In the years leading up to the Covid-19 crisis, remote work became increasingly popular as technology allowed us more freedom to decide where and how we worked. Wholly remote companies paved the way and showed others how to manage a workforce while still achieving company goals and growth.
The start of the pandemic accelerated this process, and even companies that were resistant to remote and flexible work models had no choice but to enact changes due to lockdowns and stay-at-home orders. This changed the landscape of work environments.
Remote work is now the new norm. Data shows that most employees are unwilling to give up their new surroundings, meaning that even if the pandemic ends, the face of work has changed for good.
What’s on the cards for remote work in 2022?
A greater focus on burnout
There’s little doubt that the future of work is flexible and hybrid; substantial research points to greater productivity and employee well-being, making new work design models a win-win for enterprises and staff members alike.
However, the same technology that enables us to work this way can be a double-edged sword. Being constantly available is detrimental to employees and from a company perspective, it can increase employee burnout and ultimately impact business outcomes.
According to Gallup data, the risk of occupational burnout rises according to the number of hours worked; employees working 50-hour weeks or more were significantly more likely to experience burnout.
Heavy, unreasonable workloads mean that employees have little chance to mentally recalibrate and recoup their energy levels. For businesses, the effect is that staff members may struggle to meet ongoing tasks and balance their work demands.
In 2019, the World Health Organisation (WHO) officially recognized burnout as an “occupational phenomenon.” While not a medical condition per se, burnout warranted classification by the WHO, and it warrants attention by People & Culture professionals, team leaders, and staff members alike, particularly now as Covid-19 has precipitated a dramatic shift to new work models.
Savvy businesses are aware that an always ‘on’ culture increases the risk of burnout. These companies are taking greater steps to better manage their output in 2022.
Surveillance is rising
While a greater focus on burnout regarding remote work is people-centric, we cannot overlook how employers’ perspective towards monitoring productivity has changed. The rise of remote monitoring is a way to maintain control and visibility into how employees complete their tasks, even from a distance. This especially applies to businesses with a traditional approach to work.
ExpressVPN’s study on remote work surveillance involved 2,000 employers and 2,000 employees. Participants were asked about “the extent of employer surveillance, how it’s impacting employees, and the rate at which it might increase in the future as remote working continues.”
The results showed some troubling figures, such as the fact that 83 percent of the employers surveyed stated they had ethical concerns with employee monitoring, but 78 percent still used monitoring programs to ‘watch’ employees.
A balancing act
As these two trends in remote work show, monitoring work in 2022 will be a balancing act. On the one hand, we have the needs of business, which include visibility into how outcomes are achieved, and on the other, we have employees’ needs, which include space to get the job done when and how they see fit.
How remote work will continue to evolve in the future is unknown, but we now know that many business operations can be scaled to fit a remote workforce environment.