Workplace trends: Predictions for 2023

26 Sep 2022

Workplace trends: Predictions for 2023

The business arena is constantly changing and adapting, driven by a plethora of factors, from social, political, economic and technological developments through to consumer buying patterns. The last two years have been particularly volatile with Covid-19 challenging businesses to adapt to unprecedented circumstances both at speed and with agility.

This period of intense unrest has had a significant impact and brought new learnings, advancements and revelations to employers and employees alike. What’s more, as employment rates boom, and candidates reassess their priorities, businesses are getting to grips with a whole new dimension of the employment market as the race hots up for employer attraction and retention.

Here, we outline predictions for 2023, providing insights to aid your business to understand and adapt to meet these emerging trends.

  1. Gen-Z to challenge business thinking

Gen-Z (those born between 1997 and early 2010) may be the newest kid on the block but it’s also the largest, accounting for a fifth of the UK workforce.

And this group of millennials brings an entirely new dimension to the table with it. Nurtured in a fast moving, always on, digital-centric world, Gen Zs are pragmatic when it comes to the workplace and hold high expectations around wellbeing, social responsibility and the adoption of digital work and collaboration tools. Which means essential catch-up time for UK business. Whilst the demands may be high and the motivations need unpicking, investment in Gen Z is absolutely key to maintaining a thriving, forward thinking, tech savvy workplace that keeps us ahead of the game.

  1. Hybrid working comes to the fore

Severely disrupting the business world, the pandemic forced companies to rapidly adopt new practices and accelerated the move towards remote working. Aided by substantial technological advancements, employers and employees found they were able to effectively achieve and monitor KPIs and deliver against their business goals, remotely.

Employees also discovered the numerous benefits, including freedom and flexibility, that remote working brings. So, as the threat of Covid subsides, the demand for remote and hybrid working remains. What’s more, the trend brings plentiful rewards to businesses as this new norm attracts talent, increases diversity and, naturally, improves employee wellbeing – making for a healthier and happier workforce and, in turn, a low turnover, highly motivated and profitable business.

“At Alexander Ash our new hybrid working world, is the intimate connection between business strategy, customer service and employee engagement.

The pandemic’s disruption to our workplace has driven rapid transformation, brought managing hybrid teams to the forefront of our daily operations.

Our organisation success depends on making hybrid working work. Optimise performance to galvanising teamwork in both physical and virtual working environments” MD, Alexander Ash

  1. Flexible working gathers apace

Flexible working, in all its guises, has long been recognised as a motivational driver for employees. Yet employers have historically been slow to propel the movement for flexible working forward. Adoption barriers have arisen due to the ambiguous nature of the term and the courage to trust in employees to identify and harness their own productivity patterns. This slump was identified as a key issue pre-Covid, resulting in the CIPD setting up a Flexible Working Taskforce with the government and other stakeholders to boost understanding and adoption of flexible working policies.

The epidemic, however, forced this issue upon employers and thankfully the UK is experiencing a sea change in the way that employees are expected to work. In a candidate driven market and with 55% of employees stating that the option to work flexibly will impact on their decision to stay with their current employer (Gartner), it seems that flexible working is at last here to stay. The good news for business is that flexible working policies result in higher job satisfaction, commitment and more effort, ultimately meaning improved productivity (Sage).

  1. Call for centralised communications

A once relished advancement, the onslaught of innovative business communications tools, whether that be instant messaging, chat apps, video conferencing software or social media, has created an ‘always on’ culture that demands instant response and is devoid of space for thinking or critical downtime. Moreover, our workforces are suffering from severe information overload and a multitude of open tabs– a recipe that is ripe for driving stress, anxiety and burnout. This new epidemic has prompted the need for streamlined and centralised communication tools, ensuring relevant and timely conversations around business goals.

  1. The race to embrace work life balance

Whether it’s having the autonomy to choose your working hours, hybrid working policies or access to wellness resources, work life balance has become a top priority for employees and employers alike in today’s candidate driven market.

With 50% of workers reporting work as disruptive to personal life and increasing reports of burnout, calls to redefine work life balance are on the rise (Glassdoor 2021). As unemployment rates hit a low and salary incentives no longer cut the mustard, the onus is now firmly on business to adapt policy and practice to attract and retain top talent.

”For me, work-life balance involves a mixture of time management, commitment, and (most importantly) prioritisation. It requires you to determine what mixture of professional and personal activities will offer the satisfaction that drives me”. CEO Alexander Ash

  1. Honing in on employee wellbeing

UK work culture coupled with the rise in digital technology and the ‘on’ economy has seen a dramatic rise in stress levels, burn-out and low emotional wellbeing in recent years. For many, work quite simply came first – above health, wellbeing and relationships. Yet, there has been a sharp about turn in perspective in recent months with both employees and employers making wellbeing a priority – a phenomenon that may well be attributed to the outtake of the Covid epidemic alongside current low levels of employment that are challenging employers to think on their feet with regards to attracting and retaining top talent.

