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Predictions for Remote Work in 2022

Justin Mitchell
December 2, 2021

The future of remote work looks different today than it would’ve at the beginning of 2020.

With businesses being forced to work from home because of the pandemic, business leaders and employees have seen firsthand that remote work is possible.

And with the dust starting to settle, businesses are thinking about if, how, and when they should return to the office.

Forrester predicts just 10% of companies will join us in a fully remote future. 🎉

For the remaining 90%, vaccine mandates will lead to complications when trying to return to the office. And these aren’t the only hurdles companies can expect to face.

Our Head of Growth, Charles Kergaravat, has been talking to 1000+ knowledge workers over the last few months. From his conversations, we’ve got a pretty good idea of some of the remote work trends and challenges we can expect to see throughout 2022.

Keep reading to get up to speed on the latest remote work predictions and find out how you can prepare your business for what’s to come.

As the hybrid work experiment continues, employers will be reminded that flexibility is king

In Q1 of 2022, we expect a lot of companies to rush back to the office full-time.

Take a look at Google, for example. The company has postponed its return to the office until January 2022, and it’s not the only one. Lyft, Asana, and other companies across the US are following suit.

Not everyone will accept a full-time return back to the office. The pandemic has proved that companies can work remotely, and some employees want this to remain part of their lives. At the very least, they’ll want a hybrid work model.

If you’re not familiar with hybrid work, it’s essentially a combination of remote and in-office work. It offers teams a middle ground of remote and in-person working, presumably giving everyone the flexibility to work however suits them best.

At Yac, we believe fully remote work should be the goal wherever possible. But if it’s not, a remote-first hybrid arrangement can work with the right culture and tools in place (more on that later).

Lisette Sutherland, Director of Collaboration Superpowers, spoke to us about the implementation of hybrid work:

“The hybrid environment is the future of work. Working from anywhere is more than possible; the last 18 months have proven how quickly we can change our working and living arrangements.
The movement to remote and hybrid working is not due to a love for remote working but a desire for freedom. People have had a chance to arrange their work and their lives according to where and when they’re most productive. Now, these same people are returning to the office and quickly realizing that the way we used to work just doesn’t cut it anymore.
The future of work is going to be choice. The cat is out of the bag for leaders who want to return to pre-pandemic work environments. We are not going back to the way things were.
Of course, with great freedom comes great responsibility. Companies will have no choice but to provide the training and infrastructure to make this shift work, keeping in mind that everyone’s hybrid model will look different.”

In Q2 & Q3 of 2022, we anticipate a lot of businesses realizing that forcing employees back to the office won’t be the best solution. Research also suggests that monthly quit rates could rise to 2.5% for companies that force employees back into the office full-time.

So far, 60% of companies are shifting to a hybrid model. To keep employees happy, businesses will need to get on board with flexible working.

Overcoming the challenge of hybrid work 

Forrester also predicts that one-third of first attempts at hybrid work simply won’t take. Why? Because leaders will still design meetings, job roles, and promotion opportunities around face-to-face experiences.

In other words, setting some days to work from home but maintaining operations as they were in the office can spell disaster. Not just the employees but leaders themselves will need a completely different mindset.

So, how can you make hybrid work a success?

Having a remote-first business is a good place to start. This means saving the office for absolutely necessary face-to-face interactions or scrapping the building altogether and renting out space as needed.

On the other hand, the more traditional hybrid model (also called the “remote-friendly” hybrid model) should be used as a stepping stone to remote-first or fully remote work.

Traditional hybrid work leaves too much room for old, familiar practices to block the path for flexible working. It also leads perilously to the proximity bias, an unconscious bias that causes leaders to favor and reward those they are physically closer to (i.e. the colleagues who are regularly “in the office”).

Another crucial element of having a remote-first company is implementing the right technology. 

The importance of using the right technology for remote-first businesses

You need a solid digital infrastructure in place to make sure your remote team can communicate and collaborate efficiently. If you don’t, chances are your remote-first business will struggle to work efficiently.

