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Will the “Work from Home” trend prevail in 2022?

We all know that there has been a tremendous uproar over the last two years surrounding the “Work from Home” trend. A “workplace trend” can be explained as an anticipated business change that suddenly grows and increases over time. The Covid-19 crisis forced companies to embark on this journey by finding ways in which they can implement the “Work from Home” rule successfully. The question is, does this suggest that the workforce has become accustomed to the idea of working from the comfort of their homes or will they return to their office spaces in 2022?

Even though we do not have a time machine to predict the future, market research, surveys and data gathered give us an idea of what can be expected. This article will aim to give employers some insight into the predictions for the 2022 workforce, regarding the “Work from Home” trend.

When we turn back the clock to the 11th and 14th centuries, offices formed part of communal places like temples and palaces. Fast forward to the 18th and 19th centuries, the Industrial Revolution launched the first formal office space. Working in an office ensured team-building, networking and collaboration as it still does to this day.

Brian Kropp was voted one of the Top 100 Human Resource Technology Influencers, and now works at Gartner Research Inc, as their Chief of Research and Group Vice President. He explained that the idea of working from home started in the 1980’s, when technology made it possible for certain employees to work remotely when they had to travel for work-related matters. Working from home was seen as a perk and most definitely not the norm.

Now, what are the predictions going forward?

People will often say that history repeats itself. The “gig economy” came into existence in 2009, when a mass of knowledgeable workers shifted from their corporate jobs to consulting and freelancing work. In an attempt to combat this shift and compensate for the loss of talented workers, companies re-strategised and decided to launch hybrid models. The creation of this new class of “gigs with benefits” allowed flexibility and autonomy to prevail, while also providing stability and security. This type of reasoning will rationalise that in 2022, instead of the “Work from Home” trend, we will rather notice the phrase “hybrid workforces” even more.

A hybrid workforce, but not necessarily a remote workforce, has been a key lockdown development, as employees move between their homes and offices. This concept is not necessarily ground-breaking news to the corporate environment, but will become the norm rather than the exception.  “South African employees seem to prefer a hybrid approach and business leaders are taking notice,” said Linda Trim, director at Giant Leap – one of the largest workplace design consultancies in South Africa.

In 2021, Microsoft published an article in which they explained how they navigate the shift to hybrid work. The company created a plan to implement this hybrid work model for all their employees. At Microsoft, they started giving their employees the option to work remotely for up to 50 percent of the time. Microsoft is not the only large corporation that is changing their ways as Nedbank and Deloitte have also announced that they are moving towards a hybrid work model.

January Ventures published a study where the company conducted a survey in July of 2021, in which they consulted 450 founders of start-ups. The aim of the study was to investigate whether start-ups would use a hybrid model right from the get-go. It was found that 91 percent of start-ups begin as either partially or fully hybrid. Start-ups are indeed a window into the future and therefore supports that hybrid work will be a big part of 2022.

It has become apparent that a re-occurring theme exists, which is to have a workplace model that still produces the benefits that stem from having diverse teams working side by side, while still having the functionality and flexibility that remote working allows.

There are various reasons why we can safely predict change towards a hybrid workforce and those include:

  • Businesses made investments over the last two years to accommodate the “Work from Home” trend that has infiltrated the workforce globally. These investments gave the opportunity to operate in new ways which fuelled unprecedented levels of growth and incited billions in revenue within multiple industries.
  • The companies were forced to take major steps forward, not only internally, but in how they managed customers.
  • Employees have unintentionally already adapted to the new way of doing things and research suggests that 90 percent would want to continue to adapt to the changing environment.
  • Brian Kropp argues that CEOs and CFOs were predominantly against the idea of working from home due to their concern regarding the loss of productivity. Business leaders were unconvinced regarding the advantages of flexible work, but they have since changed their opinions and have acknowledged the positive impact it has on employee engagement, work-life balance and productivity.

With the ongoing pandemic, it can be tough to predict what will happen in the next few months, even more so for the rest of this year. One thing to be sure of is that the world of work has changed forever. The “Work from Home” trend will still be a part of 2022, but workplaces will also utilise their office spaces to ensure employee collaboration. There is a responsibility to embrace these changes, build on the hybrid models and make use of new technologies to empower your workforce.

Joubert and Associates can assist your company in the journey towards change management and in finding the perfect “Work from Home” policy.

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