Hybrid work is so last year: what 2022 has in store for workplace trends

For many businesses, the days of going into the office five days a week are over for good. Numerous studies have shown that those able to work from home are just as productive, if not more so, than in-person workers.

Our own research on The State of Hybrid Work found that nearly two thirds (59%) of UK business leaders believe that hybrid working makes companies more profitable. As a result, the majority of businesses have accepted that a hybrid work model, which blends in person and remote working, is the way forward.

However, as the last few months have shown, hybrid working isn’t enough in and of itself. Many employees have voted with their feet and handed in their notice in what has been dubbed the ‘Great Resignation’ or ‘Great Reshuffle’. With emerging variants risking more disruption to the workforce, and as WFH guidance is reintroduced across the UK, workplace habits need to go beyond just enabling employees to work from home a few days a week.

As we head into 2022 and beyond, hybrid work needs to get flexible. Businesses not only need to grapple with what flexible working means for their business and employees - whether that’s flexible hours, sabbatical leave or even a four-day week - but they also need to consider how they create new workspaces that incorporate more immersive technology.

Unfortunately, there is no cookie cutter flexible approach for businesses to adopt. Business leaders will need to figure out what works best for their teams through trial and error. Here’s what businesses will need to consider to make flexible work, work for their company in 2022.

Taking the office to the metaverse

While Mark Zuckerberg’s demo of the metaverse - a highly immersive virtual world that recreates opportunities for work, socialising, entertainment, and education - might have felt more like a video game, the metaverse is no gimmick! As well as Meta, Microsoft Teams has already taken steps to incorporate mixed-reality capabilities into its Microsoft Mesh offering. What’s more, our own research suggests that almost half (47%) of employees are keen for their work to adopt an office metaverse in the near future, with 54% optimistic that an office metaverse would boost hybrid work.

Even if the metaverse is still in its infancy, more immersive virtual workspaces are going to become more commonplace throughout 2022 as companies look to bridge the gap between in person and remote workers. Whether that’s using avatars in meetings or investing in VR headsets, businesses will need to consider the technology they adopt to create more immersive experiences. A static Zoom image of your face just isn’t going to cut it for much longer.

Asynchronous work

In a hybrid workforce, companies will need to adopt asynchronous work tools that help people collaborate and increase productivity without employees being required to be in the same room. Everything from pre-read agendas to tools like Notion and Loom can get people on the same page, without jamming their schedules with unnecessary meetings.

This also means that it’s more important than ever for meetings to be as immersive and engaging as possible.

Creating collaborative spaces

Employees don’t want to come into the office to sit on Zoom calls all day, which they could do perfectly well from home. Companies will need to rethink their office design to prioritise collaboration between in-office and remote team members and ensure all conference rooms are wired for video, and collaboration. According to our State of Hybrid Work report, 18% of UK business leaders are looking to increase collaborative spaces in the office. Google’s ‘campfire’ meeting rooms are just one example where video displays and in person seating are set up in a semi-circle formation so all participants feel like they’re in the same environment. 

Avoiding burnout

As the Great Resignation shows no sign of waning, companies will need to prioritise employees’ wellbeing in order to retain and recruit employees. Leaders will have to get creative to stave off burnout and find new ways of maintaining balance to keep workers happy. Offering robust hybrid and remote work policies, flexible schedules with core hours, four-day work weeks, or benefits like sabbaticals will be vital in supporting employee wellbeing.

Our research shows that 88% of UK business leaders are keen to explore progressive policies aimed at the future of work post-pandemic, including introducing a WFA (work from anywhere) policy (37%), a 4-day working week (42%), core hours (43%) and unlimited holiday policy (18%).

Making hybrid work, work for businesses

The rapid spread of the Omicron variant is once again making us rethink where we conduct business. As a result, hybrid and remote work will remain an important long term focus for businesses. But rather than WFH just being a reaction to help stem the pandemic, hybrid work in 2022 will need an upgrade if businesses are to retain their top talent.

Companies will have to figure out which work policies work best for their business through trial and error. Business leaders will need to experiment with how many days employees are required to be in-office (if at all), how flexible their schedules are, and who makes the decisions about when and where everyone works. Giving employees the autonomy to choose their own work pattern is going to be key moving into 2022.

Much has been said about the pandemic’s impact on workplace trends. What the last few months have demonstrated is that these changes are here for the long run. With hybrid and flexible work no longer just knee jerk responses to the pandemic, business leaders need to consider which policies will work best for their teams. Creating immersive workspaces - whether that’s through virtual experiences or better designed meeting rooms - will be crucial to ensuring employees feel connected to their work. 2022 is going to be the year when teams are going to have to get creative with how they work together.

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Owl Labs

We build cutting-edge technology that creates deeply immersive collaborative experiences.

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