The trends shaping work in 2022: human relations

At last, there is recognition that people are not commodities. Companies of all sizes are putting a greater emphasis on wellbeing for their employees and freelancers.

In today’s hybrid world of work, HR is being rebranded from ‘human resources’ to ‘human relations’. This is because companies are realising that happier employees are more productive, and they are therefore investing in mental health, employee wellbeing and improved lines of communication.

The pandemic has actually encouraged a new sense of empathy in company leaders, who have seen at close hand the psychological strains that employees have experienced over the last two years.

From presenteeism to absenteeism

It was only a matter of days into lockdown when Bruce Daisley, the former VP for EMEA at Twitter and author of The Joy of Work, highlighted the rise in stress levels for modern professionals working from home every day.

Uncertainty around Covid-19 and what it could mean to somebody’s livelihood, as well as their health, meant spending hour upon hour in online meetings because people wanted to be visible and seen to be doing their job, even if those meetings weren’t relevant or necessary.

“Many people I’ve spoken to are now doing around 20 hours of Zoom conferences a week,” said Daisley back in the spring of 2020. “That amount of forced concentration is a form of presenteeism.”

There was a greater risk of stress followed by burnout and the pandemic has been highly stressful for almost everyone. According to the American Institute of Stress, companies in the US lose US$300bn per year as a result of absenteeism, so things really need to change. In years to come, many firms will be proud to say they are part of the ‘caring economy’.

Take time to unwind

Last summer, Nike closed its headquarters for a week to give staff some unexpected time off. “Our senior leaders are all sending a clear message: take the time to unwind, destress and spend time with your loved ones. Do not work,” the company’s Senior Manager of Global Marketing Science Matt Marrazzo wrote in a LinkedIn post. Staff were paid during the week off, which Nike said was to “enable employees to enjoy additional time off to rest and recover”.

Dating app Bumble went one step further, telling its 700 employees they could take unlimited paid leave providing they got approval from their manager. “It’s becoming increasingly clear that the way that we work, and need to work, has changed and our new policies are a reflection of what really matters and how we can best support our teams in both their work and life,” said Bumble President Tariq Shaukat.

The freedom to choose

Hybrid working – where people can work either at home or in a local flexible workspace, with an occasional visit to the head office – has not only been important for employee satisfaction but has also helped cloud communications company Avaya (named in Forbes’ 2020 list of World’s Best Employers) to attract young talent.

The company’s decision to base its HQ at a Spaces location in Zurich means that the team can work together in situ when needed, and can also invite clients, partners and new teammates to an elegant, modern office space.

“Young professionals ask for, and sometimes demand, hybrid collaboration and ‘working from anywhere’ policies,” says Ourania Odermatt, Managing Director of Switzerland and Austria Avaya.

“They embrace the freedom to choose where they can work most productively. For team collaboration [or client meetings], it might be… a nearby Spaces workspace, or for processing an offer or tender it might be their home. With our flexible workspace and communication tools, we prove that we are a modern and innovative employer.”

Hybrid benefits

At its best, the hybrid model embodies respect and personalisation, meaning that no matter what an employee’s or freelancer’s needs are, they will always have a place to work that suits them and the flexibility to deliver what is required of them outside the confines of the traditional 9-5 working week.

Hybrid working naturally aligns with better mental health because people are less frequently forced to compromise their own needs for those of the company.

Hybrid working also does away with the stress (and expense) of a long daily commute, allowing more time to see family and friends. At the same time, it offers the opportunity to spend time in an office or coworking space with others whenever necessary, reducing the chance of draining ‘Zoom fatigue’ or ‘presenteeism’ and offering the opportunity to see and interact with colleagues and other like-minded individuals in the real world.

The increasing importance of ‘human relations’ in the workplace is one of ten trends identified in IWG’s white paper, The Future of Work: a trends forecast for 2022.

Enjoy this? You might also like these Spaces magazine stories:

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