Five Predictions For How Your Job Will Change In 2022—If You Decide To Keep It

Five Predictions For How Your Job Will Change In 2022—If You Decide To Keep It

It’s never been dicier to make predictions about the future of work. Return to office dates have been cancelled as often as flights over the Christmas holiday. Hiring demands change on a dime as resignations keep hitting record highs. Plans for workplace vaccine mandates have become ensnared in legal challenges.
7 Febrero 2022

Yet the very concept of employment and how work gets done is undergoing such fundamental shifts that some are unafraid to suggest radical overhauls are on the way. We’ll start working in the metaverse, some predict, especially now that Mark Zuckerberg wants us to. Employees will demand to be paid in Bitcoin. Future workers will be managed by “decentralized autonomous organizations,” or DAOs like the one that tried to buy the U.S. Constitution.

Maybe—but probably not very widely in 2022. To figure out what changes and trends we might realistically expect at work in the year ahead, we spoke with corporate leaders, human resources advisers and technology experts. Some big themes: Return to office plans will be based more on metrics, digital whiteboards will be a big tech trend and the hot job market isn’t likely to cool off anytime soon. 

It could even get worse, says talent strategist Steve Cadigan, as more professionals juggling mortgages and school calendars join the exodus this spring and summer: “Organizations that are requiring people to return to the office and offering very few flexible options are going to be suffering a severe hemorrhage of talent,” he says. Below, five predictions for what to expect on the job in 2022.

1.     The “return to office” date will be replaced by a “return to office” set of conditions.

It’s getting old. The ever-shifting dates, we mean—from last September to this January to now, well, who knows. As a never-ending march of new variants have repeatedly disrupted reopening plans, some companies are scratching target dates entirely, says Brian Kropp, vice president of research at Gartner. “What they’re realizing is they have to shift from dates to conditions that define how open our workplace is,” Kropp says, and that open periods may come and go.

He and others suggest businesses need to move toward a set of metrics, such as hospitalization rates or local transmission rates, to decide whether to be open. Writing in the New Yorker, contributing writer and Georgetown computer science professor Cal Newport criticized employers’ slow adoption of such metrics as an ambiguity crutch that keeps executives from having to make tough decisions. 

“The goal should not be to make a small number of executives’ professional lives easier,” Newport wrote. “For companies that still have not reopened their offices, and that are still offering little guidance beyond citing a date at which they will reassess the situation, employees should be upset.” 

2.     Raises—or bonuses—will grow, which could lead companies to hire more globally.

There’s a lot of debate over whether inflation should lead to raises: It’s causing pain in workers’ wallets, yet once a raise goes into place, it’s hard to take it away if prices fall. Some companies like Google have reportedly told workers they won’t be doing across-the-board adjustments for inflation. 

Yet there are also signs some employers have taken the issue into account, with Gartner reporting that 40% of its human resources clients surveyed plan to make an inflation adjustment to pay. The competitive job market is also a factor, with a survey by the accounting firm Grant Thornton finding that 51% of human resources leaders expect average merit increases of more than 5%, while 68% said more workers would be eligible for a bonus. 

Slightly more than half of human resources leaders expect average merit increases of more than 5%, while 68% said more employees would be eligible for a bonus.  Grant Thornton survey

“It’s less about inflation right now,” says Tim Glowa, principal of human capital services at Grant Thornton. “What we’re really seeing is the war for talent.” Salary increase budgets are the highest since 2008, according to a November report by the Conference Board, forecasting a 3.9% jump in wage costs, compared with 3% in April.  

That will lead to more challenges around what’s known as “salary compression”—when the cost of attracting new recruits means they’re paid the same or more than tenured employees. If current employees find out, they may leave, worsening a recruiting and retention crisis. Or, says Ragu Bhargava, CEO of Global Upside, which offers global H.R. and accounting services, it can put employers in the tough position of having to raise salaries for all, which could have other consequences. “What we are also seeing a little bit of, and it is going to creep up a lot more in 2022 if inflation and salary compression continues, is hiring globally.” 

