Workplace trends: Corecom’s predictions for 2023

The business arena is constantly changing and adapting, driven by a plethora of factors, from social, political, economic and technological developments through to consumer buying patterns. The last two years have been particularly volatile with Covid-19 challenging businesses to adapt to unprecedented circumstances both at speed and with agility.

This period of intense unrest has had significant impact and brought new learnings, advancements and revelations to employers and employees alike. What’s more, as employment rates boom, and candidates reassess their priorities, businesses are getting to grips with a whole new dimension of the employment market as the race hots up for employer attraction and retention.

Here, we outline our predictions for 2023, providing insights to aid your business to understand and adapt to meet these emerging trends.

  1. Gen Z to challenge business thinking

Gen-Z (those born between 1997 and early 2010) may be the newest kid on the block but it’s also the largest, accounting for a fifth of the UK workforce.

And this group of millennials brings an entirely new dimension to the table with it. Nurtured in a fast moving, always on, digital-centric world, Gen Zs are pragmatic when it comes to the workplace and hold high expectations around wellbeing, social responsibility and the adoption of digital work and collaboration tools. Which means essential catch-up time for UK business.  Whilst the demands may be high and the motivations need unpicking, investment in Gen Z is absolutely key to maintaining a thriving, forward thinking, tech savvy workplace that keeps us ahead of the game.

“I have noticed the workplace has become more relaxed; I remember with my first job there was an emphasis on being a number rather than a person. I feel like many companies have moved past this type of workplace norm and certainly are improving the workplace culture. In terms of what is to come, I estimate that more workplaces will become even more relaxed and diverse with emphasis on celebrating success and encouraging progression. The future certainly looks bright for Generation Z.”

Richard Pesek, Trainee Consultant, Corecom Consulting

2. Hybrid working comes to the fore

Severely disrupting the business world, the pandemic forced companies to rapidly adopt new practices and accelerated the move towards remote working.  Aided by substantial technological advancements, employers and employees found they were able to effectively achieve and monitor KPIs and deliver against their business goals, remotely. 

Employees also discovered the numerous benefits, including freedom and flexibility, that remote working brings. So, as the threat of Covid subsides, the demand for remote and hybrid working remains. What’s more, the trend brings plentiful rewards to businesses as this new norm attracts talent, increases diversity and, naturally, improves employee wellbeing – making for a healthier and happier workforce and, in turn, a low turnover, highly motivated and profitable business.

 “Moving forward into 2023, I imagine the workplace will continue to follow a Hybrid model. Fully remote working isn’t for everyone and commuting into the office every day isn’t always needed, especially with modern workplace technology. I feel that some in-person face time is essential, especially with new employers where relationships aren’t already established and situations where it may be difficult to emotionally connect with colleagues via a webcam.”

Leroy Watson, Associate Director, Corecom Consulting

3. Flexible working gathers apace

Flexible working, in all its guises, has long been recognised as a motivational driver for employees. Yet employers have historically been slow to propel the movement for flexible working forward. Adoption barriers have arisen due to the ambiguous nature of the term and the courage to trust in employees to identify and harness their own productivity patterns. This slump was identified as a key issue pre-Covid, resulting in the CIPD setting up a Flexible Working Taskforce with the government and other stakeholders to boost understanding and adoption of flexible working policies.

The epidemic, however, forced this issue upon employers and thankfully the UK is experiencing a sea change in the way that employees are expected to work. In a candidate driven market and with 55% of employees stating that the option to work flexibly will impact on their decision to stay with their current employer (Gartner), it seems that flexible working is at last here to stay. The good news for business is that flexible working policies result in higher job satisfaction, commitment and more effort, ultimately meaning improved productivity (Sage).

“I predict that in 2023, most businesses will become a lot more flexible when it comes to working from anywhere. There has been a massive shift in employees wanting to work fully remote and having that opportunity to work from anywhere within a respectable timezone becoming more prominent. Whilst it’s not just beneficial for the employee, its equally as beneficial to the employer as there’s data to show that productivity, efficiency, diversity and inclusivity has increased as a result.”

