None of us could've predicted what the post-pandemic world would look like. I’m sure we all remember those last few weeks of 2020 when it felt like we’d ring in the new year and quickly return to some semblance of ‘normal’.
But 2021 proved equally unstable, with 2022 following suit. The past year has given us sky-high inflation, unprecedented levels of employee turnover, and a looming recession to contend with.
As 2023 comes into view, this volatility only looks set to continue. The workforce remains unsettled. Hybrid and remote working promise to cause more uncertainty among an increasingly transient workforce. Rising inflation will see many workers face financial difficulty as employers and employees alike struggle to keep pace with the cost of living crisis.
Combined with a need for further technological innovation and a necessity for leaders to prioritise employee wellbeing, 2023 promises to be a year full of challenges and opportunities. Employers who want to thrive must think outside the box.
Following our Digital Etiquette: Reinventing Work Report released earlier this year, we’ve pinpointed some of the future workplace trends we can expect to see in 2023 and beyond.
1. Flexibility will become an even bigger competitive advantage.
According to research from the ADP Research Institute, wages in the US for existing job holders rose by a record 5.9% in December 2021. The UK saw a similar pattern, with growth in pay standing at 4.3% between March and May 2022.
Yet as inflation rises, these small percentage increases simply aren’t enough. As we move towards 2023, workers' spending power is declining as they struggle to buy groceries, fuel their cars, and heat their homes.
While some employers are in a position to offer cost of living bonuses or more competitive salaries, others will need to find alternative ways to attract and retain talent in 2023 that won't break the bank.
Our Digital Etiquette: Reinventing Work Report found that while 46% of job hunters are looking for a higher salary, 32% also want more flexibility, and 31% want better benefits. When asked what type of flexibility they’d prefer, almost half of our respondents chose a four-day workweek.
As competition for talent continues, we predict that in 2023 the workplace trend for employers using flexibility as their competitive advantage will only continue to grow. Companies offering a four-day workweek or shorter working hours might still stand a chance of competing against companies with more lucrative compensation packages.
2. Investment in continuous learning will see even bigger returns.
The pandemic has left its mark in many ways. Now more than ever, employees recognise the value of training and development opportunities to keep their skills relevant in an ever-changing world.
A recent study found that 76% of employees are more likely to stay with a company that offers continuous training. Our own report supports this, with training and learning opportunities coming top of the list of things employees want from their employers.
Offering access to training courses and other learning and development opportunities will see companies reap the rewards as their employees bring new skills to the table, become better people managers and ultimately, feel more challenged and fulfilled. Training doesn't need to focus solely on professional skills, either. Widening learning opportunities to include 'human skills' will lead to a workforce that communicates better, collaborates more, and copes well with change.
It's also vital for employers to take a more individualised approach to learning and development, offering different types of training to suit all learning styles.
By 2023, we hope that the workplace trend for continuous learning becomes more than just a trend.
"Learning needs to shift away from a centralised 'L&D have all the answers in a training course' approach, to a more de-centralised approach where employees have a range of learning experiences they can engage with when they want, that suit their learning style."
3. Leaders' focus will shift from retainment to engagement.
The days of spending our entire working lives in one job are long gone, but turnover has reached whole new heights since the pandemic hit.
When we surveyed workers in 2021, 35% were actively looking for a new job. That number only dropped to 34% in our 2022 survey.
As we enter 2023, employers need to accept that at any one time, around a third of their workforce are exploring other opportunities. Regular job switching is no longer such a red flag for recruiters, particularly in fast-moving industries that require candidates' skills to be as up-to-date as possible.
For employees, switching jobs regularly is sometimes the quickest way to move up the career ladder and, crucially, to increase their salary beyond the small increments they often receive from their existing employer.
While employers should invest in their people in 2023, either by paying them fairly or investing in enhanced training and benefits packages, proactivity is vital.
Employers who turn a blind eye to their internal engagement strategy will soon find themselves without a chunk of their workforce. This is a workplace trend that isn’t going away anytime soon. Keeping people engaged with a strong workplace culture, learning and development opportunities, and wellbeing offerings will go some way toward stemming the turnover tidal wave.
"Adaptavist strives to create an environment we all want to work in. While we always like to keep people here, we also focus on making Adaptavist the highlight of someone’s career, so if they decide to leave, they know the door is always open if they want to return."
