Crazy as it sounds, 2022 is around the corner and with it, a new age for the future of work. As Covid restrictions get lifted and people get their full round of vaccines, workers will be expected to return to the office at least a few days per week. But it would be naive to think that things will just go back to what they used to be.
The Covid crisis has changed most employers’ perception of the workplace, often in a positive way. If the time is right for you to find a new creative job, here are 7 workplace trends that will define the future of work, in 2022 and (hoepfully) beyond.
More focus on quality of life
In the midst of the Covid pandemic, mankind rediscovered the power of time. Suddenly we understood how much time we were wasting on public transport, or simply going to and from the office. Not only that; public transportation and fuel cost money, as does keeping an office open for 5 days of the week.
Remote working has considerable advantages for both employees and employers. Some companies, such as indie game developer Failbetter Games, have chosen to give up the office entirely and work fully from remote for the whole duration of the crisis. I don’t believe all companies will adopt something this drastic, but we should expect hybrid working to take over the old state of things.
Employees will spend a few days in the office, the rest of the week working from home. We will have more time to spend with ourselves and our families, taking care of the things that matter the most. Employers adopting these kinds of policy will see an improvement in the quality of life of their employees, and there will be a much stronger focus on wellbeing and employee care as we move forward.
Artwork credit: Alan O'Rourke
Work from anywhere, whenever
Spotify made the headlines back in February when the company announced their new Work-From-Anywhere policy. Within reason (aka: a range of timezones), employees could literally choose to work from anywhere they wanted. If they so wished, their employment could be entirely remote, and the company’s focus would only be on attracting the best talent there is – regardless of where it comes from.
We can expect more companies to take on this approach and adopt it for their entire workforce. People will not be bound by physical borders anymore; which means talent will become more international as well.
Once location restrictions are off the table, the next natural step would be to think about how best employees can organise their time. Again, within reason and according to different job requirements, some jobs may be carried out at any time of the day. A magazine writer, for instance, doesn’t necessarily need to be up when the rest of the world is; if there are no specific teamwork requirements throughout the week, they could easily work at night, schedule all the content for the upcoming day, and enjoy the daylight as it comes. It is something that will apply to even fewer jobs – but if some freelancers do it, why shouldn’t you?
More mental health support
Alongside the newfound focus on quality of life, mental health will take the centre stage too. The mental health conversation was already much alive before the advent of the Covid pandemic, but the healthcare crisis gave it the final kick it needed to enter the mainstream scene.
More employers will be adopting extended parental leave policies, for both parents. Emotional and mental wellbeing programmes will be on the rise too, catering for the needs of employees like never before.
There will be an abundance of new mental health initiatives too. We can expect companies to schedule collective mental health days for employees to spend entirely off work, in the same way as a paid leave or a bank holiday. Not all companies will be willing to do it, and we can certainly expect some much smaller businesses to avoid it – especially if excessively focused on making profit. But the larger companies and smaller businesses who keep their employee’s wellbeing at heart, those will do it. And that’s all we need, really.
Image credit: Federico Cibils
Rise of freelance work
An unfortunate string of redundancies during the Covid pandemic has forced some of the industry to move to freelance work, or at least give it a try. There wasn’t just a rise in the number of freelancers – demand increased too. With employers realising that they could rent talent whenever they needed it, cutting costs and without committing to a full-time employee, some freelancers may have struggled at first, but they soon saw their opportunities return to pre-pandemic levels.
With more companies getting to know the value of specialised freelance work, many will choose to only pay a premium when the talent is needed, rather than to keep a full-time employee at all times. This kind of budget will be allocated and spent only when the need arises, leading to savings for a number of companies all around the world.
With this in mind, we could expect a decline in full-time jobs and more opportunities for entrepreneurial freelancers. This shouldn’t scare those still wanting to make a living in the more “traditional” full-time-employment way; the job market will balance itself out over time. There will be more people feeling confident enough to take on a freelance employment, and there will be just as many who will go for more stable opportunities at established companies.
Most of what you’ll read above and below ties in with leadership and a radical shift in the mindset of leaders. If prior to the pandemic micro-management was somewhat tolerated in some environments, now there are virtually no excuses to resort to that annoying practice, at the heart of which lies a definite lack of trust.
Certainly, in more people-facing jobs, micro-management will keep happening. Retail and hospitality managers can’t do without that shallow feeling of power and control – and unfortunately those jobs can’t be performed from remote either. But in other environments, employees have had the chance to demonstrate that their skills, time management and performance are reliable, leading to a shared trust that was absent in many fields until now.
We can expect more humanity and authenticity from our leaders than ever, be it in the realm of mental health, understanding mistakes or simply helping employees succeed.
Image credit: Pum Lefebure
As self-explanatory as this point may sound, it won’t be clear to everyone what a virtual culture really entails. What’s certain is that the pandemic crisis has brought people together even while apart, leading to companies increasing their online presence and holding virtual meetings to keep the team together.
Events will move in the virtual scene. Company culture will move to a digital environment, with more technologies in place to ensure the team feels connected at all times and there are truly powerful bonding moments between teammates.
Companies will discover the value of introducing new, innovative technologies to keep up with the pace of virtual development, and the workplace will become increasingly virtual too. The solutions and platforms to aid this are already out there. Change may feel scary at first, and there will be a bit of a learning curve – but isn’t that true of virtually anything else?
Overall, the Covid pandemic has changed our very perception of safety in the workplace. Suddenly everyone was washing their hands (like they should do), being careful with who they touched (like they should do) and spent time with (like it’s sensible to do). But this means that employers have taken the hint too, and new healthcare policies will certainly be introduced at work.
As booster vaccine doses are in the talks, employers overseas could start offering priority access to vaccinations as part of their employment benefits. Medical insurance could include Covid-related policies of course, but perhaps the most important thing is that workplaces will become more secure, as those welcoming non-vaccinated people may be sanctioned by their respective governments.
There will be new sick time policies in place, as well as advanced cleaning and health procedures to ensure every workplace is as safe, healthy and tightly secure as it can be. Of course, this approach may well move beyond the physical realm of bacteria; in accordance with all that we already discussed, employers will be expected to take harassment, racism and sexism way more seriously than ever, hopefully leading to a better, more balanced and healthier workplace for everyone involved.
Image credit: Friend + Johnson
The future of work looks… nice
There used to be a time when most people dreaded clocking in for work. It is indisputable that, in some places, this is still the reality of things. But a better workplace is in the works, and it may be here sooner than you think. Soon, finding a good company to join won't be a hit-and-miss approach with very few elements to understand their culture; soon, jobseekers will find better companies much faster, much more easily.
If little over a year ago the future of workplace looked a bit grim, now it is clear that employers are doing what they can to ensure that the office shines as bright as ever. All we can do is hope that they deliver on their promises.