Observations & Predictions about Workplaces for the Remainder of 2022

March 7, 2022 9:00 am Published by

Since I have the opportunity to work and interact with a lot of different businesses, organizations, and government agencies, people often ask me: “What do you think about the future of work? What is it going to look like? Are remote and hybrid working arrangements here to stay?”

As a result, I thought I would share my observations, beliefs and predictions.

Observation #1: How organizations approach remote / working from home (WFH) and hybrid work will continue to largely be determined by the nature of work to be performed. From the beginning of the pandemic, the type of work to be done is a key factor whether or not remote work is an option. This will continue to be the case. Medical services and long-term care for seniors are two areas where in-person service is obviously required. Within those industries, however, certain roles (accounting, IT, administration) have also been done remotely.

Observation #2: Many businesses continue to use technology and creative options to try to provide acceptable alternatives. Restaurants, retailers and others will continue to use online technology and “pick up” options (to varying degrees across their industries) to try to fill the gaps of losing in-person business. 

Observation #3: Businesses and organizations will continue to utilize WFH and hybrid work schedules (sometimes appropriately, sometimes unwisely). Remote and hybrid work is here to stay for the foreseeable future. But there will be downline consequences (see below) for those who do not utilize these options wisely.

Important External Factors to Consider

*Higher Gas Prices. The Russia / Ukraine conflict has expanded to the point that global energy resources will be impacted significantly, the price of gasoline will continue to rise, probably dramatically. Consumers can see and feel the impact immediately — with the cost of filling up a vehicle almost double from just a short while ago. This added cost to employees will become a significant factor in discussions regarding working from home and/or having a hybrid work schedule. Employees are going to need a better reason than “because we want you to be in the office” to commute every day and pay huge amounts to do so.

*The Unpredictability of COVID-19 and Changing Rules & Regulations. While we are currently in a lull with regards to the spread of COVID-19, a new subvariant of the omicron strain has been identified. No consensus exists across the country, or even within communities, on what appropriate guidelines are for public health protection. Federal, state, and local governments, as well as voices from various medical experts and agencies, school districts, and airlines – all continue to send conflicting messages. The result? A mixture of apathy and anxiety, confusion and a lack of clear direction. This lack of clarity will continue to impact business and organizational policies regarding remote, hybrid, and onsite work.

*The Continued Chaos around Schools, Daycares and Colleges. Unfortunately, the confusion in our society generally filters down in an even more intense way to our children and youth (which obviously directly impacts parents). No one (even the educational leaders and administrators themselves) can predict with any accuracy how our childcare and educational institutions will respond to ongoing COVID-related challenges – with one exception: Inconsistent policies and practices will be the norm (across geography, across organizations, and over time).

Prediction #1: The social / behavioral issues around COVID and public health decisions will not go away anytime soon.

Prediction #2: Options will continue to be created to offer consumers a variety of ways to obtain goods and services. Since a range of beliefs and opinions exist around COVID, people will be searching for options for services and shopping (onsite, onsite with protections, remote) that match their perspective and lifestyle.

Prediction #3: Ongoing tension and conflict will continue (and may increase) in settings where some employees are allowed to WFH, while others are not able to, resulting in ongoing and higher turnover rates for positions of direct service. The challenges for organizational leaders and HR professionals will be significant.A systematic process for communication between management and front-line employees will need to be put in place to address these reality-based challenges.

Prediction #4: The K-12 educational system (and its interface with post-secondary institutions) is headed toward a major crisis and potential melt down as we know it currently. Our public educational system is generally considered too big to fail, with multiple stakeholders who have influence but an apparent lack of care (or the will) to do what is right. As a result, the “system” will continue to roll on – with little heed to the lack of instruction to our students and lack of accountability and support for educational leaders – and we will eventually find that students aren’t able to read or do basic math, and that their base knowledge and interpersonal skills are not sufficient for them to successfully handle college coursework or fulfill the requisites expected by employers.

Predication #5: Unless employers who lean heavily into using remote and hybrid workers pay attention to the need for connectedness and healthy workplace cultures, they will pay a heavy price in ongoing high turnover rates, an inability to acquire new team members, have lower productivity, see increased conflict and mistakes, and experience low morale. The pandemic has forced employers to admit that many employees can successfully function well working remotely or with a hybrid schedule. This was an important (and necessary) transition.  However, most organizations do not currently have practices in place to build or maintain a healthy work culture with remote team members, and they clearly have no idea how to successfully onboard new employees into their desired culture.

The reality is that there is a lot in life over which we have no control. And this has grown increasingly evident in the current atmosphere. Fortunately, however, there are steps we can take (individually and organizationally) to mediate some of the challenges we are facing. Most notably, we have the tools and processes to make it possible for organizations to build and maintain healthy work cultures, even with a combination of remote, onsite, and hybrid employees. But leaders and stakeholders need to be innovative and remain vigilant to ensure that both businesses and employees are able to navigate the current climate successfully.

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March 7, 2022 9:00 am

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