With an uncertain economic environment in 2023, the workforce will be in for some turbulence as we have already seen with the technology industry. This coupled with rising inflation and a looming recession may raise tensions between the expectations of employers and employees. Here are some thoughts as we enter 2023:
Making Hybrid work well will still be a challenge: We are already seeing push back particularly in the U.S. on hybrid working, most recently Disney boss requesting everyone come in at least four days a week. It will be interesting as companies start to shed workers how many more employees will see the “value” of being in the office and closer to HQ where decisions are made. There is still quite a large disconnect between employer and employee expectations on hybrid work. However if I was an employee I would certainly see career value in being in the office more often in 2023. The other question employees should ask themselves is if they say “I don’t need to be in the office”, perhaps it should not be about need, perhaps you should want to come into an office. For employers they need to ask themselves if they have created the right environment for employees to come in and to make the office a magnet not a mandate. Many employers are also investing in employee tracking software which seems very much a retrograde step, as trust is essentially one of the most important perks for employees right now, and its free!
Supporting employees and managers with training and development: Often among the first things cut in a downturn is the training budget, however employers need to appreciate how vital training is going to be for employees in 2023, particularly around soft skills (or transversal skills). Many of the newest generation in the workforce (Gen Z) have missed out for over three years in developing soft skills, such as negotiating, networking, speaking in front of crowds, and developing the attentiveness required to work long hours, in an in-person environment. For managers, interpersonal communication, decision-making, conducting effective video meetings are all skills that will greatly improve productivity and efficiency in the new hybrid world where there is such reliance on online communication.
Better online experience: There is no doubt that video calling saved business during covid however it was never a great experience given the limitations of technology. The rise in patent applications in this space has skyrocketed as companies try and invent ways to improve this experience. Nvidia is promoting its Omniverse and Meta is focusing on Horizon Workrooms for more immersive experiences. Zoom is also working on facial expression recognition, which could highlight who is engaged with the meeting and who’s multitasking in the meeting, basically you will actually have to listen in the meeting which will be a shock for many! Despite all the improvements in the online experience, the reality is the biggest changes are behavioural. We all can see how dysfunctional many meetings are – too many in the meeting, half the people working on something else, many with cameras off. Online meetings can be much better if the meeting leader spends time planning everything from the agenda, the attendees, the opening, the recap etc, so for your next meeting arrive early and plan how you get the best out of the 30 or 60 minutes.
The best advice for 2023, is for employers to appreciate that hybrid working is here to stay and its about ensuring they keep experimenting about what will work best; and for employees to realise, they are part of a collective, what works perfectly for them may not work perfectly for the company, so be patient, become a great asset for the company, as once you are valued employee you can generally work wherever you want.
Peter Cosgrove is Managing Director of Futurewise and advises companies on how to navigate the new world of work.