Take a look at Yac as an example of remote-first technology. Using our communication platform, businesses can host asynchronous meetings, send async voice messages, and share screen recordings. 

Yac recording interface

It allows teams to collaborate effectively without having to be in the same room at the same time, which is perfect for remote-first businesses.

Yac is the obvious solution for remote businesses. It maintains the human element of voice communication while allowing for greater freedom and flexibility. Teams can still collaborate, share and bond at a time that suits them best.

So, think about what technology you want to use. Choosing the right tools can help you get into the mindset to pull off remote work successfully.

Chat fatigue is on the rise

Employees get way too many text-based work notifications. We’ve reported before that pre-pandemic, the average worker was sending and receiving around 126 business emails per day.

Today, the number of communication notifications we deal with on a daily basis has drastically increased.

These days leaders and employees are constantly interrupted with pings from messengers like Slack and Teams, killing productivity. With all that context switching, it can take an average of 23 minutes to get completely back on track.

Pair those interruptions with the findings that 44% of employees suffered Zoom fatigue throughout the pandemic. And before that, employees spent 31 hours in unproductive meetings over a single month.

If you’re still Slacking, Zooming, and emailing your way through the day, we’re here to tell you: your employees are burning out.

This persistent overload of emails, messages, and meetings will lead more people to declare email and Slack bankruptcy.

In the desperate pursuit of inbox zero, many employees are taking a drastic approach and mass deleting emails older than a subjectively-determined time. That way, they can start “fresh” without any message debts weighing on their shoulders.

That’s email bankruptcy, popularized back in 2007 in an article by the Washington Post (so we can safely acknowledge this is not a new problem). 

Slack bankruptcy, however, is new. It follows a similar logic: threads older than X days are dead to me, dusty channels are removed, etc.

This physical removal is all to clear mental space so employees can process and prioritize incoming information.

Without a single source of truth documentation system, like Notion or a Google workspace, email and Slack bankruptcy can mean a loss of important resources.

So, as we head into 2022, businesses need a better, healthier, more organized way to communicate. Fortunately, there is a way (and it also reduces chat fatigue).

This leads us nicely onto our next section.

Asynchronous meetings will become the new norm 

Asynchronous meetings will become commonplace for a lot of remote and hybrid workplaces in 2022. Not only can it help reduce chat fatigue, but it’ll also allow teams to communicate more efficiently. 

With one simple audio message, an employee can include all the context and clarity to replace dozens of back-and-forth Slack messages or an entire email chain. It’s more efficient and preserves the headspace for everyone involved. (No drastic deleting needed.)

Sending quick replies in Yac

It also works well for global workforces and teams that need more flexibility in their communication. With in-person meetings and phone calls, everyone has to be available at the same time. But this isn’t necessary.

With asynchronous communication, people can consider responses and reply at a time that suits them best. It means fewer interruptions, more freedom to book personal appointments (like seeing the doctor or the dentist), and less miscommunication.

Best of all, work still gets done. In fact, productivity actually thrives in remote conditions. A survey of over 9,000 knowledge workers in multiple countries found that people working at companies allowing remote options reported 43% higher productivity scores than those who did not.

Even with messages and emails, the pressure to respond immediately is apparent in a lot of workplaces. But with async communication, there’s no necessity to respond instantly. It gives teams an extra layer of flexibility in the way they communicate and allows them to formulate well-thought-out and detailed responses.

In terms of adoption, companies like Zapier are serving as “breakout companies” in the async communication space. They’re inspiring teams to go down the remote and asynchronous communication route, acting as a beacon for companies to follow until the floodgates are breached.

Like us at Yac, they’ve been vocal about their async experience.

Collaborate across time zones

Communication is trending asynchronous. And it’s also trending towards voice.

