While the future may be uncertain, one thing’s for sure: remote work is here to stay.
There’s mounting evidence to suggest what was once seen as a convenient solution to COVID-19 lockdowns will become a daily reality for many employees. A 2020 McKinsey survey of business leaders revealed that 15% wanted employees to work remotely for two or more days a week in future, which is up from 8% prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
With remote work very much on the horizon for many businesses if it isn’t already part of the work culture, what are some of the biggest trends we’re likely to see in 2022 and beyond?
Hybrid Work Models
The rise of the remote work environment has been in tandem with the growing popularity of hybrid work models.
Whereas remote work refers to any work completed away from the office, hybrid work is a mix of traditional and remote work that sees employees come into the office for a few days and work from home the rest of the time.
In recent months, we’ve seen some of the biggest companies like Apple and Microsoft jump ship from traditional ways of working to experimental hybrid work models. The four day work week in particular is gaining traction, with many companies looking to throw out the traditional 9-5 in favor of this new flexible work schedule.
The idea behind the four day work week is to get the same amount of work done in less time. While it may sound like a pipe dream, uncovering the amount of idle and unproductive time for many companies is often a sobering realization.
Employees can thrive under a four day work week as they can work hard and make the most out of every hour knowing that they’re working towards having a day off. The same is true for the four day work week with one day spent working from home, since this can be viewed as a bonus earned for having worked hard at the office.
Employee Wellbeing Prioritization
Along with the way we work, another hot topic in this remote work age is employee wellbeing and how to ensure everyone is coping when there isn’t a centralized work space.
A 2021 Deloitte survey on employee wellbeing highlighted that 96% of organizations worldwide believe it is the responsibility of the company to ensure employees’ wellbeing is prioritized. Moving to a remote work environment shouldn’t change that, but what it will change is the methods by which companies promote employee wellbeing.
The weekly 20-minute fitness session, free lunches, and other wellbeing perks will become inaccessible so what will companies do instead to uphold employee wellbeing?
First, it’s important to acknowledge the new problems that will surface as a result of a lack of physical office environment, including:
- Poor work-life balance
- No sense of belonging or shared purpose
These aren’t burdens that fall solely on the shoulders of companies, but they are especially important to address to mitigate the risk of employee burnout.
Here are some of the trends starting to emerge regarding employee wellbeing efforts in remote work environments:
- Subscriptions to meditation apps such as Calm and Headspace
- Regular Zoom check-ins, virtual icebreaker activities, and online quizzes or games between teams
- Frank conversations about the need for healthy work-life balance with team leaders
These trends are often adopted in addition to traditional supportive measures such as healthcare provisions and employee benefits.
Taking Up (Software) Tools
These days, it isn’t just farmers and factory workers picking up tools; there’s a significant remote work trend to use software tools for everything from project management to effective communication and collaboration.
Software is rapidly becoming the glue that holds the fabric of many companies together. Without it, staying in touch with team members or superiors during the transition to remote work would be slow and tedious.
Instead, most employees today are equipped with an arsenal of tools to organize their workload, cooperate with team members from afar, and get their message across without relying heavily on emails or phone calls.
It’s difficult to maintain high levels of productivity when the team is scattered around in different locations, as communication can become fractured and something as simple as going over a report becomes challenging.
That’s why we’ve borne witness to the meteoric rise of many tools such as Slack, Asana, Basecamp, and many more. While some help team members communicate via video or instant messaging, others enable time tracking for accountability, employee control, or accurate payroll.
Company Co-Working Spaces
While this final trend is more speculative than grounded in evidence like the others, it could very well be an integral part of many companies’ plans for the future. The Wall Street Journal reported on the potential for a new way of working in person that would allow companies to hire out office spaces much like holidaymakers rent out apartments through sites like AirBnB.
IWG plc, a provider of flexible office spaces, is reported to be interested in partnering with Instant Group in an attempt to create the largest online marketplace for flexible office space. Should this investment go through, we could see a rise of short-term office space rentals pop up in future.
This news comes alongside reports that some companies also plan to establish coworking havens of sorts that have all the amenities employees could need, and allow a drop-in drop-out policy whereby employees can come and use the facilities as they please.
It seems as if we’re entering a new phase of working in which many companies are experimenting with new ideas to see what sticks, and most importantly, what’s most sustainable. While the details are still unclear as to exactly what the average workplace of 2030 will look like, it’s safe to say that the 9-5 will be a thing of the past for many employees.
For some, the change will be exciting and welcome, but for others these new ways of working may bring new issues and disrupt the status quo.