Action stations: what to expect on the future of work in 2022

While 2021 was the year for re-evaluating, contemplating and planning strategies for the future, 2022 will be the year of action

As companies, business leaders and employees start the new year with a renewed sense of determination and hope, WORKTECH Academy looks back at its most popular articles of 2021 and forecasts how some of these ideas might come into fruition in 2022.

People: curating connections

In 2021, there was a lot of debate around the WORKTECH network about the significance and importance of serendipitous encounters and unplanned interactions between colleagues, which were damaged in the pandemic. While many leaders agreed that they need to encourage these interactions across a hybrid workforce, there was no clear path to achieving this goal.

Towards the end of last year, behavioural scientist and associate director of Boston Consulting group Kristi Woolsey spoke to WORKTECH Academy director Jeremy Myerson as part of the Smart Coffee Break podcast series on productivity at work, presented by Nestle Coffee Partners. Woolsey explained that leaders need to curate ways for people to connect with each other, whether in the office or not.

In 2022, organisations that haven’t already done so will start to implement their strategies for social cohesion across a dispersed workforce. For some these may take the form of curated in-person events and meetings, for others this might be to set aside five minutes at the beginning of a virtual meeting for personal sharing.

Place: building for resilience

In 2021 the pandemic continued to disrupt plans to return to the office and ‘build back better’ in our cities. Public announcements and promises of returning to the office were repeatedly delayed and people were once again asked to minimise travel and social activities.

As we move into 2022, people have learned to live with the pandemic and its unpredictable disruptions. The focus for this year will be to build resilience into our buildings and cities to overcome any future adversities. In May 2021, we quoted from a report by New London Architecture stating that ‘flexibility and sustainability in every aspect – not just space and layout but also leasing, management and location – will be key attributes of the resilient office.’

Technology: immersing in the metaverse

In 2021, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg shared his vision to transform Facebook, now aptly rebranded as Meta, into a metaverse company where consumers are not just viewing content, but physically immersing in it. The metaverse refers to the idea of a shared, persistent virtual space, akin to a digital mirror of the real world but without any physical constraints.

As organisations forecast for the year ahead, the metaverse will increasingly be introduced into corporate real estate lexicon. Companies are experimenting with the ‘nth’ floor, which is a virtual space employees can enter into as an avatar and meet colleagues in geographically dispersed areas in one place. This will become more commonplace in the world of real estate in 2022.

Design: supporting sustainability

2021 saw the unveiling of an impressive Danish timber construction that embeds carbon instead of emitting it. Designed by Danish architect Henning Larsen, the ‘Marmormolen’ was presented as a symbol of sustainable leadership.

This monumental building was just one of the developments in sustainable practice in 2021. The COP26 conference triggered discussion and highlighted clear expectations from governments, cities, and organisations to lead a greener future. Riding on this wave, many organisations in 2022 will be actioning their sustainable strategies in the form of workplace design, using sustainable materials and energy saving technologies to promote greener workplaces.

Culture: co-designing culture

The pandemic prompted a re-evaluation of workplace culture amid claims of burnout and the deterioration of employees’ mental wellbeing. In 2021, leaders deliberated and discussed how they can support, empathise and motivate their teams to enhance the working culture. Culture is driven by leadership but implemented and experienced by employees.

In 2022, there will be a more cohesive and co-designed approach to creating positive workplace cultures across a spectrum of different work locations. Part of this process includes leadership really listening and asking the right questions about what employees expect from their company culture. Employees want to feel part of something meaningful, and leaders have the opportunity this year to implement the culture that is right for all employees.

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