The past few years have seen increased attention to the ways we work, but not all trends are new or are likely to be permanent changes.
If you believed every Future of Work trend you read about in the past few years, we might all be working from an RV on the beach, and business travel would be dead. But of course, professional conventions are back and many office workers are getting reacquainted with their commutes.
In the spirit of mythbusting, Qualtrics took a look at today’s hottest workplace trends to evaluate which are the real deal – and which will join “digital nomads” as short-lived fads.
“It’s easy to get caught up in the popular conversation, but I would encourage leaders to check in directly with their own teams,” said Qualtrics Chief Workplace Psychologist Dr. Benjamin Granger. “Leaders should leverage insights from existing employee listening efforts and engage in direct dialogue with team members about these trends to determine if they mirror what’s happening in the organization.”
Myth: The pandemic shook up employee priorities so much that people now care more about company values than pay.
Reality: Values are an important priority for employees, but in 2022, compensation was the most important factor for people when evaluating hypothetical job offers.
Employees do pay attention to and care about how well their company’s values align with their own. Employees who say their company’s values align with their own are less likely to consider leaving (33% versus 44% of employees with values that don’t match). However, in 2022 as global inflation spiked, compensation carried three times as much weight in the decision-making process as the company’s social and environmental focus. It was the most important factor in the decision when people were asked to compare two hypothetical jobs.
Myth: Gen Z set boundaries between work and their personal lives by inventing “quiet quitting” and “career cushioning.”
Reality: These are buzzy new names for behaviors that employees have exhibited for decades and are not specific to Gen Z.
The share of employees displaying behaviors that could indicate they are “quiet quitting” did not significantly increase since the beginning of the pandemic, even among Gen Z employees. In fact, a higher share of young workers said they were very or extremely likely to do something good for their company even if it wasn’t expected of them in 2022 (57%) compared with 2020 (54%).
“These are modern names for age-old challenges that organizational leaders have faced for decades, but technology and social media created new ways for them to manifest in the workplace. In our increasingly digital and dispersed workplaces, leaders should be prepared to look out for slightly different signals of employee withdrawal,” said Granger.
Myth: The answer to burnout is wellness benefits, like meditation apps, on-site gyms and healthy lunches and snacks.
Reality: Strong fundamentals of work are effective ways to avoid burnout, and employees say more flexibility over when and where they work is among the most impactful ways to improve their mental health.
Concerns about employee well-being and burnout led companies to introduce new wellness benefits, but data from the Qualtrics Employee Experience Trends Report finds that the fundamentals are just as important.
The top drivers of reducing the risk of burnout are:
- Believing in company values
- Having work processes that enable productivity
- Believing career goals can be met at a company
- Being treated with respect
- Believing that the company has an outstanding future
Employees also say more flexibility around work would improve their mental health - especially the flexibility to choose which hours they work instead of following a strict schedule, and the freedom to take care of personal errands or appointments during the day.
According to Granger, “It’s very natural for organizational leaders to explore benefits or things that can be added to address employees’ needs, but adding resources or activities to employees already full plates isn’t necessarily the answer. Humans have an innate sense of fairness, and when something seems unfair - like not being paid equitably for their work - it can take a significant mental toll.”
Myth: Demand that employees work from the office is solely coming from executives at the top.
Reality: Employees newer to the workforce also prefer to spend at least some of their time in an office with their coworkers.
Younger employees (18-34 years old) were the most likely age groups to report increased willingness to work 2 days a week in the office, according to Qualtrics research. Spending time together can help newer employees learn a company’s working norms and gain valuable insights from peers and mentors. Qualtrics research on mentorship found that the most successful mentor-mentee relationships were most likely to meet in person.
“Affiliation is a powerful and universal human need and while this can happen in virtual environments, employees across the globe acknowledge the benefits of being in-person sometimes,” said Granger. “The key is to bring people together with purpose - effective collaboration and the development of social and leadership skills are great reasons to come together in person.”
Trends with Staying Power
Of course, some trends are more than myths, and are likely to become new norms in the ways we work.
Video conferencing is here to stay. The pause in business travel forced employees to adopt this technology at a large scale, and even as travel resumes, a number of meetings can now be held just as efficiently by video. Over the course of the pandemic, the percentage of global workers who say teams collaborate effectively and that their company continually improves how work gets done increased1, an indication of the effectiveness of this technology.
Leaders are more invested in employees. The pandemic highlighted a need for leaders who care holistically about employees, and show genuine transparency and empathy in challenging and uncertain times. Nearly three-quarters (72%) of HR and People leaders report increased attention to the employee experience among senior leadership than there was pre-pandemic. Research shows the benefits of engaged, happy employees on the customer experience, ultimately contributing to bottom-line results.
Mental health isn’t a taboo topic at work. The pandemic opened the conversation around mental health as people increasingly showed signs of anxiety and depression, in part due to social isolation in the early days of pandemic. This shared experience reduced the stigma of talking about mental health at work, and workers feel more safe to discuss it, with an increasing share of employees reporting that they have trusting relationships at work, according to the Qualtrics Employee Experience Trends Report.
[Source: 2023 Qualtrics Employee Experience Trends Report, Business Wire]