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Change & Transformation Posted 15 Dec 2021

A year of change in the workplace: reflecting on 2021

What were the 5 biggest changes in the workplace that will continue to transform our working lives into 2022?

Workplace Changes in 2021 Suzanne Ellis Lansons 1200x675px

As 2021 draws to a close, it’s a good time to reflect on the biggest changes in workplace behaviour and how these will impact 2022 and beyond.

1. The great resignation continues so employee engagement will be critical

It was after 18 months of lockdown that ‘the great resignation’ really came into force.

We all know someone who has resigned this year. And it’s set to continue into 2022. Just last month (November 2021) a survey, by recruiter Randstad UK, found that 7 out of 10 employees plan to move to a new job in the next few months.

For some, it was because of the effects of burnout. For others, having more time at home led them to reflect on their work lives; from pursuing a dream job or finding more meaningful work.

Retaining and attracting employees suddenly became a priority, with new incentives emerging such as:

  • upfront payments for recruiting - supermarkets like Asda and Tesco are now offering £1,000 signing-on fees for HGV drivers
  • introducing a 4-day working week for retention – in November, ATOM bank moved to 4 days for all employees, keeping the same salaries despite a reduction in time.
↳ Creative ways for recruiting and retaining employees will continue into 2022. And this is when employee engagement becomes critical.


2. Remote working is here to stay, but our sense of connection is getting lost

The dominance of office-based working is over.

Lockdown forced employers to rapidly allow remote working from home. And employees love the newfound freedom and flexibility that comes with remote working. But this forced, unexpected shift, is not the same as well-planned, flexible working systems.

The benefits to both employees and employers are already apparent. But there are behavioural risks. The main one is letting two cultures emerge: the in-person workers vs. remote workers.

For remote workers, we’ve seen that culture, the sense of belonging and social cohesion, soon deteriorates. When this occurs, people can quickly feel isolated, excluded and unhappy.

↳ For many organisations, 2022 will be about redefining their work norms and improving employee connections and culture in our hybrid world.

Workplace Changes in 2021 Suzanne Ellis Lansons 1200x675px Connection


3. Employers are prioritising Diversity and Inclusion [D&I] action and accountability

2021 saw organisations ramping up their D&I efforts, with focused support for their underrepresented employees – gender orientation, cultures, race & ethnicities, disabilities, age, appearance and more.

As a communicator, I’m particularly interested in the role of language in the D&I agenda. It binds us. Instructs us. It creates a common understanding.

Historically, language has left many people out. Inclusive language seeks to treat all people with respect, dignity, and impartiality. Making changes to use more inclusive language offers us a chance to be better communicators while also caring for those we’re communicating with.

It’s why we’re seeing greater use of “they” instead of “he/she” and new training programmes to instigate a change in behaviour with greater empathy and sensitivity.

↳ In 2022, employees will expect to see continued progress, otherwise the goodwill created by D&I goal setting will wear thin. So, it’s good to know that research by CBI and Ipsos MORI shows that two thirds of businesses are planning to increase their D&I activities between 2022-2025.

4. Investment in employee wellbeing is growing

Mental health issues, burnout, and stressed workers became so widespread during the pandemic that the World Health Organisation (WHO) claimed it an ‘occupational phenomenon’.

Suddenly, more impetus for creating workplace wellness strategies was seen, with organisations rushing to navigate new initiatives including physical, emotional, financial, social, community and Purpose.

Some of the best initiatives we’ve seen include:

  • PwC’s Be Well, Work Well Habit Bank identifies a range of habits to improve one’s physical wellbeing from standing up for short meetings, to getting more sleep.
  • Bupa’s Bupa Boost app in UK facilitates 24/7 ‘Healthy Minds’ service with advice from bereavement to mindfulness.
  • Hilton Hotel’s Give a Dream, Live a Dream offers a month’s sabbatical option for philanthropic work, explore new interests or achieve a personal goal.
  • Facebook has taken a quirky approach to vending machines; rather than offering the usual fizzy drinks and bars of chocolate, they used them to provide all the parts you’d need to repair a bike for encouraging physical wellness with cycling.
  • HP has Employee Resource Groups (ERG) for remote workers to ensure they connect to each other and share resources they need as they navigate work/life challenges like home schooling or looking after sick relatives.
↳ In 2022 we’ll see continued investment in creating holistic well-being cultures. Leaders must now view well-being not just as an employee benefit, but as an opportunity to support employees in all aspects of their personal and work lives.
Workplace Changes in 2021 Suzanne Ellis Lansons 1200x675px Office Design
Workplace Changes in 2021 Suzanne Ellis Lansons 1200x675px Hotel

5. Social purpose matters to us now, more than ever

Demand for organisations to show how their actions help the planet and society has soared.

Employees expect true commitment to uphold values. Those companies that do prioritise climate and social responsibility stand out. As a result, they can attract and retain the best talent.

But some companies are not going far enough. It's one thing to say you care, it is another thing to completely live and breathe what you promise, which has led to phrases like “purpose-washing”, “green-washing” and “woke-washing”.

BrewDog is a great example of an organisation not acting on its values. In the summer, ex-employees came together calling themselves “Punks with Purpose” – Punks being a term widely used within Brewdog - to whistle-blow on the company’s toxic culture and the gap of what they were saying vs. doing, causing a severe knock to their reputation.

↳ We’ll see more organisations becoming purpose led in 2022 and being accountable for actioning their promises. If they don’t, they risk losing employees and competitive advantage.

In the last 18 months, the way people work has seen unpresented change in response to Covid pandemic.

2022 will see organisations building on the above 2021 biggest changes. There’s still much more to do before we reach a new ‘norm’ in our work lives. And, there’s no going back!

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Suzanne Ellis 414x475 2021 03 29 223542

Suzanne Ellis

Board Director and Head of Communications for Change and Transformation

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