5 Definitive Characteristics of the Future Workplace: How Can HR Support?

Current trends are radically transforming how we work. Read on for a glimpse into the future workplace and how HR can help organizations prepare.

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The future workplace is no longer a far-off concept. With the rise of new technologies and changed working methods, work is already starting to look very different.

As a result, organizations are feeling the pressure to change long-standing work processes and align themselves to current trends.

Although the future of work is exciting, it comes with significant challenges for modern-day organizations. For many, adapting means:

  • Extensively redesigning existing workplace models
  • Creating heavy technology budgets
  • Directing even more money toward talent acquisition in an increasingly competitive job market.

To help their organizations prepare effectively for this massive undertaking, HR teams must understand the trends shaping the future of work and how they will impact talent and the bottom line.

Let’s dive into 5 key characteristics of the future workplace and the critical role HR will play in supporting their organizations to adapt.

1. “Gigs” and independent contractors take center stage

COVID-19 popularized work-from-home models and disrupted long-standing relationships between employers and their employees.

As a result, many workers found themselves with enough freedom at home to take up gigs, and others started doing gigs to feel more financially secure or supplement lost income. According to a study by daVinci Payments, the gig economy grew by 33% at the height of the pandemic.

Hiring freelancers can have significant benefits for your organization.

As the post-pandemic future takes form, it is clear that gigs have become a part of the global work landscape. Industry reports indicate that the gig economy is growing 3 times faster than traditional employment, and over 50% of the U.S. workforce will be doing “gigs” by 2027.

Hiring freelancers can have significant benefits for your organization. For instance, you can deploy talent with specific skill sets, build a flexible workforce, and optimize costs.

However, to fully leverage the gig economy, you must know how to find the best talent and manage it using strategies that maximize performance, cost-effectiveness, and compliance.

Below are a few tips to consider to succeed in a gig-driven future:

  • Check out gig marketplaces: Online talent marketplaces like Fiverr and Upwork can help you identify, recruit, and onboard qualified gig workers with far less headhunting time and effort.
  • Prioritize skill over traditional degrees, certificates, or experience: The gig economy is filled with excellent self-taught workers with little to no formal experience. Refocus your shortlisting process to prioritize the skills you need for the role over candidate backgrounds.
  • Build an effective onboarding process: How you welcome a new contractor sets the tone for their entire journey with your company. Develop an efficient onboarding process that provides all the tools and support the new hire needs to hit the ground running.
  • Align goals: Contract workers are used to some degree of autonomy, but you must still ensure their work aligns with your company goals. Set measurable, clear expectations and provide timely feedback to keep them engaged and in sync with your mission.
  • Deploy technology: Invest in software to automate critical processes like time tracking, performance reviews, invoicing, and payroll. That way, you can worry less about the administration and focus on optimizing the gig workforce to meet your business objectives.

COVID-19 resulted in a dramatic uptake in remote work. What was once viewed as a privilege instantly became the norm, and many companies rushed to give their staff the tools and support they needed to work from home.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, remote work accounted for 50% of paid work hours from Q2 to Q4 of 2020, compared with 5% before the pandemic.

The days when lockdowns dominated global headlines are gone. Nevertheless, many organizations have embraced remote and hybrid arrangements as viable and valuable long-term options because of their positive impact on employee productivity and satisfaction.

The future workplace will undoubtedly be a hybrid workplace model, with companies and teams operating in both on-site and remote environments. So, HR teams must be ready to support this transition by developing protocols that promote job satisfaction and optimize productivity.

Here are 4 tips for implementing a successful hybrid model:

  • Develop flexible policies: Different workers have different needs. Adjust and create policies to support remote, on-site, and flexible working arrangements to accommodate employees’ preferences.
  • Create a hybrid workplace culture: Hybrid working models succeed when the culture behind them is inclusive, collaborative, and supportive. Nurture the right mindset through training and initiatives that encourage team spirit in the office or at home.
  • Implement remote work technology: Virtual communication and collaboration tools are essential to a successful hybrid model. Invest in the right software and training materials so teams can work seamlessly remotely and on-site.
  • Measure outcomes: Hybrid work can be hard to measure without the right metrics. Leverage analytics to gain visibility into employee performance across multiple locations and make proactive improvements.

3. A tech-driven workplace will be the norm

Technology had already started to impact the modern workplace in the decade leading up to 2020, with AI-driven tools and automation increasingly becoming part of everyday operations.

