The global workplace has changed significantly during the worldwide disruption of the past two years. As a result, organizations have made permanent changes to the ways they work. Many of these changes required managers and HR leaders to step their involvement up a notch or two. Organizations also came to rely heavily on new technology solutions to support people working from their homes, offices, vacation rentals, or the neighborhood coffee shop.

But what changes can teams and leaders expect in the year ahead?

We recently gathered a group of industry experts to talk about the evolution of the workplace during our webinar, The new workplace: What employees should expect in 2022. Our experts included:

  • Annie Rosencrans, HiBob’s US People and Culture Director
  • Courtney Stratton, Customer and Employee Experience at Donut, an employee connection app 
  • Ian Bellaisat, VP of Business Development at Verified First, a candidate screening company

They touched on the future of remote work, the challenges of meaningfully defining company culture, and the ongoing need for flexibility—all of which will be key to attracting and retaining talent in 2022.

How we got here: workplace shifts in 2021

The talent market experienced a significant shift in 2021 and pivoted toward a candidate’s market where companies have to fight for the best talent. 

“That means we’ve had to have a really well-rounded approach to what our value proposition is as an employer,” Annie says, adding that this approach goes way beyond salary. “Employers should really be focusing on making sure they have well-rounded benefit programs and an amazing culture that’s being branded and advertised well.”

Culture, says Courtney, can be a huge hiring advantage, as long as employers can figure out what sets them apart and find a way to create a sense of belonging

“Whatever your work setup is going to be—whether that’s an office, remote, or hybrid—how do you create avenues for people to start building a sense of [buy-in to] the work that they’re doing and the company as a whole?” she asks.

Ian says that after two years of work and life being so intertwined, the concept of work-life balance has gone beyond catchphrase status.

“Today it’s a reality,” he says. “I think the newer generation of employees is very clear about what work-life balance looks like, and they want their employer to meet those requirements.”

Remote work is here to stay

Another workplace reality that became clear in 2021 is that remote work is not going anywhere. The flexibility to work from anywhere has tons of benefits–namely being able to hire new talent located anywhere in the world. But going into 2022, it’s vital that leaders are intentional about what remote work means for their people.

First, organizations shouldn’t assume everyone wants to work remotely. As popular as remote work is, many people need to meet face-to-face to forge real human connections. Others need space outside of the home to do their best work. This is why hybrid solutions like our own “Hi-brid” work model will continue to be important.

“You still need onsite solutions where employees can check out a desk and come into work when something’s going on at home,” Ian says. “You’ve got to provide those options—ideally even when those employees aren’t in the same place as your headquarters.”

Beyond desks and workstations, there’s also the question of how best to lead remote or hybrid teams. 

“There’s going to be a lot more focus in the coming year on arming managers with the skills to be able to manage remote staff more effectively,” Annie says. “We were thrown into the deep end over the last two years and just assumed that everyone knows how to do it when in reality, most people are making it up.”

Annie adds that she hopes to see HR teams investing more time into teaching managers how to coach their remote teams and ensure accountability without micromanaging.

“If you’re remote, you have to trust each other more—it’s a requirement,” Ian says. “You’re going to get so much more out of your employees if you trust them to make decisions and do the things that they think they need to do to succeed. All we need to do is give them the right tools.”

Company culture in the time of COVID

With the ever-changing face of the COVID-19 pandemic, company culture—like so many other elements of the workplace—is in flux.

“We’re trying to attract talent, retain talent, and also define what does our culture look like now that X percent of our company works in different locations,” Courtney explains. “Being intentional about culture is more necessary now than it has ever been.”

Part of strengthening culture comes from creating connections between people without the convenience of watercooler chats and in-person happy hours. Social interactions like these are especially important for new hires who may never have met their colleagues face-to-face.

Courtney says that people are really interested in companies that care about the whole person and are willing to have open conversations about how work impacts personal life and mental health. 

Ian adds, “We’ve gone from an environment where change is constant to now, where change is constant and happening super fast. … Rapid change can cause things like depression, uncertainty, and worry, and companies have to address that head-on.”

Candidates also want to see companies that are invested in the growth of their people.“People want to know that in the interview process,” Courtney says. “They want to know, How is this job going to help me long-term in my career? How is this company going to prepare me for more than just what I’m doing right now?

Flexibility is key

Workplaces need to figure out new ways to be flexible in 2022, and that’s true for every part of the employee experience.

Offering employee benefits that reflect the unique makeup of a company’s staff is an excellent example. Annie says she has seen some great benefits being offered—like swapping out a 401(k) match for loan reimbursement, or family planning and fertility benefits—but that it’s most important to figure out what matters most to your people.

“You need to survey them and ask them what they care about,” she says. “Those are the kinds of things that are going to attract people, and ultimately will help retain them as well.”

Flexibility may also look like finding different ways for teams to work or meet when the all-day Zoom routine becomes a slog.

“It can be very exhausting looking at a camera all day,” Courtney says, “so we try to incorporate ways to fit what different people need, whether that’s some meetings where you don’t have to have cameras on, or opportunities to work asynchronously.” 

One solution her team used is the “walk and talk,” where they chat via video call while taking a neighborhood walk. This enabled her to get to know co-workers in a new way by learning some things about where they live.

Ian encourages companies to think creatively about remote work, even in traditionally inflexible or highly regulated industries like fintech. 

“One of the things you’re supposed to do with work-at-home employees is talk to them about the space they work in,” he says, adding that considering elements like privacy can be crucial to comply with regulations, as well as to foster productivity.

“What COVID has done is show us that there are other solutions and other ways of doing work,” Annie says. “We need to come up with some creative solutions to make it work for our business or our industry. But there’s always a solution. And if your company or your industry is inflexible, you’re going to lose out on great talent.”

This article is based on the panel discussion “The new workplace: What employees should expect in 2022.” Watch the full webinar to hear three industry experts discuss how HR leaders can create strategies to support their people in 2022.

Shelby Blitz

From Shelby Blitz

Shelby is the Director of Content at HiBob. She's passionate about the written word and storytelling. In a past life, she was a music journalist. When she's not writing and editing you can find her baking sweet treats in the kitchen.