On voice communications, our co-founder and CMO, Hunter Moonshot, says:

“There’s also increasing popularity with the use of voice messaging among Generation Z, which is important to note heading into 2022.
Gen Z is now stepping into the workforce, and they’ll likely be filling management positions in the coming years. Voice messaging has never been so popular, so it only makes sense that async communication will continue to increase in popularity as Gen Z adapt to the workplace.”

Simply put, we can expect async communication to stick around for a while. It’ll get even more popular in 2022, and businesses that fail to hop on board could risk falling behind the times and losing productivity.

Cross-border tax issues will become easier to navigate when hiring from a global pool of talent

For companies that have remote work down, a large focus of their efforts will be on reaching and attracting a greater, global talent pool.

Think about it. If a company is successfully managing the remote work model, they’ve got nothing stopping them from hiring employees from anywhere in the country—or even across the globe.

Other companies will eventually see the cost and productivity benefits of remote work, and they’ll follow suit. But it’s the forward-thinking remote companies that’ll gain first-mover advantage and attract the best talent.

These companies will also be chasing ways to make this even easier from a tax perspective. Croatia, for example, is offering a digital nomad visa to attract more international talent.

Yep, you read that correctly. A digital nomad visa.

As of January 2021, the country has a temporary residence visa for non-EU nationals to live and work in Croatia. And the best part? There’s a 0% income tax rate. The country even has a digital nomad town named “Digital Nomad Valley Zadar” (inspired by Silicon Valley).

Digital Nomad Valley Zadar

For employers in Croatia, this is great news. They’ve got a wider pool of talent to choose from, and the employees have a great incentive to be there. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Other countries are following suit, particularly in the EU. Places like Estonia, Greece, Germany, and Portugal have also begun to offer freelancer and trade visas to encourage longer stays. Non-EU countries, such as Mexico, Thailand, and Seychelles are also beginning to introduce similar measures.

Keep your eyes peeled for more initiatives like this that will help employees and employers navigate international tax issues to access global talent. Chances are we’re going to see a lot of them in 2022.

Increased use of automation and the death of perceived busyness

Automation will continue improving existing business processes, particularly with the help of hyperautomation (which is pretty much the same as automation, but a little more advanced). 

In fact, the hyperautomation market is predicted to reach almost $600 billion by 2022. This is up from $481.6 billion in 2020. 

Source: Gartner

Automation takes care of busywork and tedious tasks. With so much more available time, leaders will need to rethink how they divvy up work.

It might not make sense to simply fill that saved time with more tasks. While you could certainly use the free time to encourage more deep work, you don’t want to go too far and expect your people to tackle intense work for too long.

Those admin tasks that are now automated were shallow work that some people may have enjoyed as a bit of a break from focused work. To avoid burnout, balance the workload.

With automations lightening the load, you also don’t want your workers to feel like they need to be seen to be busy, otherwise called “perceived busyness.” This goes for both in-office and remote employees. Set the precedence that when work is done, they’re done.

Something to consider is to not dole out extra tasks at all. If you’ve saved an entire day of work by automating a ton of admin, why not try out a four-day work week. You’ll maintain productivity, keep your current employees happy, and be able to compete with this huge benefit for any incoming talent.

As automation increases, we hope this will coincide with more time freedom for employees (and not a nosedive into intense work).

Recruitment and HR will undergo a long overdue makeover (but challenges will arise)

With so many people working remotely over the last couple of years, it’s no surprise that this has had a knock-on effect for recruitment and HR.

In 2022, we’re expecting a lot of upgrades in HR and recruitment, bringing forth a new age of hiring and professional development.

Let’s take a look at what these changes will involve.

The traditional “headquarters” will become redundant

HR professionals will hop on the remote-work bandwagon and get rid of head offices.

Here’s how it’ll pan out.

New companies won’t see the value of setting up shop in a new location. It simply doesn’t make sense to pay for an office space when most of their operations can be handled online.

As for existing companies, they’ll abandon their physical HQs as they realize operations can be handled online. We’re beginning to see this happen already; 37% of surveyed businesses have permanently closed all their offices since March 2020.

Recruitment will move away from job posting sites 

The hiring process will change a lot in 2022.