However, with COVID-19 accelerating digital transformation, companies have had to embrace a tech-focused approach faster than ever before.

Whether it is for collaboration, process automation, or payroll management, technology will be key to success in the future workplace.

As the long-term outcomes of the pandemic take shape, technology is emerging as a critical resource for modern-day companies. Businesses that embraced various digital solutions for the 1st time within the last 2 years have seen the benefits and are prioritizing tech-driven approaches.

Therefore, it is unsurprising that 51% of all companies plan to increase their IT spending in 2023, and only 6% expect a reduction.

Whether it is for collaboration, process automation, or payroll management, technology will be key to success in the future workplace.

As HR teams prepare for the future of work, they must help their organizations develop tech-powered strategies that put them ahead of the curve.

Some compelling ways HR can push for a tech-driven workplace include:

  • Identifying improvement areas: Use analytics and metrics to determine which processes can be improved with technology.
  • Investing in the right tools: Explore different technologies and solutions to enhance existing systems and boost productivity.
  • Bringing tech and HR together: Create a process that combines HR teams, IT departments, and C-suite executives to maximize ROI from the latest innovations.
  • Training employees on new tools: Ensure teams have all the resources they need to use technology effectively so that the company can reap maximum benefits.

4. Prioritization of employee wellness is essential

Recent times have seen an accelerated uptake in programs and working models prioritizing employee health and well-being. While the pandemic was the trend’s primary catalyst, the drop in COVID-19 cases did not cause it to drop down the agenda.

On the contrary, well-being has become even more important for employees than it was during the pandemic. According to Switzerland-based Human Resources organization Adecco, only 19% of employees feel their stress has been reduced since lockdowns eased.

Staff wellness encompasses various topics, from physical health and career development to social support and mental resilience.

Regardless of the aspect covered, the all-encompassing goal of a wellness program is to provide employees with a safe, comfortable space to thrive at work.

Given today’s increasingly competitive job market, providing the basics, such as healthcare benefits and paid leave, is no longer enough. Instead, HR teams must proactively develop comprehensive programs that maximize all the essential aspects of wellness.

Some practical ways to prioritize employee wellness include:

  • Researching and reviewing: Monitor trends, study other organizations’ practices, and read up on best practices to keep programs relevant.
  • Providing mental health support: Offer employees access to counselors and experts and resources like digital wellness courses.
  • Investing in feedback systems: Ensure teams have the tools to provide continuous feedback on wellness initiatives.
  • Creating career growth opportunities: Establish a straightforward training program for employees looking to upskill or diversify their roles.
  • Encouraging healthier habits: Introduce initiatives such as fitness classes, mindfulness sessions, and healthy snacks to promote positive practices among staff.

5. Increased diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is vital

DEI has become a critical topic over the last few years. Global citizens have become more aware of the need for an equitable and accessible world, forcing organizations to take action on issues like gender equality, racial justice, and access to resources.

In response, many companies have shifted their focus from numbers and percentages to meaningful practices that ensure a level playing field for all employees.

Diverse companies foster an environment that provides equal rights and opportunities for all employees, regardless of gender, age, sexual orientation, or ethnicity. A diverse workforce acknowledges the skills and differences each team member brings to the table.

A diverse and inclusive workplace is a direct outcome of HR leaders and managers showing commitment to DEI initiatives. Here are 5 ways to nurture diversity, equity, and inclusivity in readiness for the future workplace.

  • Create a DEI policy: Set clear guidelines, objectives, and expectations that promote the values of inclusivity and respect for all employees.
  • Establish a diversity council: Invite members across different departments to provide feedback on current initiatives and suggest new ideas.
  • Encourage open dialogue: Create an environment where everyone can share their opinion without fear of judgment or repercussions.
  • Measure progress regularly: Analyze workforce data to monitor progress towards goals and make adjustments proactively to ensure continuous improvement.
  • Offer training opportunities: Provide employees with resources such as workshops, seminars, and e-learning courses to expand their understanding of DEI topics and develop skills related to intercultural collaboration.

HR has a critical role in preparing for the future workplace

The future workplace is rapidly evolving, and HR teams must ensure that their organizations are ready for what lies ahead. So, as an HR professional, you must be prepared and willing to make the necessary adjustments.

While there are no one-size-fits-all answers for the future of work, the 5 defining characteristics we have discussed will help kick-start the thought process. By assessing your current practices and creating execution plans for these key trends, you can establish a robust foundation for your organization’s future success.

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