Workplaces in 2023 will be more diverse, distributed and virtual than ever before. Corporations and even smaller organizations will learn to adapt in order to cater for shifting employee expectations in the wake of the post-pandemic “new normal”, and behavioral trends such as the great resignation or the even-more-recent quiet quitting movement.
As younger generations join the workforce and the middle generations begin to move up into senior positions, they will bring new values with them. Observational experience seems to suggest that this will result in workplace cultures that are more accepting of diversity and tolerant of individuals’ expectations of flexibility in their working lives. At the same time, new technologies seem set to usher in changes to the way workers are surveilled and monitored as they go about their daily activities, either remotely or in centralized workplace environments. Managing this balance between expectations of flexibility and a need for accountability will be a key challenge that employers and managers will face in the coming 12 months.
The result will undoubtedly be workplaces and working cultures that are very different to those that older generations – perhaps those who are now looking towards retirement – were employed into. These changes won’t happen overnight but in the next year we’re likely to see further progress in this direction. So, here’s a look at some of the prevailing trends in 2023:
Remote and Hybrid Working
Far from just being a hangover from the times of lockdowns and the pandemic, research and statistics are showing that home, remote and hybrid working arrangements are set to become standard – at least for knowledge workers. During 2022, according to McKinsey and Ipsos, 58 percent of Americans had the opportunity to work from home at least one day a week, while 38 percent were not generally required to be in the office at all.
Although it’s still relatively early days when it comes to assessing the societal impact of such a huge change, initial reports suggest that this flexibility leads to increased worker happiness as well as higher productivity.
However, there are also challenges, and in 2023 we will see companies beginning to get to grips with the security ramifications of widely distributed workforces connecting to corporate networks through a variety of devices and protocols.
Working away from the office can also lead to employees feeling less connected to their colleagues, and finding it difficult to develop and engage with company cultures. In response to this, companies will have to ensure that remote and hybrid working practices are implemented in ways that ensure the needs of the business and the employee are both met. From an employee point of view, workers may increasingly find themselves needing to balance the savings they make by cutting out their daily commute with the increased energy costs incurred by spending more time at home.
With workforces more likely to be geographically distributed, another challenge for businesses in 2023 will be developing processes for monitoring employee output and standards, without infringing on privacy or personal freedoms.
Employee tracking software is a fast-growing market. Crucially, rather than simply ensuring workers are not slacking off, it should be used to ensure they are following healthy practices like taking breaks and regularly getting up to move around.
The growth in the use of this sort of software – along with IoT devices that monitor and track employee movements and activities – has prompted alarm, from some parties, such as the UK TUC. The trade union body has said in 2022 that the use of workplace surveillance is “spiraling out of control” and that regulation is needed to protect workers. One court in the Netherlands recently found that requiring workers to keep cameras on while working from home could violate their human rights.
Nevertheless, with more staff working out of the office, businesses are likely to continue to invest in technology designed to track and monitor their activity in 2023. Organizations that get it right will be those that ensure it is implemented in a fair way, with a focus on assessing quality of employee output rather than quantity of input.
Collaborative online working tools meet the metaverse
Whether working remotely or in centralized offices, the impact of the metaverse is likely to be felt in a growing number of organizations throughout 2023. In enterprise settings, this will take the form of increasingly immersive collaborative working environments. Meta (formerly Facebook) is famously betting big on its Horizon platform, which includes a working environment known as Horizon Workrooms. Nvidia is also promoting its Omniverse collaborative working tool as a metaverse platform. And Microsoft’s Mesh platform adds avatars and mixed reality capabilities to its Microsoft Teams collaborative working environment, to give users a taste of metaverse-like functionality. Meanwhile, video conferencing platform Zoom, which enjoyed stratospheric user growth during the lockdown period of the pandemic, is rolling out persistent functionality such as meeting rooms and whiteboards in order to make the leap from providing a simple communication tool to a full, metaverse-like collaborative working platform.
Whether or not we are ready to start wearing virtual reality headsets in order to work collaboratively and take part in more immersive and engaging virtual meetings, training sessions and sales pitches remains to be seen. But aspects of the metaverse experience – such as avatars and persistent, multi-purpose environments are likely to play an increasingly prominent role in our working lives during 2023.
Flexible Hours / Four-day working
Along with the daily commute, 2023 could be the year that we wave goodbye to another long-standing convention – the five-day working week. Four-day week trials have taken place in many countries in recent years, including England, Belgium, Sweden and Iceland, and 2023 will see projects starting in the US, Scotland, Ireland, Canada and New Zealand.
In the UK, 86 percent of companies taking part in the trial said they are extremely likely or likely to consider adopting a permanent four-day week policy. Employees taking part are expected to maintain the same workload as they did while working five days, in return for the same salary. The total amount of time spent working is reduced by cutting non-productive activities from the working day, as agreed between the employee and their supervisors.
Reducing the overall number of hours worked is an exciting experiment with potentially positive implications for mental and physical health. Although it’s unlikely to become mandatory, workers will increasingly look for opportunities with companies that offer flexibility as an incentive, meaning those companies that do will have first pick of the best recruits. Additionally, in 2023 we are likely to see more companies adopting provisions for flexible hours, allowing employees to fit parenting responsibilities as well as educational opportunities around their jobs. This will happen as the benefits of rethinking the conventional nine-to-five, Monday-to-Friday approach become increasingly apparent to more bosses and employers.
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