How to create a thriving future workplace

Workplace experts share five predictions that will shape, transform and fuel the coming corporate revolution.

5 future of work predictions

Everyone wants to know what’s next.

As we continue slogging through the pandemic—and employees continue streaming toward the exits— companies are desperate for clarity on how best to navigate this jarring uncertainty.

Paul McKinlay, Cimpress’ VP of communications & remote working, and Evan Graner, VP of employee experience for Edelman, shared a wealth of wisdom at Ragan’s Oct. 13 Internal Communications & Culture Next Practices Conference. Here’s slice of what they shared:

Harnessing the power of listening

Comms pros face a dizzying set of challenges right now. How do you prioritize what’s most important?

Though we’re all “building the plane as we’re flying it,” as Graner puts it, communicators must prioritize supporting colleagues in meaningful ways. And ensuring leaders are listening intently to their feedback.

For some, that might include walking back hastily made decisions or sending impromptu videos to allay staffers’ concerns. For McKinlay, whose company committed to “permanent remote work” early in the pandemic, that’s meant sending out consistent surveys to gather shifting sentiment on what’s working and what needs tweaking. He says that the early decision on remote work was a “gift of certainty” to its staffers at a time of desperate need, but that every policy should be subject to change based or employee preference and popular opinion.

He offers a reminder that “The Great Resignation” shows no signs of slowing, and that companies failing to heed worker sentiments can expect an exodus. The trick is to make flexible work a competitive advantage and powerful asset of your culture.

Graner, who advises clients on behalf of Edelman, offers reassurance that no one has this notion of a future workplace “figured out.” And that’s OK. All this upheaval is an opportune time for communicators to propose and adopt change—for good. Once again, that begins and ends with treating employees well.

Graner points to recent Edelman research that confirms employees should be viewed as “royalty.” In fact, employees are now viewed by the general public as the most important determinants of a company’s future success (even more so than customers, market share, talented execs or anything else).

Predictions for the future of work 

Alas, the days of iron-fisted, command-and-control workplace warfare is ending. But what’s next? Graner and McKinlay offer five future-of-work predictions:

1. We’re moving to a four-day workweek.

“If you want to address burnout, we have to give people the space to live their lives,” McKinlay says, noting that we could be a generation away, but we’re inexorably moving toward some variation of a four-day workweek. 

2. It’s time to move beyond wishy-washy wellness.

McKinlay believes smart companies must go beyond well-being band-aids, such as relying on apps and tech, and move toward more substantive cures for loneliness, burnout and exhaustion. Companies must create a more humane workday and empowering employee experience.

3. Leadership will gain new perspectives on productivity.

This current bump in productivity is unsustainable, Graner says, noting that the world and people have finite resources. Moving forward, we should, “Think of how to produce better, not more.”

AI and tech can help by automating and streamlining mundane tasks, but companies must create more efficient, sustainable models of success. This could mean revisiting and revising historic success metrics—or flipping the script on how your top brass interprets productivity. 

4. There will be massive growth of asynchronous work and an increase of collaboration.

Successful companies will let employees work from where they do that best 100% of the time.

But won’t all that freedom kill collaboration? Both speakers concurred that remote work should, in the long-term, improve internal cooperation, problem-solving and teamwork by empowering workers with the trust to complete work by their preferred means. However, companies must be intentional and proactive in finding ways to spark meaningful methods of close collaborating and connectivity.

 5. We must close the perception gap between execs and frontline workers.

There’s a yawning disconnect between execs and workers. To close this gap, leaders must listen more—and listen more deeply.

These days, employees want to be involved in decision making. Employee expectations are rising, and they’re more than willing to change jobs than ever before. This dynamic offers a great opportunity for communicators to act as a mediator between frontline workers and top-tier execs, while also serving as a liaison, ambassador and advocate. You might get to wear new hats, also. As McKinlay notes, now’s the time to “pilot new things” and try new ideas. You never know what might make your company soar in our post-pandemic environment.

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