Jamie Harvey, Software Development Consultant, Corecom Consulting

4. Call for centralised communications

A once relished advancement, the onslaught of innovative business communications tools, whether that be instant messaging, chat apps, video conferencing software or social media, has created an ‘always on’ culture that demands instant response and is devoid of space for thinking or critical downtime. Moreover, our workforces are suffering from severe information overload and a multitude of open tabs– a recipe that is ripe for driving stress, anxiety and burnout. This new epidemic has prompted the need for streamlined and centralised communication tools, ensuring relevant and timely conversations around business goals.

5. The race to embrace work life balance

Whether it’s having the autonomy to choose your working hours, hybrid working policies or access to wellness resources, work life balance has become a top priority for employees and employers alike in today’s candidate driven market. 

With 50% of workers reporting work as disruptive to personal life and increasing reports of burnout, calls to redefine work life balance are on the rise (Glassdoor 2021). As unemployment rates hit a low and salary incentives no longer cut the mustard, the onus is now firmly on business to adapt policy and practice to attract and retain top talent.

“Three years ago, I couldn’t have imagined being able to flex my hours around school pickups, kids after school activities, 5-a-side, running and spending quality time with family. I believe in 2023, work life balance will continue to be a priority for businesses, and myself, and many others, can continue to fit work flexibility into our busy family orientated schedules rather than how it used to be with family fitting in around work schedules.“

James Taylor, Associate Director, Corecom Consulting

6. Honing in on employee wellbeing

UK work culture coupled with the rise in digital technology and the ‘on’ economy has seen a dramatic rise in stress levels, burn-out and low emotional wellbeing in recent years. For many, work quite simply came first – above health, wellbeing and relationships.  Yet, there has been a sharp about turn in perspective in recent months with both employees and employers making wellbeing a priority – a phenomenon that may well be attributed to the outtake of the Covid epidemic alongside current low levels of employment that are challenging employers to think on their feet with regards to attracting and retaining top talent.

Wellness strategies are appearing more readily within company policy and practice with employers making holistic adaptations to include onsite facilities such as creches and gyms, and workplace adaptions including natural lighting, alongside more intangible support mechanisms including counselling and coaching support, mental health training and team building events.

“I predict that more people will work abroad in 2023! After trialling it in Sardinia this summer it’s definitely something I will be doing again. With working the Dutch market myself, I am looking forward to getting over there regularly, meeting clients and candidates, whilst simultaneously enjoying a coffee by the river in the morning and sightseeing in the evening. At Corecom we are able to work from abroad which helps our work life balance and ensures we never feel like we’re missing out on life experiences! I hope to see more businesses doing this.”

Georgie Cox, Senior Consultant, Corecom Consulting

7. Shining a light on gender equality

Sadly, the battle to achieve gender equality is far from over. Hence, it remains a key priority for UK business. Whilst recent years have seen a plethora of diversity campaigns and gender recruitment and retention initiatives, the data still isn’t stacking up and the gender gap is still too wide. That said, affecting cultural change takes time, and as businesses and wider society adapt and fine tune practices, we should expect to see the uptake of women into leadership roles grow. We know that a gender diverse workforce reaps plentiful returns. Companies with female board directors report a 0.7% increase in turnover compared to those without whilst gender diverse companies also cite improved communications, innovation and boosted morale (Nominet). The figures speak for themselves – gender diversity is great for people, team effectiveness, morale, business and, of course, the economy.

 “By 2023, I hope that the onus is not just on Ambassadors who have a particular passion for Diversity and Inclusion but that it’s woven throughout the foundations of a business with every employee from the top down holding the same values when it comes to D&I, creating an environment that urges the closure of the gender gap further, not only in the boardroom but also in the wider team. With the two biggest barriers for women in tech being a lack of mentors (48%) and a lack of female role models (42%), I hope there is more representation across businesses to attract, support and promote women into leadership positions and giving them a seat at the table.”

Aishia Ullah, Senior Delivery Consultant, Corecom Consulting

8. The search for social purpose

Today’s businesses find themselves operating in a fiercely competitive environment in which both career hopping and personal expectations are high. With lifers few and far between the onus is on employers to understand and exceed employee expectations if they wish to attract and retain talent. Whilst wellbeing and upskilling both top the priorities list, employees also seek to work for firms that care about their community and wider social issues. And this is where corporate social responsibility (or social purpose) comes into play. Historically adopted by some of the bigger players, supporting community and ‘giving back’ has now entered the domain of the SMEs. Whether that be offering volunteer hours to employees, partnering with community projects or upskilling beneficiaries, those companies that really grasp what sits at the heart of CSR – incorporating it into their mission and pursuing thoughtful relationships that mirror their values and business activities – will be the real game changers that are set to thrive.

