WORLD OF WORK
The trends and transformations of the dramatically changed landscape of the 2022 workplace
From the rise of the freelancer, and mental health and wellness programmes, to listening to Generation Z’s concerns, the corporate working environment is a transformed landscape of issues and trends.
Flexible working hours, more freelance gigs, social standpoints and improved corporate wellness programmes that are practical and accessible. These are just a few of the trends the workplace has seen and continues to see going into 2022.
Having an idea of what has changed in the corporate world can help employees to redefine their own job searches as well as become more circumspect about accepting job offers.
Though some things will always stay the same – like gossip at the office water cooler – the past two years have brought significant shifts under the shadow of Covid-19 and global lockdowns. Some people resent the loneliness of working from home, but others have embraced the flexibility – and global job positions are now more readily available as companies have accepted that remote working is an option that works and reduces costs significantly.
Regarding flexible hours, many companies are revising their former standpoints and offering employees options ranging from hot desks to home desks. Practically, this has played out in the shape of office rentals declining and employees report being more productive when they have the freedom to work from home and shape their own hours.
A quarterly report by property analytics firm Rode & Associates, titled State of the Property Market, shows that cities such as Johannesburg and Cape Town had office vacancy rates averaging at 19.8% and 16.7%, respectively, in the last three months of 2021. Large companies that now allow employees flexible working hours include the likes of Old Mutual.
Julien Raze, a director at recruitment firm Michael Page Africa, says, apart from salary, culture and career growth as consideration points for candidates looking to switch into new positions, top candidates are also likely to consider what flexible working arrangements companies can offer.
“Now, more than ever, candidates need to be convinced they are making the right decision for themselves and their family,” says Raze.
Paul Newman, the company’s operating director for South Africa, says a recent survey of 318 job applicants in the country revealed that 88% believed they could fulfil their tasks or responsibilities remotely, highlighting the need for technology capabilities to be accelerated.
“What started as an enforced work-fromhome policy for some companies has now evolved into a long-term strategy for most companies, thereby accelerating digital transformation and technology adoption across nearly all industries.
“We have noticed a sharp increase in global organisations sourcing scarce talent to be based anywhere across the world. This is particularly true within the technology sector, where there is a real skills shortage in South Africa,” he says.
Although some companies have veered towards flexible working arrangements for permanent employees, others forced to downsize have turned to the gig economy, hiring freelancers. Phillipa Geard, CEO of RecruitMyMom, says contracting skills for a fixed period or defined project allows companies the flexibility to manage the impact of market uncertainties. However, in such an environment, it can become tricky as candidates are often asked what their rates are and are expected to price their work.
Mental health and corporate wellness
Mental health has also moved to the forefront in the South African employment industry, with companies sitting up and taking note that stress levels do affect performance, job satisfaction and employee turnover, to name a few things.
The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) reports that presenteeism – where depressed workers are at work but not performing due to mental stress – costs the country roughly R200-billion a year.
Old Mutual research last year revealed a 9% rise in mental health claims under disability cover, continuing a three-year upward trajectory, and more than three-quarters of these claims are a result of major depression. What are companies doing about it?
They are standing up and making improvements to their corporate wellness programmes. Improvements could be as simple as making access to these programmes more discreet, giving employees the benefit of confidentiality and practical toolkits to manage their stress.
It’s no longer enough to just have a corporate wellness programme available. Employees have to be comfortable enough to use the programme so that they can address their issues and improve productivity levels.
The World Health Organization defines occupational burnout as a syndrome that results from a chronic level of workplace-related stress. Noticeable effects are increased feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from the job or having negative or cynicism-related feelings related to it; and reduced efficiency.
A survey by the Top Employers Institute this year showed that 95% of respondents saw wellbeing as a key business imperative and took steps to make this awareness felt within their organisations.
About 92% of top employers have ongoing communication about their wellbeing programmes, 84% of them have senior management involved in these established programmes and 88% have initiatives to raise awareness about emotional wellbeing.
Louder social voices
Companies are no longer able to hide behind corporate screens and keep silent on social issues. The rise of CSG – corporate social governance – requires that corporates develop a voice on social issues and then put their money where their mouth is.
This doesn’t just mean donations, but must be seen in the actions and strategy of the business, so it can demonstrate its sustainability on issues such as climate change and diversity.
According to a recent Sage Payroll and HR research report, 73% of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are specifically catering to the needs of Generation Z, and 31% of SMEs are placing a more strategic focus on the concerns of the LGBTQ+ community. DM168
This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for R25 at Pick n Pay, Exclusive Books and airport bookstores. For your nearest stockist, please click here.
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