Business management

2022 workplace trends: how to avoid potential missteps in five key areas

The pandemic, Brexit, and the global supply shock are reshaping the business landscape.

The extraordinary events of 2020, the post-Brexit transition, and the recent global supply crunch are testing the mettle of business owners in the UK.

If the Covid pandemic knocked the wind out of the UK economy’s sails last year, then the supply shock is really testing resilience and continuity this year. Combined, these events are changing the dynamics of the workplace forever.

So, how do businesses apply the lessons they’ve learned from the past two years to adapt to new workplace dynamics, avoid key risks and strengthen resilience overall?

Five workplace trends for 2022

1. Diversity and Inclusion

Diversity, Equality and Inclusion (DEI) continues to retain a high profile with movements such as #MeToo and Black Lives Matter. With more firms promoting remote and hybrid working, it’s not as easy to spot inappropriate behaviour, which increases the risk of workplace harassment and discrimination going undetected until it’s too late.

Furthermore, as people return to the office, employers of all sizes are being scrutinised on the success of their DEI initiatives. This issue must stay high on the agenda for all business owners.

A higher number of cases of discrimination and workplace harassment are being reported as employees are becoming more aware of their rights and more comfortable to speak out against bad behaviours and practices.

What makes a truly inclusive organisation, and how do you make a genuine impact in this area?

You can start by:

  • offering regular DEI training and education programmes
  • encouraging employees to challenge inappropriate behaviour
  • ensuring work is a safe and positive environment for everyone
  • updating your skills to manage a wide cross section of people of different ages and backgrounds and working environments

Get it right and your workplace will reap the value and rewards: harnessing diverse talent often means better financial returns, better employee satisfaction, and better decision-making.

Get it wrong and you risk costly employment tribunal claims, long-term absence, grievances, reputational damage, and a potentially negative impact on commercial success.

2. Sustainability and climate

A manageable future for humanity is at stake if we fail to curb carbon emissions. All employers have a responsibility to reduce their environmental impact. And there will be more pressure from customers, employees, investors and corporates for SMEs to do so.

The effects of climate change can be seen in the UK, where temperatures have already risen. Globally, extreme weather is predicted to become more common and to have a negative impact on humans, animals and plants.

SMEs already helping to turn the tide on climate change are:

  • managing waste and disposal of personal equipment sustainably
  • meeting net-zero targets and reducing their carbon footprint
  • raising staff awareness
  • working with their supply chain to be more sustainable

Get it right and you can boost profitability, improve investor confidence, enhance reputation, attract and retain talent and increase business resilience. There’s a clear business case for it.

Get it wrong and SMEs could lose competitive advantage, face reputational risk, negative cost implications and may fall on the wrong side of regulation in the future.

Employers cannot ignore the need for a recruitment and retention revamp. A demoralised and disengaged workforce could seriously affect the future of your business

3. Talent, attraction and retention

You’ve all heard about the ‘Great Resignation’ – employees either leaving the workforce or switching jobs in droves. Combined with the post-Brexit skills shortages, if you’re not prepared you could find yourself in crisis mode.

Employers cannot ignore the need for a recruitment and retention revamp. A demoralised and disengaged workforce could seriously affect the future of your business.

Businesses taking serious steps to retain talent will:

  • revisit their recruitment approach, including widening the candidate fields
  • understand the needs of younger generations and future skill requirements to start building a talent pipeline now
  • adapt and offer greater flexibility in policies, pay and benefits

Get it right and you’ll attract the best and brightest talent to your business. As the UK economy builds back, this is crucial for all sorts of reasons, including stability, growth and a return to profit.

Get it wrong and you could face poor productivity, increased stress and sickness, and even risk losing your business due to inability to meet customer demand.

4. Hybrid and flexible working

As we emerge from the pandemic, many businesses are already taking a blended approach. Flexible forms of working – and hybrid working in particular – are here to stay.
But what does that mean in practice, and what management challenges might it bring? Who decides what type of flexibility is available? Could it divide homeworkers and office workers? Do employees feel like they are living at work, with boundaries between work and home life blurred?

Forward-thinking business owners will already be considering:

  • how to lead and manage remote teams
  • if technology can be further utilised to aid collaboration
  • office or real estate locations, reviewing salary bands, benefits packages and policies to check they are still fit for purpose

Get it right and you could retain talent, enhance well-being, and potentially reduce real estate and facilities costs.

Get it wrong and you risk increased employee turnover, reduced employee well-being and engagement and limitations on the ability to attract talent in the future.

5. Health and well-being in the workplace

Many employees were not able to work from home during the pandemic so employers had to increase safety measures to make sure premises were Covid-secure. More and more employees are also now returning to the workplace after extended periods of homeworking. As society begins to get back to a level of normality, the risk of Covid remains, and we are starting to see greater levels of absence linked to other illnesses such as the common cold and flu. Not to mention increased levels of anxiety for employees returning to the workplace after an extended period of absence.

Good management and leadership are more important than ever. Employers must place even greater focus on employee well-being and safety as we move on and rebuild resilience, and employees return to their place of work.

The best business owners will be preparing to:

  • support their teams to understand, prevent, and, in some cases overcome, mental health challenges linked to workplace return
  • take a deeper look at their procedures, policies and PPE and ask if they’re still fit for purpose in order to keep employees safe as new risks arise

Get it right and you’ll be better prepared for uncertainty or crisis in the future, and your employees and stakeholders will thank you for your empathy and strong culture.

Get it wrong and you risk increased absenteeism, a decrease in productivity, higher staff turnover if your people don’t feel valued, and even issues around supplying products and services to your customers.

This material is published by NatWest Group plc (“NatWest Group”), for information purposes only and should not be regarded as providing any specific advice. Recipients should make their own independent evaluation of this information and no action should be taken, solely relying on it. This material should not be reproduced or disclosed without our consent. It is not intended for distribution in any jurisdiction in which this would be prohibited. Whilst this information is believed to be reliable, it has not been independently verified by NatWest Group and NatWest Group makes no representation or warranty (express or implied) of any kind, as regards the accuracy or completeness of this information, nor does it accept any responsibility or liability for any loss or damage arising in any way from any use made of or reliance placed on, this information. Unless otherwise stated, any views, forecasts, or estimates are solely those of NatWest Group, as of this date and are subject to change without notice. Copyright © NatWest Group. All rights reserved.

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