Ever since the pandemic began in 2020, the evolution and expansion of the workplace has been highly evident. With the purported slowing down of the global economy, especially in the West, economists have been divided as to what a potential recovery may be. Some are predicting a hockey stick recovery while others are talking about a smiley type one.
Even with a slowing global economy, digital competencies have continued to play a pivotal role in successfully enabling remote working, transforming the modern office into a geographically dispersed yet unified space, and thus powering the hybrid working trend that continues to support many sectors.
Going into 2024, broader factors, along with some obvious economic issues, geopolitical conflicts, and wars, will exert their influence on the workplace.
As organizations and businesses strive to remain cost-effective and competitive while addressing evolving employee expectations and needs, alongside the persistent challenges of skill shortages, the significance of Digital Workplace technology will continue to grow. Additionally, its role in ensuring employee satisfaction, retention, and talent attraction will become increasingly vital.
Acknowledging the vital role it plays, I have tried to identify five major trends that will help to define the Digital Workplace in 2024. I am quite aware that these call for a larger discussion, and hence keeping these brief to cover all five at a high level.
Trend #1: Intelligent use of Artificial Intelligence (AI)
AI is the latest buzzword encompassing every industry area, including creative ones like art and music! With awareness of AI especially that of ChatGPT getting popular, most employees are aware AI would cause a “significant” change to their jobs within one year, whilst many feel overwhelmed and worried by these changes.
Therefore, the deployment of automated systems needs to be done intelligently, ethically, sensitively, and carefully to ensure it enhances the productivity of workers whilst respecting their rights, and the wider opinions and concerns of society.
Trend #2: Revisiting People Strategies in Times of Economic Uncertainty
Undoubtedly, especially ever since the pandemic began, the last couple of years have challenged workers economically. Given the stress of economic uncertainty, how can organizations best support their employees as they face inflation, unexpected layoffs, and fears of a recession?
Trend #3: Integrating Work, Life, and Family
No one will disagree that the basic nature of our work has changed. This includes in-person, remote, flexible, and hybrid variations of work– and each of these has fundamentally shifted in ways that emphasize work and life balance.
I would reckon that one of the leading workplace trends in 2024 will be to identify and define how the work in organizations can be done, support flexibility and increase autonomy in the work, and reduce self-sabotaging organizational behaviours.
Trend #4: How Can We Collaborate Without Borders
One of the things I love to foresee is how will tomorrow’s companies work. The days of companies trying to hide their methods of production behind closed doors are a thing of the past.
Instead, companies and customers collaborate to drive their product and service design processes in support of customer needs. In pursuit of this, the main issue for companies is to become transparent, build trust, and create a design dialogue together with employees and collaborators around the world.
To build a collaborative organisation you need to nurture a collaborative culture. This also means that organisations will need to adjust and design their physical workplaces (not just virtual) with multi-use spaces, project-designated zones, and up-to-date technology.
Trend #5: Psychological Safety in the Workplace
Earlier this year, the American Psychological Association (APA) released results from their “Work in America” survey, which revealed insights about employees’ experiences in the workplace that inform how we understand psychological safety.
Approximately 77% of workers mentioned they experienced work-related stress, including a lack of motivation to perform at their best, self-withdrawal, and not feeling effective in their roles. Less than 50% of those respondents mentioned that breaks, time off, or attention to mental health are encouraged in their workplace cultures.
The survey found that at least 22% of workers experienced toxic environments that negatively impacted their mental health and increased feelings of fear in the workplace. Factors contributing to toxic work environments include experiencing or witnessing discrimination, verbal abuse, harassment, or a lack of organizational justice.
In their book “Disrupting Unemployment”, Vint Cerf (co-founder of the Internet) and David Nordfors pave the way for an opportunity by highlighting how organizations, by helping everyone find a job that matches their skills and optimize their engagement, could transform dormant human capacity into new wealth: A doubling in world GDP ($75 Trillion) according to their conservative estimate. I would hazard a guess that we will all benefit by understanding this better.