2023 marks the first full year of the new world of work after the COVID-19 worldwide pandemic. As organizations across the country settle into their chosen “new normal,” we at ADR Vantage have seen four key changes influencing the future of work.

#1 Continued Shift to Human-Centered ManagementAs organizations strive to be employers of choice in today’s work world, we continue to see a shift away from traditional management styles oriented solely around tasks, timelines, and performance goals. Recent workplace disruptions – such as the “Great Resignation” of large numbers of employees leaving their jobs after the COVID-19 pandemic and “quiet quitting” of employees staying employed but disengaged from their work – prompted critical reflection on management approaches and reevaluation of how to retain talent.

It has become increasingly important for companies to foster engagement and a sense of purpose among employees. This human-centered management approach empowers employees to bring their full potential to the workplace, to do their best work, and to know they are truly valued and appreciated for who they are and what they bring to the organization. For leaders and managers, this shift means balancing care with accountability and creating a culture of shared ownership and connectedness. Forms of positive accountability we have seen grow over this past year include companies offering more individual employee coaching and mentorship, opportunities for professional development and advancement, clear and open communication strategies, and more fulsome employee recognition programs.

#2 Greater Commitment to Mental Health and Work-Life Balance

More and more, employers are embracing the importance of employee well-being. As research indicates, record levels of workplace stress have impacted the productivity and morale of employees across all sectors of industry. Organizations are now offering their teams strategies to prevent burnout, resources to support mental health, and tools to promote mindfulness and resilience. Employers have become more aware of how the full spectrum of well-being affects their employees, and are being more intentional in providing, not only career resources, but also social, emotional, and financial resources designed to support all aspects of wellness.

As the rising generations of employees seek greater work-life integration, companies and organizations are also making remote and hybrid working options more viable. Many workplaces are embracing the versatility and productivity that remote work offers by allowing flexible work schedules and more freedom to work from home occasionally or full-time.

#3 Rise in Workplace Conflict Related to Hybrid and Remote Work

As noted, with an increased desire by employees to work remotely, many organizations and agencies have responded by creating new hybrid work policies. Yet this shift presents its own set of challenges. As employers determine exactly what “remote” or “hybrid” looks like for their organization, tensions can arise internally around what telework policies can and should be, how to effectively manage and assess work performance, and how to implement new policies effectively.

Additionally, without planning and intentionality, connectedness and trust among team members can be lost in hybrid or remote environments. With fewer organic opportunities for virtual teams to communicate and build relationships directly, communication can suffer and lead to increased conflict. As flexible schedules and work-from-home options become commonplace, organizations must be intentional in establishing shared expectations, strong communications, and innovative teambuilding.

#4 Increased Focus on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)

Advancing DEI and repairing systemic inequities remains an ongoing challenge, with 2023 seeing both successes and setbacks. Many organizations and agencies across the country remain committed to the call for cultivating safety, belonging, and fair treatment among all employees, yet there is still a large gap between good intentions and real impact.

One helpful starting place we have seen in companies is focusing more on data-driven decision-making. Foundational data that assesses organizational climate and employee perspectives on DEI in their workplace provides concrete feedback to build relevant, actionable strategies to address root issues. DEI training is another commonly sought tool as organizations aim to equip their managers and employees with practical ways to help create an equitable and inclusive work environment. However, training is not effective unless paired with data to measure short- and long-term impact as well as follow-up mechanisms to track whether employees implement what they learn in training. We also consistently hear requests from employees for more opportunities for dialogue and brave spaces for DEI issues to be openly discussed and engaged at all organizational levels.

Looking Ahead

As we look ahead to 2024, one commonality among all these changes is that engagement matters. Human elements – how people interact and engage with each other and their work – are crucial determinants of organizational effectiveness. Investing in meaningful engagement, such as shared formation of values and goals in teams, tailored and transparent communication channels, brave spaces for DEI-related dialogue, and creative initiatives for all employees, will cultivate stronger teams and workplaces in the year ahead.