As we approach the end of the year, it’s incredible to reflect on the immense role flexible work played across many organizations over the past 21 or so months of the COVID-19 pandemic. These policies acted as a lifeline for many workers, enabling employees to keep their jobs while navigating remote work, childcare, and more. At Fuze, we have always and will continue to stress the importance of flexible work policies for our employees, and I think many employers have now also come to this same conclusion. In fact, data from this year shows that 75% of workers believe a flexible remote work policy should be an essential part of an organization's strategy going forward, rather than an extra benefit.
So, as many leaders continue to navigate their office reopenings and flexible work models, what can we expect to see in 2022 and beyond? Here are some of my predictions for the coming year.
‘Flexible work’ defined by your employees
For flexible work policies to be most effective, they must be dictated by workers themselves based on their first-hand experience and needs to help reduce job turnover and boost employee morale. Dictating that employees come to the office every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and work remotely on other days is not flexible work. At the onset of the pandemic, we saw business leaders scramble to roll out flexible work initiatives - many for the first time - based on what they thought would help their employees most. Now we’ll see more organizations fine tuning their policies based on workers’ experiences over the past year and a half, especially when it comes to making hybrid work setups equitable to all. To accomplish this, leaders will need to nurture a culture where listening and open communication are embraced by all, and where employees can be trusted to set their own schedules so they can continue to be their best at home and at work.
Mental health prioritized in the workplace
The state of our country's mental health has been in crisis long before the onset of the pandemic. The recent months of added stress, isolation and disruption has made the situation worse for many during both work and non-work hours. In fact, over 40% of US adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depression as of early this year, and the Omicron variant isn’t going to help this. Building a strong, resilient and successful company begins with the well-being of its employees. As a result, we’ll see more business leaders prioritizing mental health in the workplace. Whether that’s incorporating more mental health training and protocols for managers, offering more resources and tools, or encouraging more flexible work benefits such as additional breaks and time off to help combat burnout, employers must prioritize ensuring their workforce is supported before they can move forward.
Technology as the enabler
In 2022 and beyond, we will see different technologies continue to drive flexible work initiatives. The need for flexible and seamless communications solutions that enable employees to work and collaborate in a hybrid or remote setting will not be going away anytime soon as they will continue to help support productivity and flexibility in the current and post-pandemic workforce. We’ll also see advances in technologies such as artificial intelligence, natural language processing, robotic process automation, and 5G drive more collaboration and productivity, regardless of location, by automating more menial tasks. These developments have the potential to completely transform work for individuals, and enable a more flexible work environment overall.
As resurgent COVID-19 cases continue to put flexible work policies to the test around the world, it will be critical for organizations to remain vigilant in their flexible work practices as we enter into the new year while keeping these considerations in mind. Wishing everyone a happy and healthy 2022, and best of luck with your flexible work plans!