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The next big things in the workplace

Over the last couple of years, it’s fair to say organisations have had to deal with the unknown, making them change and adapt to new ways of working. For many organisations, this included shifting to staff working remotely full-time, determining how best to support employees’ wellbeing, managing a hybrid workforce, and now addressing concerns around Covid-19.

Here are a few new trends we’re noticing in the workplace:

1. Employers will shift from managing the employee experience to managing the life experience of their employees. The pandemic has given management and leaders increased visibility into the personal lives of their employees, who have faced unprecedented personal and professional struggles over the last year.

According to Gartner’s 2020 Reimagine HR Employee Survey, employers that support employees with their life experience see a 23% increase in the number of employees reporting better mental health. There is also a real benefit to employers, who see a 21% increase in the number of high performers compared to organisations that don’t provide the same degree of support to their employees.

That’s why employer support for mental health, financial health, and even things that were previously seen as out of bounds, like sleep, will become the standard benefits offered to employees.

2. More companies will adopt stances on current societal and political debates. Even prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, we have seen the growing desire for employees to work for organisations whose values align with their own. Management and leaders will have to respond in order to retain and attract the best talent.

However, making statements about the issues of the day is no longer enough: employees expect more. Management who have spent real resources on these issues have been rewarded with more highly engaged employees.

3. Flexibility will shift from location to time. While enabling employees to work remotely became commonplace across 2020 and 2021, the next wave of flexibility will be around when employees are expected to work.

Organisations that offer employees flexibility over when, where and how much they work, see 55% of their workforce as high performers. Employees will be seeking organisations where their output is measured rather than a set of hours that are agreed upon.

4. Mental health support is the new normal. Organisations have HR leaders and teams to support their employees, however, the role of HR is changing. Brian Kropp, Group Vice President and Chief of Research in the HR practice at Gartner says, “our bigger job is to understand the challenges our employees face, what they are struggling with inside and outside of work.”

Even before the pandemic, Gartner research revealed that 45% of wellbeing budget increases were being allocated to mental and emotional wellbeing programs. The Covid-19 pandemic has brought well-being to the forefront as employers are more aware than ever of the impact of mental health on employees and by association, the workplace.

Employers will go even further by working to de-stigmatise mental health. They will do this by expanding mental health benefits to create more holistic and supportive packages for their employees. This can be offering their staff access to digital wellbeing products or “Shut-down Days” where the business shuts down for a day to collectively focus on wellbeing.

5. Constant upskilling and digital dexterity will outweigh tenure and experience. By 2028, the most high-value work will be cognitive in nature. “The demand for digital skills has grown by 60% over the past several years. In today’s digital economy, the demand for new ideas, new information and new business models that continually expand, combine and shift into new ventures and new businesses will increase,” says De’Onn Griffin, Senior Director Analyst at Gartner. “Employees must consistently refresh their digital dexterity to meet these needs.”

For HR leaders, they will have to establish and promote a continuous learning environment, meaning knowledge acquisition and transparency across the organisation must become a part of the day-to-day operations. By experimenting with non-traditional programs such as boot camps, consumerised learning, competitions and hackathons, employees will be able to constantly unlearn and relearn.

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