Wellness strategies are appearing more readily within company policy and practice with employers making holistic adaptations to include onsite facilities such as creches and gyms, and workplace adaptions including natural lighting, alongside more intangible support mechanisms including counselling and coaching support, mental health training and team building events.

  1. Shining a light on gender equality

Sadly, the battle to achieve gender equality is far from over. Hence, it remains a key priority for UK business. Whilst recent years have seen a plethora of diversity campaigns and gender recruitment and retention initiatives, the data still isn’t stacking up and the gender gap is still too wide. That said, affecting cultural change takes time, and as businesses and wider society adapt and fine tune practices, we should expect to see the uptake of women into leadership roles grow. We know that a gender diverse workforce reaps plentiful returns. Companies with female board directors report a 0.7% increase in turnover compared to those without whilst gender diverse companies also cite improved communications, innovation and boosted morale (Nominet). The figures speak for themselves – gender diversity is great for people, team effectiveness, morale, business and, of course, the economy.

At Alexander Ash, we set out to work in a way that’s completely collaborative. From how we become an extension of our client’s team, to how we encourage our own team to be themselves at work. The team at Alexander Ash come from a wide range of backgrounds. As a diverse business we’re able to make better informed decisions. Inclusion is part of our DNA as a business. Creating an equality culture is the right thing to do because an inclusive future is a better future. We’re committed to going beyond meeting our statutory obligations and strive to foster an environment where our people are encouraged to bring their true selves to work. As employers, we’re always learning new ways to improve our own diversity and inclusion practices. Our dedication to striving for a future that’s more equal helps us create a diverse talent pool for our clients. We’re proud of the work we do in this area and firmly believe that inclusion fuels our success.

  1. The search for social purpose

Today’s businesses find themselves operating in a fiercely competitive environment in which both career hopping and personal expectations are high. With lifers few and far between the onus is on employers to understand and exceed employee expectations if they wish to attract and retain talent. Whilst wellbeing and upskilling both top the priorities list, employees also seek to work for firms that care about their community and wider social issues. And this is where corporate social responsibility (or social purpose) comes into play. Historically adopted by some of the bigger players, supporting the community and ‘giving back’ has now entered the domain of the SMEs. Whether that be offering volunteer hours to employees, partnering with community projects or upskilling beneficiaries, those companies that really grasp what sits at the heart of CSR – incorporating it into their mission and pursuing thoughtful relationships that mirror their values and business activities – will be the real game changers that are set to thrive.

  1. Upskilling takes centre stage

With employment at an all-time high and companies clambering to fill positions, employees have the unusual advantage of being incredibly mobile and demanding in their search for the perfect role.

With these demands comes the need for businesses to redefine their recruitment and retention strategies to include very clear pathways for employees to upskill. As employers are beginning to discover, progression paths and skills development are a crucial driver in employee decisions to accept, stay or move on from a role. Aside from this deciding factor, companies that choose to invest are assured of broader business achievements including the promise of high-performing teams. And as Covid restrictions have proven, upskilling needn’t be laborious, time intensive or flexible to deliver. As a multitude of businesses took their functions online, with it has come the discovery that training can, in many cases, be delivered swiftly, remotely and flexibly.

  1. Continued growth in AI

The evolution of AI has enabled workers to move away from the more mundane tasks to focus on those that require thought and human interaction, and that deliver greater productivity. Despite an initial reluctance to embrace AI, employees are becoming more accepting and find themselves working harmoniously alongside robots in the workplace.

Whilst there is still some concern around the impact of AI on the labour market, it is becoming ever clearer that bots deliver greater benefits than drawbacks both for employees and employers. Improvements in operational efficiency, reductions in costs and its ability to bridge the skills gap means that AI is on the up and here to stay.

  1. A focus on soft skills

With employee motivations pointing towards softer incentives – namely wellbeing, upskilling, social purpose and flexibility – businesses are adapting to focus their leadership teams and development programmes on the necessary soft skills to drive these outcomes. Written and verbal skills, problem-solving and inter-personal relations all play a pivotal role in creating great leaders and producing high performing teams that thrive on human connections. Historically largely disregarded due to its intangible nature, the uptake of soft skills development is now in full swing across many major players as well as smaller enterprises – in a trend that promises future great leaders.

In a nutshell

With a constantly evolving business landscape, the impetus is largely on UK companies and enterprises to get up to speed and provide for innovation, changing trends and employee perceptions. Adaptation, flexibility and commitment are all key success factors in this process. Meanwhile, employees and workers (whether that be flexi, hybrid, gig or full time) have a duty to themselves and their counterparts to advocate, educate and challenge, to air their wants and needs in a bid to create a harmonious working environment for employers and employees alike.