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Top trends for the 2023 workplace

Top trends for the 2023 workplace

In 2023 the focus will be on getting hybrid work right, as well as employees’ wellbeing.

It’s not just doomsayers who feel negative about the prospects for 2023. Global strategy consultancies do too.

“The world’s in a ‘permacrisis’, but we’ll adapt,” says Accenture in its Life Trends 2023 report. “The world is lurching from one global catastrophe to the next. But, as they have for millennia, people are adapting to instability by switching between four responses: fight, flight, focus and freeze.

Fight: people will increasingly raise their voices against injustices. Flight: people will look for alternative options. Focus: people will cope by focusing on what they can control. Freeze: people will switch off entirely.”

Confronted with ever more “new normals” to adjust to, employers and individuals are having to become more resourceful to do more than just survive. With the stresses in SA, mental health and wellbeing are at the forefront. Against this backdrop, companies are juggling their employees’ wellness with the bottom line.

The four-day week is being recommended as a solution to burnout, and as 21 SA companies embark on a four-day week trial, this is one of the dominant work trends for the year. According to the 4 Day Week Global report, less work time brings considerable social, economic and climate benefits.

“Social benefits include less stress and burnout for employees, as well as more time for family, community, and self,” the report says. “Economic benefits depend on the form of worktime reduction. Where it is accomplished without loss or even gains in productivity, it is beneficial for companies’ bottom lines. Where it is accompanied by increased hiring, it can reduce unemployment. It can also reduce costs in periods of tight labour markets or situations where employees are experiencing high levels of stress and burnout.

“Climate benefits include reduced energy expended in commuting, especially with four-day workweeks; increases in low carbon but time-intensive practices for households; and reduced carbon emissions as a consequence of trading income for time.”

Some reservations

Almost 97% of employees who participated in a survey in Europe and the UK said they were wanted the trial to continue, and nine out of 10 employers. However, some employers expressed some reservations.

In a podcast with BusinessLIVE, Michelle Austin, financial director of Keegor Group SA, pointed out that SA consumers were used to convenience and may not accept shorter opening hours if these became necessary, and that companies may need extra sales/profits to offset losses.

A four-day week may not suit all sectors and types of worker, she said, and whereas office-bound staff employees may slot in easily, emergency workers, police and hospital workers may not. She was concerned that as some salaried workers benefited from the move, it may leave wage earners behind, widening existing inequalities.

But some SA employers are willing to enter this brave new era. According to Nicola Paine, communications director for 4 Day Week SA, the 21 companies that have signed up to participate in the pioneer pilot, co-ordinated by 4 Day Week Global in partnership with Boston College, include IQbusiness, The Digital Media Collective, KLA, Big Beard Web Solutions, Semco Style Institute, Valuesmart Business Solutions, 3Verse advertising agency, Social Impact Insights, EntruTech, Intigrate Business Solutions and Nkwali Compliance Consultants.

Forbes also places concerns about human health first in their analysis of the 2023 workplace. Here are their top 10 trends and my take on them:

1 Employee wellbeing is a human imperative. 

“Workplace stress is on the rise and companies are creating workplaces to be engines of wellbeing. Experiencing stress at work affects the individual worker and the worker’s relationships with friends, family, and co-workers. The recent surgeon-general report on mental health and wellbeing reports 81% of workers say they will be looking for workplaces that support mental health in the future,” says Forbes.

These interventions can include employee wellness programmes, access to counselling sessions, ensuring healthy food is available and assistance with personal finance.

2 Skills-based hiring is on the rise as companies recruit for potential rather than degrees. 

Research shows skills-based hiring is up 63% in the US in the past year as more employers value experience over academic qualifications. It broadens the talent pool, increases the speed to hire, and adds greater diversity of thought in the workforce.

3 The future of work is flexibility for all employees, including: 

The ability to choose one’s work schedule, working remotely or working longer hours for fewer days a week. More knowledge workers and front-line workers select flexibility in when work gets done over flexibility in where work happens, says Forbes.

4 Hybrid learning will force companies to reinvent their brick-and-mortar corporate academies. 

The expectation that online and hybrid learning would be a temporary accommodation has evolved to companies questioning the role and purpose of a brick-and-mortar corporate academy. Vincent Maurin, e-Academy lead at ArcelorMittal, says they are envisioning pop-up campuses, ranging from using streaming technology to multiple locations, to a creating a live studio experience.

5 ESG reporting will expand beyond compliance to attract talent. 

The importance of environmental, social, and governance reporting is increasing due to new regulatory requirements and pressure from investors, boards, employees and consumers.

6 Human skills are the new hard skills for the future of work. 

The Pearson’s Skills Outlook report on power skills found that, while technical skills remain highly valued, the top five most sought-after skills that employers are seeking are all human: communication; customer service; leadership; attention to detail; and collaboration.

7 Hybrid working is here to stay. 

McKinsey predicts nine out of 10 organisations will be combining remote and on-site working in the coming years. A survey conducted by ZipRecruiter finds job seekers said they would take a 14% pay cut to work remotely.

8 The future of the office will be to bring the off-site vibe on-site. 

As companies and employees grow accustomed to hybrid and remote work, the large, prestigious corporate office is being forced to redesign. Workers continue to demand flexible work arrangements, while employers believe physical presence is still needed. Research from Microsoft shows interactions with employees’ immediate teams and close networks strengthened during remote work, but the interactions with secondary networks are shrinking. This is leading to missing moments of innovation and companies need to provide employees with a reason to return to the office.

9 Humans and bots create a new blended workforce. 

The increased use of automation has changed the definition of a blended workforce, while research highlights a changing composition of the workforce to include less reliance on full-time employees, and an increase in part-time workers and gig workers.

10 HR burnout is a crisis that needs to be addressed. 

HR teams have been on the front line of huge changes. Research finds 42% of HR teams struggling with burnout, with a higher rate of burnout than sales, IT and engineering.

Burnout remains a concern for all staff, a problem proponents of the four-day week are convinced they can solve. The report by 4 Day Week Global says that during the trial, “stress, burnout, fatigue, work-family conflict all declined, while physical and mental health, positive affect, work-family and work-life balance, and satisfaction across multiple domains of life increased. Employees used their day off for hobbies, household work and personal grooming.”

As health and wellness website MindBody Green (MBG) predicts, “more community-based beauty and wellness spaces will arise to fulfil our growing needs for offline connection”.

In addition, inactivity will become a vital health metric. “In 2023, we'll care less about hitting 10,000 steps than we do about minimising time sitting still. Expect people to prioritise regular movement — even while seated — during their everyday lives in the new year.”

Article originally published by Business Live
https://www.businesslive.co.za/bd/life/2023-01-16-top-trends-for-the-2023-workplace/

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