Analyzing the most essential future-focused workplace trends

Communicators continue to rise and ascend to new levels of internal influence. Here, the areas you can prioritize to keep that momentum trending upward.

2022 workplace trends

No one knows for sure which workplace trends will stick or fade into irrelevance.

Yet, there’s a slew of clues as to which disciplines, tactics and business concerns are here to stay. But which ones are worth your time? What niches deserve more of your energy?

You can’t expect to become an expert in every aspect of the job. You can, however, certainly choose wisely by aligning with timely, top business objectives.

Key trends for comms pros to bone up on

Before we dive into these future-minded trends, it’s worth noting that even though everything’s changed, the core tenants of clear, concise and consistent communication remain the same. If anything, the written word has increased in importance—and will continue to do so. So don’t neglect your first love nor feel compelled to reinvent yourself in some grandiose manner.

Sure, learn new tricks. Get comfortable with cybersecurity basics and blockchain technology. Learn how to edit video and prepare as best you can for whatever  the metaverse may bring. All of these things are coming and will, inevitably, get dumped onto your plate in some capacity.

Just remember that emotion-packed storytelling never goes out of style.

OK, sermon over. As compiled by Harvard Business Review (HBR), these are the issues that will be rocking everyone’s messaging boat for the duration of 2022:

Fairness and equity will be the defining issues for organizations.

The notion of workplace “fairness” is spilling into new territory and raising new questions. The HBR piece suggests considering:

  • Who has access to flexible work?
  • What happens when employees move to locations with a lower cost of living? Should employers lower their compensation even though the impact of their work hasn’t changed?
  • Is it fair to pay new employees so much more than established employees?
  • Is it fair to give perks and benefits to certain employee groups (such as parents or caregivers) and not others?

The pressure is on company leaders—and certainly communicators—to hammer home messaging that demonstrates “fairness” in a world that’s deeply unfair.

A significant number of employers will not adopt a vaccine mandate, instead relying on testing to keep their workplaces safe.

Now that the Supreme Court swatted down the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate, many companies appear to be adopting policies that amount to “let’s just test and hope for the best.”

Comms pros will be left to fill the messaging gap on company vaccination policies.

To compete in the war for knowledge worker talent, some companies will shorten the work week rather than increase pay.

All hail, the year of the four-day workweek.

Company leaders are increasingly realizing that upping salaries and perks will accomplish only so much. What people really want is time. Freedom, autonomy and fewer working hours.

And three-day weekends forever and ever.

Employee turnover will continue to increase as hybrid and remote work become the norm for knowledge workers.

Our grand game of musical career chairs is far from over, apparently. As workers gain more leverage and seek their ideal working environment, experts anticipate quit rates to continue soaring at record levels. With no clear end in sight.

Expect more turnover turbulence in 2022—and ensure your onboarding experience is streamlined accordingly.

Managerial tasks will be automated away, creating space for managers to build more human relationships with their employees.

HBR writes:

“With this growth in automation, companies will be faced with a choice: decrease the number of managers or change the expectations of what it means to be a manager.”

Great managers are every company’s secret weapon, and yet they are so often undertrained and completely misused. Companies that are keen to succeed should consider retraining managers to become the empathetic, employee-empowering change champions they should be.

The tools that we use to work remotely will become the tools that help measure and improve performance.

HBR offers this example:

“Collaboration technology can also nudge employees to behave in different ways that improve the overall set of interactions across employees. For example, it can nudge managers to call on people who have not been as active in the meeting compared to other people. These nudges will cause participants to adjust the types of interactions they have to improve the quality of the meeting.”

The complexity of managing a hybrid workforce will drive some employers to require a return to the office.

Good luck spinning this messaging in a positive light!

You might lose half your workforce if you call everyone back into the office.

Wellness will become the newest metric that companies use to understand their employees.

But what does that entail, exactly?

The piece says, “In 2022, organizations will adopt new employee well-being measures that capture the financial health, mental health, and physical health of their employees to more accurately predict employee performance and retention.”

What those measures are—and how well they’re received or adopted—remains to be seen.

Thechief purpose officer’ will be the next major C-level role.

That may be the case for large corporations. For smaller and mid-size companies, communicators have a great opportunity to claim more ESG and CSR territory moving forward.

DE&I outcomes will worsen in a hybrid world without intervention.

After two years’ worth of promises to “do better” regarding equity and inclusion efforts, HBR predicts a decline in meaningful progress. It writes:

“Data also shows that in a hybrid world, women and people of color prefer to work from home compared to white men. Given that, without intervention, gender wage gaps will widen and the degree of diversity within leadership benches will weaken. Without greater intentionality, underrepresented talent could be excluded from critical conversations, career opportunities and other networks that drive career growth.”

That qualifier, “without intervention,” is the key term here. Comms pros should be ready and willing to continue forcing their company’s hand to actively “intervene” on behalf of its staffers of color, lest we drift back toward the old status quo.

Over to you, communicators. Which trends do you think will rise and occupy more of your time, and which will fade in importance?

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