If you think you’ve had a busy few years, spare a thought for those people who study workplaces. From the moment the world started talking about a virus called COVID-19, it seems barely a month has passed without social commentators being forced to address an emerging trend set to rewrite the rules of workplace engagement. We’ve had social distancing1, The Great Resignation, work from home, The Great Reshuffle, remote vs hybrid, Quiet Quitting2, the war for talent and, in more recent times, The Great Regret3.
While social commentators get to talk about such issues, executives and managers need to actually deal with them. The modern workforce is an ever-evolving beast and organisations that fail to stay abreast of the latest workplace trends risk losing quality staff, failing to attract new talent and falling behind their competitors. Studies have shown that more than a third of today’s workers are actively or casually searching for a new job4, which places enormous pressure on businesses to adapt to meet their needs and wants.
With that in mind, here are five workplace trends every executive should know as 2023 continues to gather momentum.
Some managers could be forgiven for sharing a common response when reading those words: “They want even more flexibility!” The pandemic-inspired rise of remote and hybrid work means many people have never had more freedom when it comes to choosing where to work. Now the focus is shifting to ‘when’ they work and smart companies will embrace the benefits of such flexibility rather than fight the tide.
While some jobs require an overlap in schedules, there is often little reason for an entire workforce to adopt identical hours. It is far better for night owls or early risers to work when they are most productive and have fewer distractions, while an Atlassian study has shown that teams who have flexibility in working options are more innovative, have a more positive culture and suffer less burnout than those that do not5.
Workers had Quiet Quitting; now their employers are turning the tables by ‘quietly hiring’. The concept of employees doing the bare minimum required in their jobs was one of the workplace stories of 2022, with a Gallup poll revealing ‘quiet quitters’ make up at least 50% of the US workforce6 and organisations are rightly concerned about the impact of keeping people but losing skills.
Now savvy business leaders are fighting back by investing in efforts that strengthen the capabilities of their workforce without needing to recruit new employees. ‘Quiet hiring’ will see a focus on internal talent mobility, upskilling opportunities for existing staff to meet organisational needs and alternate approaches to acquire specific talent such as outsourcing.
While remote and hybrid work has been a win for many employees, genuine concerns are rising about the impact on younger employees that know little different. Entering the workforce during or a little before the pandemic means the likes of Gen Z have missed out on developing soft social skills that come from working in an in-person environment. Examples include office interplay, networking, speaking in front of groups and the ability to stay on-task and attentive for lengthy periods.
To be fair, many seasoned workers have also suffered an erosion in their social skills and confidence since 2020 and many companies will take steps to address this challenge in the coming months. While remote work quickly became the norm at the height of the pandemic, the time has come for executives and managers to put systems and initiatives in place to ensure their workers develop and maintain the social skills that are vital to ongoing success.
Visitors to Disneyland have been singing ‘It’s a small world’ since the 1960s but that notion has never been more pronounced than in 2023. Technologies such as cloud computing and online conferencing mean many companies are no longer restricted to geographical constraints when acquiring talent.
Without the need for staff to be present in a physical office, they can literally hire anyone from anywhere in the world and that is a blessing given studies have found a stunning 75% of firms are having difficulties recruiting talent on the back of a much-discussed global skills shortage7. Expect more businesses in coming months to actively target borderless hiring, particularly in emerging economies. The likes of the Philippines are home to swathes of highly qualified workers across a myriad of industries and, courtesy of a lower cost of living, can result in labor cost savings of up to 70%.
Talk of shortening the traditional work week is nothing new but the concept is gaining momentum on the back of compelling evidence that it increases productivity and boosts staff morale. The governments of Spain, Iceland and the United Arab Emirates have all instituted shorter work weeks for a majority of labourers in recent years, while 38 companies in the US and Canada are participating in a program by non-profit 4 Day Week Global that helps companies reduce their work weeks.
While a four-day work week is understandably appealing for employees, many businesses are increasingly attracted to the concept. Studies have found companies that adopt four-day weeks see 20-40% increases in productivity, while 46% of large business leaders agree the switch will be important for future success8. Along with staff benefits such as greater work-life balance and improved wellbeing, businesses and governments are attracted to advantages such as enhancing staff recruitment and retention, reduced transport costs and carbon footprints, lower running costs (eg: electricity) and a more sustainable environment.
One of the most exciting aspects of guiding a company’s fortunes is that change is constant and nowhere is that more so than workforce management. Between individual aspirations and societal influences, executives and managers face an ongoing battle to nurture an environment that meets the needs and wants of their workers. Studying and embracing workplace trends puts them in a prime position to retain their best people, recruit talented newcomers and ultimately build a more innovative and successful organisation.
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 5 tips for social distancing at work
 What Is Quiet Quitting—and Is It a Real Trend?
 80% of workers who quit in the ‘great resignation’ have regrets, according to a new survey
 2019 Employee Engagement & Loyalty Statistics (accessperks.com)
 The State of Teams 2022 - Work Life by Atlassian
 Is Quiet Quitting Real?
 Borderless Hiring | LinkedIn
 4-Day Work Week Statistics 2023: Trends and The Future Perspectives • GITNUX
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