As 2021 has come to a close, I am looking forward to the change that a new year will yield. While nobody could have predicted what the last few years have brought us, I am interested in the many ways these unimaginable changes are going to shape the future of business, human connection, and technology.
My top 3 predictions for 2022 revolve around employees and the ownership that employees are taking for the workplace they want to see for themselves - and how companies are following their lead.
1. Employees taking accountability
Since the beginning of the pandemic almost 2 years ago, to where we are today, employees have seen a dramatic shift in how they work and how they navigate their home and work life as a cohesive entity. As employees have adjusted to working from home or have adopted a hybrid workplace environment, the number of people who want to go back to the office full-time has minimized. In the first three months of the pandemic, we saw panicked employees who did not know how to navigate working from home or collaborate with coworkers without seeing them in person. Now, according to a survey from PWC, 41% of employees want to continue some kind of hybrid or remote, flexible work environment.
Because of this rise of employees being vocal about how and when they want to work, I predict that the businesses who can, will need to offer some kind of flexible hybrid workplace. A flexible distributed hybrid workplace does not necessarily equal working from home. A hybrid work environment means providing people the opportunity to work when, where, and how they want to. This suggests that we will also see a shift in the way that work is measured; no longer by the hours that people work or how visible they are, but rather by outputs, targets, and goals. This will give employees a certain sense of flexibility. If they still want to go to a coffee shop and work, or if they would prefer to come into the office and have a desk, these options should be available to them. Some employees’ hours may need to shift if that is the only time they have while also homeschooling their child and that flexibility will need to be made available to them. Because if not, that employee will find someone who does offer that flexibility.
Employees are no longer victims of their circumstances. Many have chosen to make the most out of the change they have seen in their work environments. This change is liberating, as they know that they have a voice and a say in structuring their work environment. People are saying no, and employees are demanding more. My prediction is that organizations not only will, but will have to do a better job of creating that flexibility for their employees. Their employees know what they want and are empowered to see a change in their workplace.
Check out Harbinger’s Hybrid Workplace Resources page to read more information and access a range of tools to help you manage a hybrid workplace
2. Investing in People
Organizations need to start creating opportunities and channels for people to get their job done at their own pace, at their own location, and at their own time. The workplace, especially office environments, will have to develop a more flexible definition of what a hybrid workplace looks like for their company. Therefore, organizations will have to invest in the technology and in the security that they need. But most importantly, they have to invest in their people.
As employees begin to realize that they have a collective say in the work environment they want to see, they are going to start investing in themselves, their career, and ultimately their skills. It is up to their employer to determine whether they are going to follow suit. According to Forbes, maintaining a high-development culture can benefit companies by keeping employees engaged, thus increasing productivity. Fostering a culture of learning and empowerment can reduce negative effects or trends, such as a big surge in employee resignation that we continue to see.
I predict that we will see a rise in talent development, employee workshops, and skills courses. To stay engaged and connected to their role, employees are going to look to upskill, and organizations need to take advantage of this eagerness to learn and grow. Providing these opportunities for employee development can be the difference between a company with a high retention rate and those who see a high turnover rate.
3. Rise in Interactive Communication Technologies
Many organizations use one central communication tool such as Microsoft Teams, Slack, or Google Workspace to communicate within their teams, keep files in one place, and host meetings. As we see a continuation of people working from home and a rise in the implementation of a hybrid model, I predict that we will see an advancement in technologies that allow for interactive communication. When it comes to engaging coworkers and collaborating digitally, there are other applications such as Mural or Miro, whose interactive functions allow more collaboration than the Microsoft Teams whiteboard feature.
I think that companies will acknowledge that their people want, and also need, these interactive technologies. As the importance of collaboration within our virtual or hybrid environments is highlighted, companies will need to invest in these company-wide collaboration tools. I think companies are slowly warming up to making changes such as implementing new technology or applications, rather than being steadfast in doing things “the way they have always been done”.
It appears that virtual collaboration is here to stay. Companies need to invest in the tools to foster successful, collaborative communication.
Other tips to support and drive an effective hybrid workplace:
1. Help employees connect
Many people have struggled with feeling detached because they cannot see their team members and leaders in the same was as before the pandemic. While the communication and collaboration tools mentioned above will help, organizations need to realize that for many people, coming to the office is as much about making social connections as it is about being productive. Leaders need to pay close attention to their team's emotional needs. For example, meetings can be started with a check-in, encouraging participants to share something about their life. At Harbinger, we often take the first 5-10 minutes of team meetings for everyone to share how they are feeling in that moment or day allowing them a chance to connect and for others to have empathy or excitement for their peers.
2. Build team cohesion through Personality Assessments
The use of personality assessments such as Clifton Strengths (StrengthsFinder) or SDI 2.0 CoreStrengths (Strengths Deployment Inventory) helps teams build awareness of how their peers and leaders work, act, and respond during both good and stressful times. This knowledge establishes that we are not all the same but that the differences are beneficial to a strong and dynamic team.
3. Get outside help