Issue 20

Growing Pains: The Dynamics of Workplace Culture in 2022

Maahira Jain

Hybrid work culture in the pandemic brought wellbeing and employee development to the forefront of organizational policies. These shifts in work culture have created a shift in the mindset, and this flexibility of work life is here to stay.

Over the last two years, global unemployment has dropped to over 200 million. Adapting to the pandemic became extremely strenuous for employees who began to report low work satisfaction. This ultimately resulted in a phenomenon termed  the ‘Great resignation,’where attrition rates shot up globally. A recent Linkedin survey revealed that 82% of the people are choosing to change their job, and retaining employees is tougher than before. 

As organizations began adapting to working from home environments , what a ‘regular workday’ entailed began to evolve, right from employee training, recruitment strategy, to the workplace culture. With the Great resignation spreading across industries in India, particularly the IT sector, CEOs and human resources departments have changed their hiring practices. The question of  how to make the organization employee-centric and appealing is on every company’s mind.  While policies and plans change in an instant, how long will it take for a change in mindset?

The temporary shift to a hybrid and flexible workplace is seemingly here to stay. A Harvard Business School survey report shows around 81% of employees are still skeptical about returning to work full time, opting for a hybrid mode instead. Retaining and applying for jobs is now to a large extent based on the quality of organizational support. Employees are in constant exchanges with their workplaces, and hold certain expectations about the security, compensation and support they will receive. Mental and physical health, as well as reasonable work hours have gained top priority, with the current generation looking to seek true meaning, power, and responsibility from their work in an attempt to make a real difference. 

Globally, organizations have often lent support to their employees via schemes and benefits While monetary and technological support in the form of insurance, equipment,  and setups was standard procedure, employees now also demand health and well-being enablement. Work from home while initially providing employees the comfort of  working from one’s bedroom, eventually caused them to be overworked, by surpassing healthy work hours. Burnout has become increasingly common. A certain disconnect from organizations and colleagues arose among large sections of the working population.

However, the employees weren’t the only ones struggling. Hiring strikes and financial lows made the inflow of new talent scarce,  and a cut in paychecks became inevitable. These dreadful circumstances called for a global change in policies. Refined policies accounted for a shift in focus, by being supportive and adapting to accommodate individual employees’ varying needs. Firms began to steer away from applying a blanket solution approach to situations and became more personal.

The newly adopted policies became increasingly relevant as with the ceasing lockdowns in sight, employment is forecasted to  rise by about 31%, being facilitated by CEOs who are looking to hire tech savvy freshers and employees at every level. Diversity is now embedded in the organizational language and culture. A Levers report showed how diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI)  policies are being revamped, by reducing the bias in hiring procedures and implementing fair promotional policies and compensation. Furthermore globally firms have initiated diversity awareness, management and professional growth programs, to account for differences in gender, sexual orietntation, ethnicity and more.

Certain trends have begun to be eminent in workplaces. Maintaining transparency and better recognition of employees has come to the forefront. Candidates today have voiced a preference for places that make them ‘feel good’, appearing to value it over brand name and salary.The last two years of relentless, mundane, and impersonal working days have created a need for a major morale boost, to combat the sky-rocketing attrition rate. A clear chain of communication and honest work environment has also become important to prevent internal hostility and to make the employees feel comfortable. 

Work cultures are now moving towards becoming more liberal with a core focus on giving the employees, and the firm a chance for growth and development. Firms are required to invest in both employee and technology upskilling. Upskilling opportunities help overcome redundancy in a workplace while promoting personal growth among employees. Owing to the pandemic, online platforms have made available a range of courses from Microsoft Word to Data Analytics all at our  fingertips. Training and re-training has become easier. Employees now expect their company to invest time and money into their development. Access to digital tools, software and applications which eases the working process, and creates a boost in productivity and employee satisfaction. 

The recent developments in workplaces prioritize personal and work time equally, and consequently raise questions about the role it plays in a firm’s work output. Is it possible that striving to give employees a certain quality of life impacts an organization’s quality of work? HR manager of Alkem Laboratories, Rajorishi Ganguli in an interview states how the demands of employees have migrated from work life balance to work life integration. This integration allows the employee to work and relax at their convenience without compromising on either. 

While a transformation of work culture has begun, there remains uncertainty on how organizations will navigate and monitor employee output in a hybrid setting. How will a manager ensure that the employee working from home creates an equivalent output compared to the one in office? While allowing the hybrid to take over workplaces has become the need of the hour, certain interpersonal interactions remain irreplaceable. Creating a seamless feedback chain and  employee deliverables system is becoming necessary and employee accountability is being tested everyday. 

The hybrid world comes with its own set of drawbacks, further complicating workers’ means to collaborate and communicate. With 50 percent of the employees attending meetings from home, it becomes hard to build cohesion in a team, and create a space where everyone is heard. With diminishing canteen breaks, and elevator conversations, employees’ interpersonal communication will depend purely on work based interactions, and finding innovative ways to make those fruitful.

With the shifting work culture comes several unanswered questions. While the shift has begun, there remains a need for new systems and professionals as firms tread this unchartered territory, and embracing the hybrid work culture is only the first step.

Maahira Jain is a third-year student at Ashoka University studying Psychology and Media studies. She is a movie buff and is extremely passionate about writing and traveling.

Picture Credits: Getty Images

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