constantly evolving. While there’s a great deal we’ve lost over the past couple of years, hopefully we’ve learned something too. The workforce—at least in some ways—is slated to come out stronger. These future of work trends are evidence of this.
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