Workspaces and employment patterns have been going through varying states of transition since the Covid-19 lockdowns, but 2023 has been the year in which companies fully left the pandemic behind and forged new business and working models that make sense for them.
While some – including a few global corporates, have implemented total return-to-office mandates and others have ditched the office for good, there are many that have taken a middle-of-the-road approach and adopted hybrid working policies.
Employees too, have become increasingly steadfast in their desire of healthy work-life balances, and this has placed pressure on businesses to be more accommodating of changed working routines.
Highly-skilled workers, in particular, have not been afraid to resign from companies unwilling to compromise, and businesses in favour of fully remote or hybrid working have used this as a carrot to attract such talent.
Ultimately, this year has been the foundation of some level of ‘new normal’ for organisations across the world.
But as the saying goes, the only thing permanent is change, and thus, 2024 is expected to bring with it continued evolution in the workplace – wherever that space may be. Global HR platform Deel shares some top workplace trends that will increasingly be seen in the coming 12 months:
1. Five-day work weeks
While many believe the traditional Monday to Friday work week to be dead, and four-day weeks the way of the future, the push to bring workers back to the office, is on. KPMG’s Southern African 2023 CEO Outlook reveals that 72 percent of the region’s chief executives support the working environment returning to in-person work within the next three years.
In South Africa, load shedding has been a major factor pushing workers back to the office as constant power cuts affect their connectivity at home. However, some amount of work-from-home is here to stay, with many companies operating on hybrid work models.
“Workforces and management are questioning other parts of the employment status quo, especially in the face of daily hassles and commute costs,” Deel states.
2. Work-life integration
Work-life integration (WLI) is a comprehensive approach that aims to harmonise personal and professional demands, so instead of viewing work and life as distinct entities, or creating conflict between them, integration seeks to find common ground and mutual benefit.
Achieving successful WLI should be a “paramount concern” for both employees and employers, says Marieta du Toit, director and sensory coach at Sensory Intelligence Consulting.
“Work-life integration is not a passing trend; it's the future of employee engagement and well-being. By fostering environments that embrace this shift, we can empower both our organisations and our workforce to thrive in this digital era.”
3. ‘Skills-first’ approach
Deel believes that the days of the university degree being an extremely expensive box-to-check on the CV may end. Rather, companies worldwide are getting on board with the idea that, if you’ve got the right skills, then you’re suitable for the job – even if you don’t have a 4+ year degree or have held specific job titles.
4. Airplane mode
If you like the idea of unplugging at work and letting all those email updates and meeting notifications melt away for a bit, this trend could be your favourite – and it may become standard practice for employers soon. Of course, in South Africa, we can expect to be a little late to the party as trends here seem to lag those in other parts of the world.
In order to foster ‘deep focus’, a company named Density – an analytics platform for measuring and improving workplace – is suggesting that employees turn on ‘Airplane Mode’ for 100 minutes a day and use that time to read, brainstorm, or engage in any other activities that help them ‘get in the zone’.
5. ‘Rage applying’
‘Rage applying’, explains HR Exchange Network – an online news source for more than 270,000 human resource professionals and thought leaders, is when young employees in professional fields get fed up with their workloads, bosses, compensation, or all of the above, and lash out by applying for jobs at as many other companies as they can, all while soaking in their anger.
Whether overlooked for promotions, frustrated with overbearing bosses, or just generally feeling mistreated, Deel says ‘rage applying’ is a reactionary tactic employees may resort to.
“In response to unhappiness at work, the rage-applier will fire off job applications as both an emotional release and a quick look to see if better options exist. While looking for greener pastures is often necessary, we’d recommend proceeding with caution.”
This new worker category comprises women who began their careers as early as the 1980s and were forced, through sheer will and determination, to break glass ceilings by becoming ambitious corporate dynamos. They are typically aged between 45 and 65, are moms to older kids, and have relatively high incomes.
These ‘queenagers’ will increasingly be seen in workplaces throughout the world and, through their experiences, will carry a great deal of influence as they help younger colleagues counter ongoing gender inequality and aid older female professionals challenge age-related stereotypes.
Sadly, though, as much as the presence of these women in the global workforce is expected to grow and have positive impacts, many are quitting their corporate careers or cutting back on their working hours as the ongoing fight to change systems and create employment cultures in which women can flourish and be fairly rewarded with better opportunities, takes its toll. This negative movement is also referred to as a second type of brain-drain as their skills are lost to the workforce.
7. Unfiltered zooming
Deel notes that, over the past few years, there have been significant calls to stop the excessive use of social media filters and Photoshop. As such, 2024 may see employees ditching digital backgrounds during online meetings in order to create and encourage an authentic remote working culture.
“Apart from the fact virtual environments never work quite perfectly, your actual backdrop is part of you, so try not to cover it up. Tidy up, though—a little professionalism goes a long way.”
8. Social side-gigging
To make up for the social vacuum that remote work has created, some white-collar workers are seemingly taking up weekend jobs that offer a lot of social interaction or serve as creative outlets. Foodservice and bartending are particularly common choices amongst this crowd, Deel reports.