Chasing HR trends? You’re already behind

December 17, 2021

HR trends

It’s more than remote and work-life balance

Many of the workplace shifts we’ve seen in the past two years would have taken five or even 10 years without a global pandemic. How and where we work today bears little resemblance to our previous modes, and HR professionals have had their hands full keeping up. Trending shifts in hiring, retention and culture might be easy to recognize, but anticipating trends is key to beating the competition and winning the talent you need.

Let’s take a look at a few of the most popular trends in HR and how to get ahead.

Present: Remote work | Future: Unbound work styles

Even before the pandemic, remote work was a hot trend item, and that trend has only accelerated since 2020. Dropbox, Facebook and Slack have all made remote work permanent, and dozens of other companies now offer hybrid office options. And for a significant portion of the workforce, this shift has become non-negotiable. Seventy-four percent of workers say that having the option to work remotely would make them less likely to leave a company, and 54% say they would like remote to be their primary way of working. It’s clear that remote is here to stay and employers need to plan accordingly.

To hire and keep the workers you really need, you must offer more than just a work-from-home approach. Today’s workers want the ability to tailor their entire work experience.

This approach is now a business imperative, and comes with competitive benefits like diversity, retention and differentiation in attracting top hires. Women report higher rates of burnout, stress and exhaustion than men, and women with few work style options are 20% more likely to seek a new job in the next three years. A Center for Work-Life Policy survey of women with advanced degrees or high-honors undergraduate degrees found that 69% who had left work would not have done so if their workplace had offered them more say over their working styles.

Younger talent is also at stake, and that means tomorrow’s leaders. A recent survey shows that a third of GenZers would never tolerate being forced to work when they don’t want to, not being able to use vacation days when they want to or an employer who gave them no say over their work schedule. And 71% say they would consider quitting if they couldn’t bring their pet to the office when it reopens after the pandemic.

All of this may cause some longtime executives or directors to bristle, but to ignore this changing workscape is to put your company at a competitive disadvantage. Companies benefit from cost savings due to reduced turnover and absenteeism. And when employees have more say over their work experience and choose styles that are best for them, they experience decreased stress, improved health and wellbeing and increased commitment and engagement to their companies.

Remote work is today’s reality. To get ahead of the curve, you’ll need to adopt new workplace approaches that put your people at the center, and give them the freedom to define their overall work experience. Some workers may want remote, while others want a hybrid model. One may want to switch from full-time to part-time, or from direct hire to contract. And still others may need asynchronous hours. In short, you must accommodate individual workstyles by becoming a company that fits into the lifestyles people want for themselves.

Present: Work-life balance is important | Future: Work-life balance is radically supported

Work-life balance struggles are common experiences for many workers, but companies have been slow to adapt to their changing needs. The stresses and responsibilities were already present, but now working from home has blurred the line between work and personal life for many, with the result that poor mental health and burnout are on the rise.

Remote work has led to higher productivity, but at what cost? The present reality is a mental health crisis among the global workforce. Anxiety has risen. In the U.K., 25% of workers feel they have hit a psychological breaking point, and over half of those surveyed feel pressure to hide their difficulty coping from coworkers. Only 16% of workers feel their mental health needs are supported at work and over a third believe their employers don’t provide them with enough support.

If you want to hire the best candidates, retain them, and get the most productivity, you must get ahead of your competitors who may disregard these needs or lag in addressing them. Invest in programs and resources to support workers’ mental health and caregiving responsibilities.

In the Lime Global Limited 2021 study, “Keeping up Appearances: How Pleasanteeism is Eroding Resilience,” 40% of respondents say they will look for a new job if their employers don’t do more to support mental health needs (it’s estimated that losing a worker can cost one-and-a-half to two times their annual salary). U.S. workers experiencing mental health symptoms report they are unproductive for about 3.25 hours per day, and those with severe mental distress can lose up to half an average workday.

Millennial and GenZ workers are demanding more support from their companies, and industry leaders are taking notice. Nike, LinkedIn, Bumble and Hootsuite now offer weeklong paid breaks for mental health, and others are providing access to tools and counseling resources.

Additionally, 2020 and 2021 have shined a spotlight on caregiving employees and the specific needs they face. Caregivers make up 45% of the U.S. workforce, providing unpaid health, wellbeing and safety care for children, spouses or other family members. One in 10 American parents is also a caregiver to an adult.

Yet data shows that 43% of companies offer less than two weeks of paid caregiving leave per year and only 14% of respondents reported that their employers provide childcare support. Employers report even less—9% report providing or considering providing child care subsidies and only 7% providing or considering onsite child care.

As Evan Falchuk, CEO of Family First said, “Caregiving is a process—it’s not a single event. We have a care team that includes social workers, nurses and physicians. And a very comprehensive technology platform to really dig into the details of what’s really happening in these cases.”

Investing in full-spectrum mental health and family-friendly benefits is a win-win. Employees’ quality of life and sense of organizational commitment increase, while the business sees improved morale, productivity and retention across the organization. With so many companies failing to meet their workers’ needs in this area, see this as an opportunity to win talent, keep it and lead the competition.

The workscape has changed. Today’s talent has more leverage and can demand more of their companies than they could in the past. Whether it’s an unbound working style or life balance, organizations must now accommodate the unique work experiences their talent wants or risk losing them to a competitor. It’s more than remote; today’s workforce is in a position to expect more of their employers.

Trends come and go. Don’t lose valuable time considering today’s realities and what to do about them; that will leave you behind—things evolve quickly. Adopt and adapt; be ready for what’s next by listening to and working with your people to shape work experiences that define your value proposition as an employer of choice. 

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