The trends that defined 2021 are finding new meaning; the Great Resignation, which saw the UK’s staff turnover rate climb to its highest since 2009, has become an entrenched concern for business, just when HR professionals have had to get to grips with hybrid working.
At the end of January, Infogrid reported that the number of workers back in central London was up 43% on figures from only one week prior. Things are changing, and quickly. As momentum for the return to the office gathers, here are five things we can look forward to this year:
The physical office returns front and centre
Office spaces will be increasingly recognised for the way they alleviate stress, improve relationships and help career progression. Tenants in Central London took up 63% more office space in 2021 than they did in 2020 but the transition will still take time.
Britons are tired of working from home, though appreciate flexibility. As working patterns get more complex, HR teams will be pushed to enable a safe return to the office while still managing the needs and concerns of those working at home.
Businesses must remain flexible without losing their sense of identity. Remote days will not disappear, and physical offices will need to be more attractive and user-friendly to encourage employees to come in to work three or four days a week to foster a healthy culture of transparency and collaboration.
Values and benefits will replace cheap employee perks
Even pre-pandemic, nine in ten said they would take a pay cut to work for a company with better alignment with their personal values.
Employees today say work does not have to be fundamentally unenjoyable; a new generation of hard-working, purpose-driven young people see the potential for work to be good, to offer genuine value to employees and customers alike at no expense to the planet.
The Great Resignation may not stop until businesses respond to these demands. Large companies missed their employees’ changing psychology and struggled to attract talent last year with financial incentives.
Businesses in 2022 will be pressed to offer a healthier work/life balance, strong office-based culture, and tangible commitments to ES, or will be left behind.
Data will bridge the gap on employee experience
Tech has become second nature after two years of remote work. This familiarity will make teams less resistant to new software, inviting more efficient ways for teams to collaborate as they move around the remote and physical office space.
Most pressing is the need to bridge the communication gap with staff. Hybrid working models will still challenge HR teams to understand the changing needs of their staff, and better information sharing between managers and staff will be at the heart of the solution.
Expect to see more spaces for employee feedback, wider digital surveying and more attention given to UX. Adapting to complex working patterns will require the sharing of real-time data volunteered by staff and translated rapidly to justify workplace policy changes.
The five day week isn’t going anywhere
Staff need more time – not less – spent with their colleagues and line managers to fix relationships and have their voices heard on the issues that matter to them. The four-day working week has some revolutionary glitz to it, but it is hollow. Leaders should not lose confidence in the importance of quality time with staff; they should not concede that work is bad per se and that the answer to dissatisfaction is less time spent working. A more flexible approach to the five-day working week seems the best outcome for all.
Towards a healthy hybrid
Hybrid work, mental health safeguarding, concerns about returning to the office, desk sharing and the need for resilience and business continuity strategies will profoundly change the approach to occupational health and safety. A “healthy hybrid” approach should soon become the norm.
In terms of hygiene and cleanliness, it is likely that both equipment and habits will need to be re-evaluated when returning to the office, such as cleaning frequencies, hand-washing points, or desk cleaning practices.
Health protocols and internal communication will need to be particularly well designed.
Specifically, to make the return to the office inclusive, managers will need to be sensitive about the different needs of their employees. Understanding that some people will be more comfortable than others in the office and in public spaces.
There is still much we can learn from the turbulence of the last few years. To predict and respond effectively to new challenges, companies must stay open to change while focusing on the centrality of the employee experience.