4. Wellbeing will become the new way to measure employee engagement.
In the past, employers have focused solely on employee satisfaction to measure engagement. In 2023, we think more employers will explore new measures that assess mental health and wellbeing in the workplace, as well as overall satisfaction.
Our report revealed that more employers are starting to realise the importance of supporting employee wellbeing, whether that’s via employee assistance programmes, health insurance, or free access to meditation apps. Close to 60% of those we surveyed worked for an employer that offered resources to support their mental health and wellbeing, a statistic we predict will grow further in the future.
Just under half of our respondents had accessed their employer’s mental health resources, with a further 9% unaware of what resources their organisation actually offered.
In 2023, we expect the trend for workplace wellness to grow, with wellbeing initiatives taking a central role in employee engagement. We'll see more employers investing in workplace wellness initiatives for their staff, and measuring their effectiveness. There's no one-size-fits-all when it comes to employee wellbeing, and what works for one might not work for others. Employers who can proactively invest in a range of wellness programmes to suit differing needs will reap the long-term rewards of a happier, healthier, and more engaged workforce.
"We need to proactively combat loneliness by creating a culture of connection, with mental health and wellbeing at the forefront. Companies need to prioritise mental health before people start to struggle, not after."
5. Tool integration will become as important as the tools we use.
We’ve got more tools at our disposal than ever before, yet they don’t always positively impact our productivity.
Our report found that 57% of us now waste more than 30 minutes a day just searching for information. Our inboxes, chat logs, meeting notes, and audio transcripts are conspiring against us to create a maze of data we’re struggling to navigate.
A further 50% of our respondents felt that they lose time in their day to task switching, while 40% felt their organisation has too many tools to keep track of.
Finding better ways to integrate tools is vital for organisations that want to minimise tool fatigue and maximise productivity.
Streamlining and integrating your tools can help to reduce task switching and increase overall productivity. As our digital work environment continues to evolve, organisations that fail to integrate their tools effectively in 2023 will find themselves at a disadvantage, as their teams waste valuable hours searching for information.
6. More employers will abandon time tracking for good.
The way we measure productivity has evolved, and the pandemic only sped up the process. Fewer than 20% of those we surveyed think productivity should be measured by the number of hours we work. In contrast, almost 60% wanted their productivity to be measured solely by the quality of their work.
Time tracking serves a purpose for certain teams and roles but might not always be necessary for others. There are plenty of alternative ways to measure productivity, which centre around an outcome-based approach rather than a time-based one.
In 2023, the workforce no longer wants to engage in presenteeism, whether they work in the office or remotely. They want their work to speak for itself and leaders to trust them to get the job done, whether they work a traditional 9-5, or hours to suit them. Next year, we expect to see even more employers move towards outcome-focused work, and away from time tracking.
7. Side hustles will become more accepted among employers.
As hybrid and remote work have increased, so have workers’ opportunities to earn additional income. Spending more time away from the office gives people the flexibility to take on second jobs or spend time building a side hustle.
In this year’s survey, we found that almost half of the workforce has taken on some form of additional paid work recently or plans to in the near future. The financial crisis is driving this movement, with 54% of our respondents citing money as their main motivator for starting a side hustle, followed by wanting to learn something new, and wanting to do something more creative.
In the current economic climate, employees’ paycheques need to stretch even further than before. Coupled with concerns over job security, it’s easy to see why workers are turning to side hustles and additional jobs to supplement their income.
More employers will come to accept side hustles as a way of life for their employees in 2023 and beyond. And those that do could reap the benefits of this surprising new workplace trend! People with innovative, entrepreneurial mindsets will no doubt have valuable transferable skills and experience they can bring to their side hustle and their employer.
"You can’t innovate without innovators. That's why we actively seek people with an entrepreneurial mindset. It's also why we encourage our people to pursue other passions outside their day-to-day jobs because we know they will bring that energy, drive, and skill back to their work at Adaptavist."
Our advice for leaders.
As we live through the most seismic workplace shift for generations, leaders must learn to adapt to an unpredictable and constantly changing environment.
While changes in how we work can initially feel threatening, now’s the time for leaders to embrace these changes and—even better–use them to their advantage.
If the last three years have taught us anything, it's that uncertainty is the only certainty right now. This makes 2023 the year of opportunity for proactive leaders. Employers who take a proactive approach to future workplace trends around flexibility, wellbeing, tooling, and training will find themselves in a much better position to weather any storms that lie ahead.