Job posting sites will still be popular, but these days there are many places to spot talent. As a result, new methods of vacancy positions will take hold. Word of mouth, social media, and referrals will lead the way.

We predict more hiring will take place through knowledge-sharing spaces like Reddit. People are frequently sharing their expertise in forums, on their own LinkedIn pages, in comments sections, and more. So, much like attending in-person networking events, connections are being made in niche groups online.

With fewer recruiters using traditional job posting sites, we expect outdated applicant tracking systems to go out the window for recruiters.

And let’s be honest, most job hunters will be happy for ATS systems to take a step back. They’re time-consuming, dull, and it’s a real punch to the gut when you never get a response.

HR will have to scramble to accommodate international hires

Administrative challenges will surface as HR managers struggle to balance some of the challenges of hiring internationally.

Here’s what we expect these challenges to be:

  • Location-dependent holidays: Each country has different holiday dates, and this can be hard to juggle. France, for example, shuts down a lot of its businesses in July and August, so static holiday policies won’t cut it for remote companies. Vacation days may work better to serve varying cultures and holiday periods, which is where “floating holidays” could be a solution for HR managers. It gives employees paid time off regardless of when holiday dates actually occur.
  • Health insurance: HR managers will have a lot to juggle when figuring out how health insurance will work for international employees. Digital nomads’ health insurance will differ from those staying put in the US, for example. But reimbursing the cost of alternative health insurance is undergoing constant change, so what’s the solution? We’ll leave that up to the HR professionals.
  • Benefits: As offices close, how will companies replicate the benefits of working in an office? Ping-pong tables, coffee, and gaming consoles are just some examples of what employees will miss out on if they’re not working in person. What should HR professionals do? Reimburse employees for work furniture? Buy everyone the same PC? Send regular “care packages”? One solution to this is redefining what benefits are. Find out what employees truly value and offer a new kind of benefits system instead. It’ll be up to HR and startup leaders alike to identify these in their own organization.
  • New complexities with employee expenses: Previously, employees could write off vehicle and mileage expenses depending on their proximity to the office, but not anymore. And what about freelancers and small business owners who could write off specific rooms as their office space? With office HQs going by the wayside, traveling workers, and staff with and without a home office, expenses have become a complex puzzle. Part of this puzzle is whether employees should write off their remote working expenses individually or if this should be a corporate expense.

As you can probably tell, there will be a lot of challenges for HR professionals to overcome in 2022. But we expect them to bounce back pretty quickly and come up with viable solutions. As soon as one company makes a solid process to solve these issues, other companies will likely follow suit.

More people want to be paid in cryptocurrency

One of Charles’s predictions for 2022 is that “more employees will be asking employers to pay them in crypto instead of only standard currencies.”

Not only was this apparent from his discussions with other workers, but it’s also something that’s cropping up online. In fact, the more you look at the conversation happening on social media, particularly Twitter, the more cryptocurrency seems to be slowly but surely embedding itself into the mainstream economy.

Even financial professionals are backing this claim. Daniel Ives, an equities analyst at Wedbush Securities, was quoted in a New York Times article saying: 

“Bitcoin mania is not a fad, but rather the start of a new age on the digital currency front.”

But what exactly does this mean for 2022?

In essence, it’ll provide a great opportunity for both recruiters and employees. Here’s why:

  • Technically, employers won’t be paying employees directly. This means it could provide a solution to the cross-border tax issues we outlined previously.
  • Companies that get ahead on offering this will have a competitive advantage when attracting talent.

We get that not everyone will jump on this idea, but it’s something to consider, especially as more and more businesses start adopting this payment method.

More employees will demand workcations

“What’s a workcation?” we hear you ask.

For many employees, one of the benefits of working remotely is the flexibility to work from anywhere.

This is where workcations come in.

A workcation involves employees working while on holiday, which isn’t quite as dull as it sounds. It’s a combination of work and pleasure, allowing people to visit new places without taking time off work.