9. Proliferation of the gig economy

The gig economy is on the up. Now supported by a plethora of online talent markets, the real joy of gig is in the fact that it allows the worker freedom – to set their own schedule, to choose where to work from and to decide who to work for. It is pretty much the golden chalice of every workforce. And, what’s more, gig is no longer the domain of creatives. Thanks to technological advancements, gig works across a broad brush of sectors, providing flexible opportunities for workers in those industries that were traditionally office centric.  The good news for the business world is that this growing trend is a win for conglomerates and SMES alike. Providing expertise on tap, without the overheads of a typical employee, it enables businesses of every size to be flexible, adaptable and, above all, cost efficient. All motives and drivers considered, the gig economy is here to stay.

“In the last few years, the contract market has seen its fair share of peaks and troughs, firstly IR35 and then the global pandemic. I predict the rise for contractors will continue to increase over the next 12 to 18 months due to the demand for specialist skillsets. As contractors bring multiple years of project/on-the-job experience it allows clients to kickstart projects with knowledge and create a clear roadmap from day one, resulting in projects finishing on time, in budget and to requirements.”

George Lund, Head of Contract Recruitment/Test Consultant, Corecom Consulting

10. Upskilling takes centre stage

With employment at an all-time high and companies clambering to fill positions, employees have the unusual advantage of being incredibly mobile and demanding in their search for the perfect role.

With these demands comes the need for businesses to redefine their recruitment and retention strategies to include very clear pathways for employees to upskill. As employers are beginning to discover, progression paths and skills development are a crucial driver in employee decisions to accept, stay or move on from a role. Aside from this deciding factor, companies that choose to invest are assured of broader business achievements including the promise of high-performing teams. And as Covid restrictions have proven, upskilling needn’t be laborious, time intensive or flexible to deliver. As a multitude of businesses took their functions online, with it has come the discovery that training can, in many cases, be delivered swiftly, remotely and flexibly.

11. Continued growth in AI

The evolution of AI has enabled workers to move away from the more mundane tasks to focus on those that require thought and human interaction, and that deliver greater productivity. Despite an initial reluctance to embrace AI, employees are becoming more accepting and find themselves working harmoniously alongside robots in the workplace.

Whilst there is still some concern around the impact of AI on the labour market, it is becoming ever clearer that bots deliver greater benefits than drawbacks both for employees and employers. Improvements in operational efficiency, reductions in costs and its ability to bridge the skills gap means that AI is on the up and here to stay.

12. A focus on soft skills

With employee motivations pointing towards softer incentives – namely wellbeing, upskilling, social purpose and flexibility – businesses are adapting to focus their leadership teams and development programmes on the necessary soft skills to drive these outcomes. Written and verbal skills, problem-solving and inter-personal relations all play a pivotal role in creating great leaders and producing high performing teams that thrive on human connections. Historically largely disregarded due to its intangible nature, the uptake of soft skills development is now in full swing across many major players as well as smaller enterprises – in a trend that promises future great leaders.

In a nutshell

With a constantly evolving business landscape, the impetus is largely on UK companies and enterprises to get up to speed and provide for innovation, changing trends and employee perceptions. Adaptation, flexibility and commitment are all key success factors in this process. Meanwhile, employees and workers (whether that be flexi, hybrid, gig or full time) have a duty to themselves and their counterparts to advocate, educate and challenge, to air their wants and needs in a bid to create a harmonious working environment for employers and employees alike.

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“Jonathan’s input to Moonlight Trust as Patriot and Business Advisor over recent years has been instrumental in helping to strengthen mindsets and inspire the women we work with to overcome barriers and begin their journey to work.  His immense knowledge and understanding of the issues confronting women when seeking to take up IT and leadership roles and his passion for facilitating more vulnerable women through this, really shines through.”

Noushin Raja, Founder, Moonlight Trust