As we close out 2023, one thing is clear: the way we work has changed for good. While the last few years have seen a significant shift away from traditional ways of working and towards a modernised, flexible approach, it’s clear that the landscape of the working world is still evolving. The traditional office set-up of cubicles and grey walls was a pillar of workspaces for many decades so it’s unsurprising that companies are still adjusting and altering their company dynamics in an attempt to find a new normal. As these changes occur, trends are beginning to emerge that shine a light on what many companies have seen as a priority over the last 12 months. Let’s take a look back at some of the key workplace trends that defined 2023.
2023 saw Ireland’s lowest unemployment rate in 22 years. The unemployment rate of 3.8% meant that the country had officially reached a state of full employment. This gave employees greater bargaining power when it came to negotiating new positions. Competitive salaries alone were no longer enough to attract or retain employees so employers were required to create more enticing incentives to attract top talent. This led to a ripple effect of increased employee benefits, marked by a growth in flexible workspaces, an emphasis on sustainability and ESG initiatives in the workplace as well as a greater focus on company culture.
Embracing AI Technology
An emerging trend of this past year was the integration of AI technology into company procedures. While AI technology has been developing and growing in use over the last few years, this year saw an increase in the use of AI in streamlining automated systems. New AI statistics show that 35% of companies are currently using AI and 42% of companies are exploring AI for its implementation in the future. In e-commerce and retail, AI powers chatbots to provide answers instantly. Many warehouses use AI-powered robots to sort and pack products. AI is also improving things in the office. One of the benefits of AI is its ability to collect and analyse data instantly. Businesses can use this data to identify changes in customer behaviour, isolate trends and create detailed reports to ensure they are on the right path. Many researchers believe that it is essential for any business leader to begin looking into the ways AI can enhance their systems in order to remain relevant in our current landscape.
Many modern workers prioritise sustainability and well-being, seeking workspaces that align with these values. Traditional office spaces are declining in value as they must compete with employees’ tailor-made work-from-home set ups. Business leaders are led to reimagine their workspace and how it can not only meet their employees' needs but also benefit the overall productivity, culture and community of their company. Flexible workspace providers have been an essential part of meeting the growing demands of the modern workforce. By creating spaces equipped with breakout space and phone booths that are focused on sustainability, employers are left at ease knowing that their team's needs are being taken care of.
Company Culture Restructure
The transition into flexible working means that companies have had to re-examine how they foster positive company culture, with many employees working virtually for half of the year. As employees are spending less time in the office, they can no longer rely on casual conversations with their colleagues to help them navigate their new roles. Employers must ensure that onboarding procedures are clear and thorough to aid their employees in a smooth transition into the company. Employers must also set aside dedicated time for their teams to connect and collaborate. According to a 2023 study by Forbes, 53% of remote workers find it difficult to feel connected to their co-workers when working from home. Fully remote companies often utilise meeting rooms or coworking passes to provide a space for their team to get together in person regularly.
One thing remains true as we near the end of 2023 – flexible working is here to stay. Despite many big tech companies’ recent attempts to bring employees back into the office full-time, the workforce is still fighting for their flexible working rights. What we’ve seen in recent months is companies attempting to add structure to their employees’ work-from-home schedules instead. According to a Harvard Business Review survey of 5,000 people, most employees want to work from the office 2.5 days a week. However, when work-from-home days are not set, it leaves many employees uninterested in heading into the office as they have no visibility on who will be in. As a result, more and more companies are introducing set office days to create space for their team to connect with one another and collaborate on various projects.
Which Workplace Trends from 2023 Will Carry On?
With these trends in mind, there are a few things we can expect to see in 2024. While we can be assured that AI technology and flexible working will reign supreme yet again, as the unemployment rate continues to decrease, it's clear that 2024 will be designed by employees for employees. If we want to know what to expect from our workspaces next year, we simply need to look at what employees are prioritising.