The world of work has been constantly changing, and without a doubt, it won’t stop anytime soon. The major disruptions can be blamed on the COVID-19 pandemic, which we are still experiencing today. As we’re slowly inching closer to 2022, are you prepared for what’s to come?
While the future is mostly unknown, we do have a better idea of how to prepare for the future of work. And to help, our chief scientific officer, Dr. Jack Wiley, shares what he thinks are the top 5 trends organization should consider in the coming year:
1. Normalizing Remote Work and Flexible Working Arrangements
A consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic is that the employer-employee dynamic vis-à-vis remote work has forever changed. There will be significant variations across industries, occupations, and geographies, but a hybrid model will emerge as the most common. Within the context of flexible working arrangements, the conversation will gravitate from where to when employees perform their work.
2. Heightened Attention to Employee Well-Being
Workplace psychological health and well-being refers to an employee’s mental, emotional and physical well-being, which has taken a big hit since the onset of the pandemic. Much of this boils down to stress, which results from demands outstripping available resources. The consequences for employees can be brutal as they attempt to handle their work responsibilities and manage the schooling of their children and the illnesses of family members, among various other demands. Employer benefits costs continue to rise as organizations step in to help. But failing to do so produces an even worse outcome: the deterioration of engagement, performance and commitment levels.
3. We Will Come to Realize We Are Better Than We Are Told
Dr. Wiley has been tracking employees’ work attitudes in the United States on various topics for over 35 years in a very systematic way. Let’s share some of his findings from the 2020 dataset to support this:
- Overall satisfaction: 69% of Whites would recommend their employer as a great place to work, compared to 72% of Blacks and 70% of Hispanics.
- Belongingness: 76% of Whites feel that they are part of a team, as do 74% of Blacks and 74% of Hispanics.
- Support for diversity: 73% of Whites believe their organization has a track record for recruiting people from diverse backgrounds, as do 74% of Blacks and 73% of Hispanics.
Practically speaking, these racial/ethnic origin group differences are minor – of no real significance.
But how would these results compare to those of just 15 years ago? The results for Whites and Hispanics were primarily the same. However, the results for Blacks lagged in favorability by 15 to 20 percentage points. The conclusion is obvious: in the United States workforce of today, Blacks, Whites and Hispanics rate overall satisfaction, inclusion and support for diversity equally. Attitudes are important because they reflect our behavior. And the attitudes of typical working Blacks, Whites and Hispanics are fundamentally the same on a variety of essential workplace topics.
4. Helping Virtual Teams Be More Effective
Virtual teams are those comprised of members who are often geographically dispersed, interact electronically and in many cases never meet face-to-face. The pandemic has given rise to more and more virtual teams. A major challenge with this arrangement is creating a sense of belongingness and togetherness, one of our most basic psychological needs. Managers are judged on the performance of their teams, however comprised, but they will need help learning new skills as virtual teams proliferate. Employees want supportive and understanding managers, rely upon participative decision-making, provide recognition, and unite the team around exciting goals. This is a stretch for many managers and organizations need to help them adapt before the talent exits for a more psychologically rewarding workplace.
5. An Increased Reliance on Gig Workers
Another trend is the rise of independent workers (contractors, gig workers, freelancers). Global gig economy transactions are growing rapidly. This is expected as the number of skills employers seek has increased. Organizations are and will continue to struggle to upgrade the skills of current employees to meet emerging needs in a timely way. This will put pressure on employers relying only on traditional full-time and part-time employees. Organizations that are flexible and think about their entire ecosystem of talent – FTEs, contractors, freelancers, and so forth – will need tools to recognize, engage and motivate that talent in an efficient and fair way.
The future of work is in flux, with no end in sight. Unlike the past, where the working world slowly evolved, the last 2 years have completely transformed the way organizations think and react to situations. If your teams and organizations have already begun prepping for 2022, go back and look to ensure you’ve taken these five trends into consideration.
Authors Note: This article is an excerpt from an interview between Thrive Global and Dr. Jack Wiley.