At the outset of 2021, I wrote about “resilience” and, perhaps slightly prematurely “recovery” (MM Jan 13, 2021).
For 2022, it seems the key word is “flexibility”. Accelerated by lockdowns, flexible working became the norm for many of us and is likely here to stay. It is increasingly enabled by technology that provide new tools and platforms, which enhance collaboration and customer engagement. Working from home creates realistic opportunities to live outside cities without changing employer. But there’s no one size fits all approach. While some of us welcome work-from-home convenience, others were (or are) eagerly anticipating a return to their workplace. Consequently a hybrid model is popular, where there is some working from home and some in the workplace. The workplace can provide social benefits, including spontaneous conversations and interaction with colleagues that are not always possible online.
In contrast to 2020, 2021’s employment market was buoyant and competitive across many sectors. When recruiting, we’re seeing elevated salaries and benefits, with skilled candidates receiving multiple offers and counter-offers. We’re hearing of The Great Resignation where employees re-evaluate the value of the work they do and how it aligns with personal fulfillment. This requires employers to have a strategic focus on culture and employee experience to attract and retain staff. Flexibility in hours, location or employment terms are key to this. Work environments with flexible working models are attractive and gain a competitive edge in a
With an aging demographic and longer working lives, will we see a shift towards more project-model “gig workers” rather than permanent employment? Workplaces encompassing old and young will strengthen diversity of experience and ideas and will likely retain or engage talented individuals wanting flexibility in the way they contribute.
Might flexibility also become important in managing annual leave to accommodate a potential 2022 “holiday exodus”? Prior to the recent Omicron threat, quarantine-free travel dates brought the prospect of family reconnection. In the future, will there be a flurry of extended leave requests, requiring flexibility to accommodate such leave? Perhaps a combination of holiday, integrated with remote working, or leave in advance or leave without pay? A culture of mutual flexibility, exploring and considering solutions, brings mutual advantage and may also help alleviate the anticipated impact of legislated increases in sick leave.
There’s no doubt that employers and employees start 2022 with continued uncertainty. On-going border closures impact sectors reliant on visitors or those targeting offshore workers. Supply chain disruption continues. There are new challenges from the introduction and flow-on effects of vaccination mandates. It seems likely that flexibility to maximise opportunities and agility to respond to continuing change will be valuable tools in navigating the year ahead.