What does work look like in 2022? (Hint: Watch out for hybrid friction)

January 2022

When businesses embarked on their work-from-home journeys two years ago, no one expected them to get this far. Leaders reinvented their business models, adopted new tools, mobilized their workforce, and thrived in the new hybrid and remote world of work.

As we start off 2022, business leaders have a new challenge: seeing eye to eye with workers. Employees believe remote and hybrid work are the future, while leaders want to revive the organizational culture of working in the office.

But it’s not so simple as mandating entire workforces back, nor allowing them to work from home permanently.

Our global Return to Work survey of 9,000 employees found that:

  • Employees are ready to leave their jobs, with over 25% of employees saying they would resign if forced to return to the office.
  • Employees will work from anywhere as hybrid arrangements are expected to triple in 2022.
  • Employees feel more connected to their colleagues than ever, despite working with hybrid schedules and distributed teams for the past two years.

To thrive in 2022, leaders will have to recognize what employees really want and adapt their strategies around their people. Our global survey explores current workforce trends, and how businesses can create an operating model that works for everyone.

What is The Great Resignation?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, an average of 3.8 million workers quit their jobs every month in 2021. And it doesn’t stop there. 1 in 3 full-time working Americans plan to leave their jobs in 2022.

What’s driving this exodus? A perfect storm of reasons. The massive shift to remote work caused many employees to relocate—mostly to lower cost-of-living areas. And those who relocated want to stay that way.

  • 56% of full-time employees who worked hybrid or remotely during COVID would rather work from home permanently.
  • 54% of employees renovated or rearranged their homes to accommodate remote work.
  • 31% expect to work in hybrid or remote work arrangements in 2022.
  • 75% believe the freedom to work from anywhere is the norm for all relevant industries.

At the same time, many workers see an opportunity to increase their salaries, learn new skills, or even find a job with better working conditions.

  • 34% say pay is the most important reason to remain in a job.
    • 15% say working conditions is the most important
    • 10% say purpose is the most important

Takeaway

Flexible work is here to stay. Businesses that want to attract and retain top talent will have to re-evaluate their workplace flexibility policies to succeed in the next year.

Employers risk losing talent

0%

of full-time employees who worked hybrid or remotely during COVID would rather work from home permanently.

0%

expect to work in hybrid or remote work arrangements in 2022.

Everything you need to know about unified communications. For beginners.
Get the free eBook
0%

of women prefer working from home, compared to 50% of men.

0%

of working parents plan to leave their jobs within the next 6 months.

0%

of Millennials are most likely to change career plans due to the pandemic.

Employees are divided on remote work

While the headlines might make it seem like remote work is universally wanted, certain groups favor it more than others.

  • 60% of women prefer working from home, compared to 50% of men.
  • Nearly half (45%) of working parents plan to leave their jobs within the next 6 months.
  • 43% of working mothers will seek new employment if they can’t stay remote, compared to 36% of all employees.
  • 50% of Millennials (age 25-34) and 47% of Gen X (age 35-44) are most likely to change career plans due to the pandemic.
    • 45% of Gen Z (21-24) are willing to do the same, compared to 24% of those between 45-54, and 18% of those between 55-65.

Takeaway

Younger employees and women tend to prefer working remotely, and are the most eager to leave their current jobs for those that offer more flexibility.

The silver lining: Human connections are stronger

When businesses shifted to remote work, leaders expected isolation and loneliness to increase as employees worked from home. But the adoption of more flexible policies have actually had the opposite effect: employees are happier and more connected with their colleagues than ever.

  • 30% of employees report being happier at work since the pandemic began.
    • 39% of parents report being happier, compared to 23% of non-parents.
  • 57% agree that remote and hybrid work have made them more empathetic towards people.
  • 31% of employees want to connect more with people at work.
    • 43% of younger workers (21-44) are more likely to want to connect at work, compared to 20% of older workers (45-65).
  • 25% believe that their relationships with colleagues improved, and 24% believe their relationships with supervisors improved.
  • 68% felt that their supervisors were supportive during the pandemic.

Takeaway:

Despite working from anywhere permanently or alternating between the office and home, employees are very satisfied with their new lives. From eliminating commutes to higher productivity at home, workers are much happier now than before the pandemic.

Collaboration tools such as video conferencing and voice calling helped teams stay connected without the need for face-to-face office interactions.

57% agree that remote and hybrid work have made them more empathetic towards people.

30% of employees report being happier at work since the pandemic began.

31% of employees want to connect more with people at work.

Voice and video are keys to success

0%

of 25-44-year-olds believe they can build personal relationships with coworkers without ever physically meeting them.

The pandemic forced us to discover a new way to maintain strong relationships at work and build human connections. And the great thing is: it worked. Many leaders feared losing the camaraderie and culture of the office, but through technology, their teams retained and even improved workplace relationships.

  • 69% of workers agree that connecting online through voice and video calls is as good as in-person for work-related tasks.
  • 78% feel more connected to their colleagues when using voice calling.
  • 47% agree that video meetings helped them connect with colleagues on a professional level, with 42% on a personal level.
  • 75% of 25-44-year-olds believe they can build personal relationships with coworkers without ever physically meeting them.
  • 62% say their work relationships are unchanged with colleagues despite the pandemic.

In a nutshell, workers lost the spontaneous interactions that naturally happen in the office, but stayed connected through collaboration solutions such as team messaging, video conferencing, and voice calling.

How to plan for the ‘workplace’ of the future

Businesses that plan to return to the office en masse might want to rethink their long-term strategy. Our research indicates that employees have the ability to build critical workplace relationships and drive results—all while working hybrid or remote schedules.

And in a job market that currently favors workers, listening to employees and their needs is more important than ever.

Take individual needs into account

Every individual member of the team will have different views, fears, and concerns when it comes to a potential return to the office. The key is to offer the flexibility most workers have become accustomed to, according to their own preferences.

Don't disregard young talent as they are a flight risk

Businesses that inflict a full-time return to the office should be prepared for a significant fallout, particularly among their younger workers. With 32% of Gen Z workers planning to leave their place of employment, it’s time for managers to listen and address the needs of this age group, or risk losing a large chunk of their youthful workforce.

Consider a hybrid model for balance and mental wellbeing

Evidently, balance is the key. When it comes to mental wellbeing, workers may benefit from interspersing home working days with days with their colleagues in the office.

Use tech wisely to facilitate genuine human connections

For those embracing more flexible working models for the long term, it’s important to choose the right technology that will help to underpin a virtual workplace culture and camaraderie. Choosing the right tools and implementing processes that give team members quality time to fully switch off could help to support better staff longevity.

Navigating through the end of another hectic year, business owners must continue to advocate empathy and flexibility in order to keep hold of valuable team members and advocate staff loyalty for the long term.