2022 Trends: Reimagining Culture for Hybrid Work

January 18, 2022 Sarah Bloznalis

This is the first post deep diving into the 5 trends that will transform workplace culture in 2022 and beyond.

man sitting at home office deskThe uncertainties of the last two years have taught us to expect the unexpected – or rather, not to expect anything at all, because chances are, things will continue to change. When it comes to the future of work, however, there is at least one thing we can bet on in 2022 – hybrid.

The pandemic has shown that in many industries work can be done anywhere without giving up productivity and employee engagement. Plus, a hybrid work model offers the very thing employees are yearning for most: flexibility.

It’s no surprise, then, that Accenture’s 2021 Future of Work Study found 83% of workers prefer a hybrid work model over full-time in the office or full-time remote. And now that workers have gotten a taste for it, it’s likely they won’t settle for less.

Our own research tells a similar story: a fall 2021 survey report of more than 3,500 workers in the U.S., U.K., Ireland, and Canada found 30% of those considering a new job cited “more flexibility” as the primary reason for looking. From the same survey, of all respondents looking for a new job, 65% are working parents seeking ways to better manage family and work.

Based on this information, it seems like hybrid work is a win-win. And it is, so long as there is an authentic culture of connection and humanity to support it. As Workhuman® CHRO Steve Pemberton puts it: “As the majority of organizations continue to operate in a hybrid environment, business leaders will need to continue investing time, resources, and effort in programs that help build and maintain company culture and that help humans stay connected, productive, and engaged.”

Here, we will reimagine culture for the hybrid world, the first of five trends that will shape the human workplace in 2022 and beyond.

Why culture?

Feeling connected to the work you do has always been important, yet even before the pandemic, it was a difficult feeling to come by. For far too long, employees teetering on the edge of burnout have continued working at companies with a toxic workplace culture because they were taught a strong company culture was a “nice-to-have” rather than a necessity.

This work-from-home experiment has disproven that. Never have we been more isolated at work, leading employees to feel tired, burned out, and above all, alone. And no one, from entry-level coordinators to C-suite executives, is immune to these feelings, making it more important than ever to build a more positive culture.

Workhuman research on the impact the pandemic is having on how we work found workers are feeling more anxious (37%), isolated (31%), overwhelmed (28%), and less motivated (24%) since the start of the pandemic. And what’s causing this strain? By an overwhelming margin, 59% of those surveyed cited “less human connection” as the culprit. So, if hybrid really is here to stay, fostering a culture of connection is no longer optional.

Rethinking the “office”

The rise of hybrid work also brought with it the need to reimagine how and where work gets done. Employees do not have to be in the office five days a week to be productive. Working parents may produce their best work outside of the traditional 9-5, once their children are asleep.

Every leadership team will need to unlearn the idea that one-size-fits-all when it comes to how work gets done. As Workhuman co-founder and CEO Eric Mosley puts it, “the key to designing flexible work is separating what needs to be done together from individual work. Companies must dismantle their outdated routines and redesign them to prioritize flexibility, agility, and collaboration.”

Reimagining work also applies to culture. Before the pandemic, company culture was often associated with cold brew coffee and free swag – the perks a company provided. Now that employees have gone some years working from home without many of the office perks disguised as culture, company values are being put to the test. Considering 59% of those surveyed above cited “less human connection” as the cause for burnout, it seems some companies have not been able to maintain a culture of connection in the hybrid work model.

Sustaining culture in hybrid will require some trial and error – after all, we’re all learning as we go – but there are tried and true methods to help along the way. One of those methods, shared purpose, bonds employees together while aligning their work to the company’s values. Because this may be harder to achieve in a hybrid world, leaders must be much more deliberate in communicating how each employee contributes to the overarching mission.

Reinvest in human applications

In general, when economic recessions hit, companies buckle down, cut spending, and wait to make big changes until the market stabilizes. The pandemic, however, has certainly forced organizations to reevaluate their financials, but in a much different way.

Rather than cut back on spending, resilient organizations have – and will continue – to reroute spending into tools and technology that help employees stay connected to and engaged in their work. Digital tools – think Slack, Zoom, Microsoft Teams – that may have been underutilized in the office are now some of the only ways we collaborate in a hybrid setting.

And while these applications have become essential for hybrid work to succeed, they are not the only tools needed for culture to thrive. As Steve sees it: “The investments made into people last year must not be forgotten. Leaders will need to double down on those human investments this year and continue to make employees a priority.”

Here are three additional human investments organizations should consider implementing if they want their corporate culture to withstand hybrid work and whatever else the future brings:

Employee Recognition

Positive work culture is, above all, about belonging. And what better way to promote belonging than by acknowledging and celebrating the outstanding contributions each employee brings to the company? In a hybrid environment, employees may feel like their work isn’t being seen, making recognition an even more vital tool for sustaining culture and employee happiness.

Discover how Workhuman’s Social Recognition can transform your organization’s culture for the hybrid world.

Pulse Surveys

How can people leaders ensure employees feel heard in a hybrid work environment? Consider implementing monthly surveys to gauge the pulse of employees. Are employees getting the support they need? Does your workforce feel safe going back to the office? Pulse surveys, such as Workhuman’s Moodtracker™, can give organizations these insights and more, allowing them to make actionable changes in real-time to enforce a strong workplace culture.

Capitalize on Celebration

The most recent Human Workplace Index found more than 70% of respondents believe they will feel more connected to both their managers and colleagues in 2022 than the past year.

How can business leaders cultivate celebrations in a hybrid world? As suggested in the post mentioned above: “If there’s an in-person town hall event, ask remote workers to connect over Zoom and be sure to regularly include them in the discussion. Planning a happy hour for new hires? Consider expanding the event into two – a lunch hour over Zoom as well as an in-person happy hour event. Employees can choose to attend both or just one – either way, they create opportunities for co-workers to connect.”

Additionally, companies may consider investing in solutions such as Workhuman’s Community Celebrations, a platform used to celebrate the moments that matter most for employees – both professionally and personally.

Next week, we will dive into our second trend for 2022, internal mobility and boomerang employees.

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About the Author

Sarah Bloznalis

Sarah Bloznalis is a content marketing coordinator at Workhuman from Dorchester, Mass. When she's not writing about the future of work you can find her in the library, at the beach, or exploring the city.

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