Gena’s workplace predictions for 2022 and beyond

When the pandemic began, I had the luck to be in a job in which we measured employee opinions across industries across the globe. I will never forget the date, March 13, 2020, because, on that date, the federal government declared the COVID-19 pandemic was a national emergency. By the next day, much of the U.S. workforce that regularly worked together in offices moved to work remotely from their homes. The survey revealed very quickly that contrary to leaders’ fears, not only did many employees enjoy working from home, their productivity did not decline; instead, productivity increased! As time passed and the pandemic lessened its grip on the world, some leaders insisted that their remote employees return to the office. There was just one snag; many employees, especially women, and employees from minoritized groups, did not want to return. So, as this debate continues, I have reached some conclusions, based on my conversations with clients and their employees, about how I think the return-to-work issue will play out over the next two years (between now and March 2024). I am sharing these responses in the Q&A format because these are the questions that reporters have asked me over the last couple of months

Will companies have to make concessions to employees?

Yes, and they are already doing so. Employers who once had no remote work options are doing so to retain talent. Employers are increasing pay rates, ditching annual performance reviews (which employees have long distrusted), and changing promotion requirements to ensure employees feel they have real opportunities. The recruiting process is changing, too – candidates expect more transparency at all points. They want the selection criteria, compensation, career growth potential, and managerial capability to be spelled out upfront. And candidates respond negatively to companies that don’t offer feedback or at least complete the communication cycle rather than ghosting candidates.

Is a hybrid workplace likely to become the norm?

Yes. And this change will be driven by mothers and caregivers who will never forget how dramatically their lives changed because of the COVID pandemic. When you become a homeschool teacher and healthcare provider, on top of parenting, you realize that flexibility is essential; it’s not an option. Anything else is cruel, inhumane, and tone-deaf. Likewise, employees want hybrid flexibility because it allows them to get the job done while caring for their other human obligations.

Will things at work ultimately get back to pre-pandemic normal?

Nope. Employees are speaking out more than ever, and their opinions have changed the work world. Now that employees understand their power, they use their voices to redefine the workplace forever. As a result, remote work and flexible work schedules will become the norm. And employers will revisit their benefits packages to provide the support employees (especially parents and caregivers) need to be able to work.

Now, only time will tell how these predictions pan out!