In 2022, COVID-19 will continue to affect the world of work, including how people prefer to work and the kind of organisation they want to work for. Moreover, staff will continue to feel the mental health effects of living and working through a pandemic, and firms need to step up and support them.
Conversations are also set to get deeper about diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) as knowledge and understanding grow, while events such as Brexit and the pandemic shouldn’t distract organisations from sustainability goals.
1. Diversity, equity and inclusion – going beyond policy and training
Hockley says: “Attitudes to DEI is a problem often in the home or nurtured through social settings, which then leaks into all aspects of life. Tackling this as a workplace issue is very important, but alone will not achieve significant results. A joined-up approach across all spectrums of life and multiple generations will be required to make substantial results.
“Recent events indicate progress is going backwards rather than forwards. But, just maybe, it could also imply the progress being made. The voice for change is getting stronger. Which could suggest people now have more confidence to speak up because they believe more people are listening.
“Much focus remains on what you should and should not say. Terminology that is acceptable to use today might not be tomorrow because of subjective meaning. People get confused about which words can and cannot be used. And this distracts from tackling the underlying problems. It is not what words are said, but the intended meaning. We must positively influence how people think or feel, and to do this, we will often need to change deep-seated views that have been cemented at an early age and nurtured ever since. Changing viewpoints is a big challenge and not one that training alone will address.
“Organisations will need sophisticated tools and resources that go far beyond policy and training; these tools will support organisations to develop the appropriate values and culture by promoting a clear vision of an inclusive workplace that values and embraces diversity. Easy right? Far from it. But expect to see lots of innovation coming through in this area.
2. Mental health and wellbeing – the ongoing pandemic
“2022 will be more challenging than 2021 for mental health and wellbeing. We often see a delayed response to stressful situations, e.g. PTSD, combined with further change and uncertainty, will see more people than ever suffer. Then the added impact of skills gaps, where fewer employees will need to do more, resulting in a very vulnerable position.
“Organisations need to do more than ever to help their employees through these difficult times through effective management and providing support mechanisms. Investing in employee mental health and wellbeing will be crucial, not just for organisations and team management, but for talent attraction and retention.
3. The war on talent and flexibility
“In 2022, we’ll continue to see a battle for talent. COVID-19 and Brexit have created a perfect storm with masses of skilled and non-skilled non-UK nationals leaving the UK. Organisations who still don’t recognise the need for rapid change to support remote and hybrid working will see significant skills gaps.
“Expect a war on talent. The need to value and develop your people has never been more crucial. One of the reasons for the Great Resignation was when employees were forced to return to the office when they were perfectly capable of doing their roles from home. These employees who prefer that flexibility will be the ones who will leave your teams.
“Not providing flexibility or allowing employees to enjoy more work-life balance is history. Organisations that put people first will win in the war of talent. Treating employees with the respect they deserve and empowering them to thrive in the environment that suits them best will be pivotal to securing and retaining the best talent.
4. Work styles in 2022 – hybrid will evolve
“Despite what the Government wants, don’t expect to see a rush back to office spaces, especially with the new variant of COVID-19. Many organisations will continue to offer home and hybrid working policies moving forwards, and the war on talent will give individuals a greater say on this.
“Organisations need to play catchup with ensuring compliance for their remote/hybrid workers and that they still offer supportive and safe workplaces for their home workers. This compliance will cut across many areas, including display screen equipment (DSE), ergonomics, information security, data protection, collaboration, health and wellbeing.
“When the lockdowns first hit in 2020, organisations could be forgiven for taking time to adapt and adjust. But we are well beyond the honeymoon period now, so if these things are not 100% right, then expect to fall foul of legislation.”
Taylor says: “The key trend for 2022 is going to be sustainability. As we all start to overcome the challenges posed by Brexit and COVID-19, it’s time to start turning our attention to the big issues we face as a society and how organisations have the opportunity to impact that. The COP26 and the UK’s expectations for larger companies to publish their net-zero plans are just the beginning of the legislative ‘’squeeze’ we can expect and embrace.
“Organisations are bound to face increasing scrutiny on the actions they take to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability, so offering training through eLearning is an easy win to that effect. Forward-thinking organisations will increasingly see this as a competitive differentiator as the surge of green activities continues.”