Workplace trends in 2023
With the rise of the Covid-19 pandemic, businesses around the world were caught out, and had to evolve and improvise to survive. Many didn’t – in fact, many couldn’t – and became casualties of Interesting Times. Those that did had to embrace practices that had only ever been peripheral to mainstream office work before. While, as far as we know at the time of writing, the time of massively fatal Covid is behind us, no business wants to be caught out by the next seismic shift in office culture, so we sat down with Claire Dutton, Senior Manager, UK & Ireland at Poly Hybrid Solutions at HP, to find out what’s likely to happen to workplace culture and office life in 2023.
One of the most obvious workplace trends to come out of the pandemic was the establishment of remote and hybrid working patterns. Is that facing pushback now that the common or garden wisdom is that Covid is “behind us”?
The future is evolving, and hybrid working is definitely here to stay. It’s not going anywhere. People find it far too useful to try and put it away again. For us, work is no longer a place you go to, as such, it’s a thing you do, wherever you do it.
The death of the 9-5
We’ve actually done a lot of work around the evolution of the workplace, and also some further research about recruitment, retention and growth, where we looked at behaviors in the workplace, and at people, spaces and technology. Those are three really key things that we need to focus on. As we move into 2023, people are not returning to the office in the way that I think we thought they would after COVID went away.
People like the work-life balance that they’ve got, they can do all the things that they need to do, and also execute on work as well. So, realistically, the culture has changed the workplace, the work styles have really changed, and the 9-5 is gone.
Will you tell Dolly Parton, or should we?
Ha. The thing is, the office should be a magnet, not a mandate. But businesses own or rent office real estate, and they want to utilize that real estate, so they want to make sure they’re actually bringing people back into the office. But if you’re going to do that, then what you need to do is actually utilize your spaces a little differently.
Our report on recruitment, retention and growth in the workplace found a lack of work strategies in place in lots of businesses. And if you don’t have them in place, your business is going to be at risk. It’s about talent, retention, and also recruitment, especially after what they called the Great Resignation last year.
But we don’t think that people are just jumping ship, we think they’re finding better opportunities elsewhere – like the opportunity to work in a hybrid environment. And if companies aren’t offering that, then they put themselves in the back of the line from a talent acquisition and retention perspective.
But 58% of organizations are actually seeing a higher turnover in staff since the pandemic. Next year, we’ll see that really settle down. Nearly 20% of employees are actually asking staff to return to the office, but again, you’ve got to give them a reason to want to go back. People like to collaborate in the workplace, we see that as a really big trend for 2023. 70% of organizations are actually redesigning their office spaces to include more open plan environments, where pre-pandemic, there was more focus on areas where people would focus and work individually.
Post-pandemic, people are looking at those office spaces and redesigning them so that actually connecting is the bigger part of the office space, while if you want to focus and work solo, you typically stay at home, and if you come in, that focused space is a much smaller part of the office space.
So, the 9-5 is dead, hybrid working is the future, and any attempt to get people back into the office involves a significant redesign as we head into a cost-of-business crisis. That’s quite the opening statement. Anything else we’re going to see changing in 2023?
How about a shift to a 4-day week?
That’ll do nicely.
The idea of a 4-day week is an outgrowth of the pandemic and the hybrid working model, but it doesn’t just appear out of nowhere and work well. When you offer a 4-day week, you’ve got to have some good structures in place around how you’re going to manage people.
You have to balance the benefits of hybrid working and 4-day weeks to deliver flexibility and personal freedom with the ability to ensure your staff are still executing on the work that they’re meant to be doing. Empowerment needs to come with productivity, otherwise it’s not going to work for either the business or the staff. But one of the other things people struggle with in a hybrid work, non-9-5, 4-day week environment is employee burnout, because what you typically find is that people feel like they always have to be “on.”
So while employees offer this, you’ve then got to step up as a leader, and ensure that your company culture makes sure that employees don’t actually have that burnout. So you’ve got to really mandate what they should be doing in those environments.
Bring the tech
Technology is a really big part of it, because you have to really drive that meeting equity, and meeting equality. Employees need to provide their staff with the right tools, allowing them to work effectively anywhere, regardless of their location.
What does an effective hybrid strategy look like, as opposed to what most companies may be doing?
You have to mandate what the expectation level is for your employees. So an effective hybrid strategy has the right culture to begin with, driven from the top down. So I think everyone has to buy in. You need to ensure, when you’re defining what your hybrid cloud strategy looks like, that you involve HR, to make sure that staff are doing the right thing. You also need to bring in IT, who are providing the technology to enable people working in that hybrid environment. And then you need to involve facilities, so you have knowledge and control over what your office space looks like, and that it meets your new needs.
You need to offer a selection of different spaces where people can collaborate and communicate effectively, but also work in a place where they can focus at the same time. And when you start to look at bringing people back into an office, you’ve got to give them the ability to work as a team.
What we’re finding is that if you’re mandated back into an office without those hybrid strategies firmly in place, you could potentially turn up by yourself, only to find your team members and your manager aren’t there.
Strategize for success
But when you put those hybrid strategies in place, you need to think it through down the levels of your office – you need to enable booking systems within teams and environments, for instance. And again, it’s about culture. Culture is really key in a hybrid environment.
And the strategy has to be organization-wide, right? Cross-departmental and collaborative, because otherwise it’s going to fall apart at some crucial point in the process.
Very much so. You have to get your bricks, bytes and behaviors in order, because ultimately, it’s not just about the technology. It’s not just about the culture. And it’s not just about the actual facilities either – it’s all three of them working together, it’s stakeholders across the environment, that are going to help drive this forward.
In Part 2 of this article, we’ll explore the potential of a 4-day week with no loss of pay, and go deeper into the office as we’ll come to understand it during the course of 2023.
30 November 2023
29 November 2023
28 November 2023