4 Trends and Challenges of Remote Work That Will Continue Into 2022
Here we are, fast approaching the finish line of 2021 and many of us are already engaged in typical end-of-year activities: evaluating, re-evaluating, counting our failures and successes, drawing conclusions and setting new directions.
Since the pandemic started, it seems like we have entered a long and winding tunnel with no way out. We’ve moved our office to the living room, we’ve shifted our meetings to Zoom, we’ve turned to new equipment and apps to keep us connected or learned how to communicate asynchronously. Furthermore, we’ve seen what works and what doesn’t when we’re away from the team but also when we’re recruiting new people, and we’ve started to change our mindset or hit against old ways of thinking.
At the end of this tunnel, we will definitely come out transformed. If 2020 was the warm-up, 2021 has come to seal some of the trends and challenges of remote work that are here to stay, at least for a while.
1. Long hours and the need to set boundaries
According to a Harvard Business Review survey conducted among 1,500 people in 46 countries, nearly 90% of employees say their work-life balance has worsened as a result of working remotely.
While there are differences between organizations and industries, it is clear that the boundaries between work and time off have become blurred and many are finding it difficult to separate the two areas of their lives in a way that benefits them.
One such industry is the investment banking one, which has had to reassess its approach in 2021. After the testimonies of some of their employees describing the tough working conditions circulated on social media in the spring of this year, the management had no choice but to come up with concrete measures to tackle the arduous problem of long hours and incredible pressure.
This trend is likely to continue into next year, as more and more organizations need to prioritise the mental and emotional health of employees in the context of COVID.
2. Toxic environment can go online
Who said remote work would solve the toxic environment that, sometimes, we have to put up with in our careers?
If you thought you could hide from the toxic atmosphere of your office in the comfort of your own home, it must have been a huge surprise when you realized it had moved online. Long hours, uncertainty, pressures of all kinds, tiredness, and lack of trust in those we work with continue to trigger us even when we are at a distance from each other.
While some managers are confident and can lead remote teams without micromanagement, over-control and Big Brother supervision, some organizations and managers are unable or unwilling to do so.
Because employees’ wellbeing is severely challenged by all the changes they have had to cope with in an extremely short time, many companies have realised that a ‘one size fits all’ solution to HR management no longer works and are starting to propose new benefits as well as personalised approaches.
Perhaps this context has highlighted how much we lack trust in our working lives. This trend will continue, at least until we manage to find the balance between trust and control.
3. The role of technology and communication
Technology, communication tools and applications that have enabled us to stay connected and communicate synchronously and asynchronously have played a vital role over the last two years and have allowed many organizations to continue their activities without any particular problems.
Communication bottlenecks have shown us which positions and teams can really work in the online formula, but also which skills gaps exist.
Besides the technology itself, what matters most is how well we handle it and how skilled we are at juggling our words in an online environment. Digital skills, the need to adapt to new technologies and the efficiency with which we establish and maintain relationships online will continue to challenge us in 2022 as well, and many organizations will focus on improving their communication processes.
If we’ve learned anything at all, it is that we can adapt quickly. However, let’s not forget that there are a number of factors on which we are dependent: not all of us have a stable Internet connection all the time, networks and systems fail sometimes, which brings us to the next point.
4. The importance of cyber security
Given that so much of our professional and personal lives have moved online, data security plays an increasingly important role.
A surprising number of banking institutions and social networks had to suffer in 2021 because of this, so it comes naturally that many organizations will be paying more attention to cybersecurity issues in the coming year.
How secure is, in fact, the company data but also employee personal data?
This is a question that many companies will be looking to answer in 2022, and this trend will gain momentum as the New Year promises to be quite tumultuous.
The year coming to an ending has tested us all both technologically and emotionally: we have all experienced the benefits and drawbacks of remote working to a different level than we did in 2020. What is next is to refine what we have designed so far and implement the lessons learned.
One of those lessons is that employees want organizations that are human in their approach and put compassion and empathy at the top of their priority lists.
Despite these challenges, remote work still offers plenty of benefits. According to Cloudwards.net, 91% of people who currently work remotely say they would like to continue to work from home in the future. Remote work saves them an average of 75 hours per year in avoided commute time and also significant amounts of money. Companies, on the other hand, benefit from increased employee productivity, better talent attraction and retention, and reduced business expenses.