3.     Coordinated vacation will become a lasting part of the corporate calendar.

As companies have fought to address the burnout and mental health demands of the pandemic, many have added days off to help people cope. By giving everyone in the company the same day off, it limits getting pulled into meetings, the buzz of email and Slack messages or a sense of professional FOMO. 

Etsy, for instance, had its fifth “Breaksgiving” day of 2021 the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Several companies, including LinkedIn, HootSuite and Bumble, effectively shut down for a week this year. Deloitte, meanwhile, expanded its “collective disconnect” days designed to extend federal holidays or long weekends to eight days in 2021, on top of other holidays and vacation.

Deloitte CEO Joseph Ucuzoglu says he thinks more companies will “absolutely” coordinate such time off in the year ahead as they look to give employees a break. “When their colleagues are also taking vacation at the same time, it exponentially adds to the ability to not continue to be thinking that you’ve got to be on your email.”

Carol Sladek, who leads work-life consulting for Aon, says she’s seeing a growing number of employers try to coordinate extra holidays, too. “We are seeing employers say there’s a big benefit to [shutting things down for everyone at the same time, and considering] maybe we should think about adding a few days between Christmas and New Year’s.” 

4.     The metaverse won’t take off quite yet. But new tech will try to ease hybrid work.

While some employers may start experimenting this year with the metaverse, a virtual reality space with digital avatars, widespread adoption is still a few years off, say experts (including Bill Gates). Christopher Trueman, a principal research analyst at Gartner, says we're probably talking at least five or six years before that starts to become more common, and likely even further out than that,” noting virtual and augmented reality are still costly, have hardware challenges and don’t yet interact well with common business applications. 

Rather, the tech employees will most notice this year are health-related apps for returning to the office, visual collaboration tools and in some cases, gadgets or better cameras to ease the frustrations of hybrid video calls, when some people are dialing in from home and others are in a room together.

“We're probably talking at least five or six years before [the metaverse] starts to become more common” in the workplace.  Gartner principal research analyst Christopher Trueman

Expedia Group, for instance, has updated some conference room cameras with software that uses artificial intelligence to pan and zoom to the person speaking. In others, it’s piloting iPads at conference table seats to help replicate the experience at home. Unlike a table full of laptops employees bring—which could mean dead batteries, microphone feedback complications and, of course, people multi-tasking—the iPads are fixed, says Chris Burgess, Expedia’s vice president of IT. “It’s a way of ensuring that everyone has the same experience,” he says. 

Expedia is also introducing digital whiteboard tools — as is Deloitte — something Trueman says many companies are adding to help replace the physical whiteboard. Remote workers, he says, have good messaging and video conference apps, “but they struggle when it comes to the visual aspects of [remote] collaboration,” he says. 

5.     Skills will start mattering a lot more than specific experience or work history. 

It may seem obvious, but in a tight labor market, companies are increasingly focused on the individual skills workers bring to the job rather than the past roles and education on their resume, human resources experts say. With the volume of hires at the highest level since LinkedIn started tracking in 2015, “it's causing companies to think about their hiring practices in more expansive ways,” says Dan Shapero, LinkedIn’s chief operating officer, giving the example of a sales operations manager being considered for business development or strategy jobs.  

“Whereas in the past it might have been based on your experience — where did you go to school? Where did you work before? — companies are coming up with a broader range of ways to assess who is good at what that isn't so directly tied to their prior experience,” he says. 

The shift is big enough that it’s changing how employers think about pay, says Martine Ferland, president and CEO of Mercer. “We're now pricing the skills rather than pricing the roles or the job,” she says. “This movement is much more rapid than I would have anticipated, to the point where we've just launched a database” that helps employers pay based on skills. 

What’s in it for employees? “It makes you more mobile, more employable,” says Ferland. “I think it can make your work life much more interesting when it's focused on building your portfolio of skills opposed to the very rigid ‘ladder’ type of career path.”

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