2021, like the year before it, was a year of huge organizational change. Here, UNLEASH’s editorial team look at the future of work, positive and hopeful for a progressive year ahead. Over to them…
The gig economy and the future of work
It seems only right to focus on a growing group as we look at the future of work; gig workers. A group I couldn’t squeeze into my predictions for HR technology, but that certainly deserve technology that helps them.
When we think of gig workers, we usually think of the technology used from the perspective of a customer, however, those on the other side with zero-hour contracts need consideration.
This brings us to earned wage access (EWA) and technology that enables employees to access earned wages easily.
Whether employees are on a fixed wage or not, every now and then having the money you’ve earned available is a stress reliever. Particularly, as PWC found that 42% of US full-time workers find it hard to meet household expenses on time each month.
Given that wellbeing is a huge focus for employers, this is a simple way to address the financial health of employees.
One of the leaders in this area is Ceridian, through its tool Dayforce Wallet. There has already been a significant uptake in its EWA offering and it’s having a positive impact on businesses.
Yvonne Monea, vice president of human resources of Buehler’s Fresh Foods discussed her joy when the ability to give employees the money they earned early became apparent: “I was so excited because I immediately thought this will help us with our recruiting.
“I don’t know of any other competitors locally that are offering an on-demand pay solution, and I saw what this could do for our employees. This is something different that will attract good employees to our company.”
Having access to wages that you have already earned seems like an obvious way to help employees. So much so, that I would venture that it will not only become commonplace in the coming years but eventually we will wonder why the wages operated on a weekly or monthly basis – after all, very little else does.
Dan Richardson, senior reporter, UNLEASH
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Focusing on the E in D,E&I
The future of work is going to be hybrid. There is absolutely no doubt about that in my mind; while there will be some who will work fully remotely or exclusively in the office, the vast majority will split their time between an office and remote locations (when the pandemic allows).
This enables employees to forge the right balance for them about where they work best. For instance, I find I can concentrate better on writing in-depth analysis pieces at home, but going into the office allows the UNLEASH editorial to come up with innovative content ideas – a great example is our recent ‘Great Return’ series.
Of course, the hybrid working model is not a panacea – it creates a lot of its own challenges and problems for employers and employees alike. For me, the main challenge is avoiding creating two classes of employees: those who work primarily remote and those who work primarily from the office.
This idea was first articulated by LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman in a March interview with CNBC – and it has stuck with me ever since.
What must companies do to ensure that their workplaces are not only diverse and inclusive, but also fair and equitable? Diversity, equity and inclusion (D,E&I) only brings business success if all three elements are prioritized.
I had a fascinating chat with Gartner’s Brian Kropp about this back in November. He recommends that managers need to be trained better about how to lead with fairness and that they need to be better supported by HR teams with good tech tools.
As the hybrid model takes hold next year – it has been slightly scuppered this year for many with the evolving (or should I say mutating) COVID-19 situation – I am optimistic that companies will do their best to not only ensure their workplaces are diverse and inclusive, but that they are equitable for all.
Hopefully, these efforts around fairness and hybrid working will also open businesses’ eyes to the fact that they need to up their game and workplaces fair and inclusive to all. There is no reason in the 2020s why people should feel unable to be their true selves at work.
Allie Nawrat, senior reporter, UNLEASH
The future of work is a set of interlinked challenges
Digging through some old magazines from a previous job recently, I found an editor’s welcome note from the January 2020 edition of TJ, where I highlighted the importance of an organizational focus on wellbeing for the upcoming year.
Unless you were a virologist, epidemiologist, or the editor of TMZ, it’s unlikely you’d have paid much attention to the SARS-Cov-2 coronavirus at the very start of that year, and it was but a twinkle in the world’s eye in mid-December when I wrote my introductory 400 words.
This isn’t a long-winded ‘I told you so’, I assure you, but more a comment on the ongoing need for good employee health, both mental and physical. It was necessary in 2019 and it’s necessary in 2022. Global events have merely shone a light on this and the illumination isn’t fading any time soon.
Changes in employee and employer lifestyle expectations promise to be a big part of the future of work this coming year, and, when I looked at a handful of future of work sub-topics to expand on, it became clear that they all overlap, inextricably linked to employee experience.
Wellbeing is linked to lifestyle, which is linked to employee healthcare benefits, in turn linked to the ‘work from anywhere‘ philosophy, which is linked to…automation? Ok, maybe not the last one so much, but automation advances are still a key area of interest for 2022. What’s coming down the pipe in the next couple of quarters? Look out for developments in personalization, low-code environments, robotic process automation (RPA), and telemedicine/healthcare.
But back to work from anywhere: if it’s not inked into employee contracts for everyone yet, it’s certainly becoming the default in many businesses, with the rest surely to follow.
Elsewhere, next-gen employee engagement tech is bound to play a huge part in business culture as we move forward. As organizations look at metrics of productivity and performance over attendance and availability, and as teams recruit globally due to the increased prevalence of a ‘work from anywhere’ hiring strategy, the 9-5 as we know it may be on the way out.
If this rigid workday becomes less of an expectation to accommodate childcare, education, timezone differences, or health issues, for example, the end result can surely only be a happier, more empowered, and more valued workforce.
Jon Kennard, editorial content manager, UNLEASH