For example, an employee could take a long weekend break to visit a new city. They have Saturday and Sunday to explore while they do some work on Friday and Monday.

Historically, the idea of a workcation has been somewhat of a fad, but it’s becoming a way of working that’ll become normal in the coming months. Even Brian Chesky, the founder of AirBnB, has picked up on it too.

He says on Twitter:

“In recent months, some of the largest companies in the world, like Amazon, P&G, Ford, and PwC, have announced increased flexibility for employees to work remotely, and I expect more companies to follow. We’re seeing this in our own data. Mondays and Tuesdays are our fastest growing days of the week for families to travel.”

Of course, there are challenges with workcations, especially for those with children. As you can imagine, it won’t be easy to look after a child while you’re trying to work at a holiday destination. But overall, it provides employees with the opportunity to take more trips than they would have if they weren’t working remotely.

And with travel restrictions easing further in 2022, we expect this to take off for a lot of employees (excuse the pun).

New workplace toxicity challenges will need addressing from the top

With hybrid and remote workplaces sticking around in 2022, businesses will have new challenges to face. One of those challenges is workplace toxicity.

As much as it sucks to admit, we’ve probably all been subject to some kind of workplace bullying at one time or another. Whether that’s being purposefully ignored in a meeting or receiving criticism in a group setting, we’ve all been there.

But in today’s digital world, workplace bullying often happens virtually. Here are a few examples:

  • Passive-aggressive emails (including unnecessary CCs, snide remarks, and over-explaining).
  • Impromptu and forced video meetings.
  • Requiring the “online” light to be on at all times, especially outside the standard working hours.

Elmien Riley of Mind Life Wellness shares some thoughts on toxic work environments and workplace bullies:

“When it comes to communication, I have seen how 'workplace bullies'—a prominent characteristic of a toxic work environment—use email and impromptu Zoom or Team meetings to bully and assert their influence. For example, sending long emails with detailed instructions on what to do, demanding tasks are completed, knowing full well it is impossible within the time provided. Or, demanding that employees are available for quick Zoom or Team meetings (and the Microsoft survey supports this in that communication has become fairly unstructured). Or the 'reply all' emails with dismissive or snide remarks.”

This type of behavior has no place in a modern team. It’s especially important to look out for this type of behavior with a remote team because managers aren’t as likely to see bullying played out in person.

What can we do to put a stop to workplace toxicity?

A top-down approach is the best solution. Leaders must put anti-bullying measures and policies in place within their remote teams to prevent toxic behavior.

These policies should include exactly the type of behavior that won’t be tolerated and how to report such issues anonymously.

Employees everywhere deserve to feel safe and be treated fairly. Remote working doesn’t eradicate bullying, but it’s also not impossible to track it and put a stop to it. Policies and reporting procedures can help alleviate current problems and prevent them in future.

Calendar protection & working in (y)our own time

We work to live, not the opposite. Because of the sharp rise in burnout during the pandemic, more employees are trying to protect their time and mental wellbeing.

In 2022, people will be more adamant about protecting themselves from others’ schedules. They won’t bend their lives to fit rigid meeting requests, and they will start blocking time in calendars for workouts, family events, social occasions, and deep work.

This way of working will become the norm.

As a result, we can expect this to have a knock-on effect for meetings and video conferencing. In fact, it’ll probably be the cause for a mass abandonment of video conferencing and further push async communication as the main method of communication.

Streamline your remote communication with Yac

It’s no secret that the landscape of remote work has changed drastically over the last couple of years.

Truth be told, no one can know for certain what the future holds for remote work. Sure, we’ve got our predictions based on what we’ve seen over the last couple of years. But nothing is set in stone.

One thing we do know is that asynchronous communication will become a forerunner in remote collaboration. Async protects your people’s time and your company’s productivity, making it the perfect solution for a flexible, future-thinking way of working.
Sign up for free with Yac to get your team communicating asynchronously today. Or, if you want to find out more about how Yac works, book a demo.