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What to expect at work this year

<i>Adobe Stock</i><br/>The pandemic has transformed work over the past three years in ways few expected. It normalized remote work
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Adobe Stock
The pandemic has transformed work over the past three years in ways few expected. It normalized remote work

By Jeanne Sahadi, CNN

The pandemic has transformed work over the past three years in ways few expected. It normalized remote work, created a shortage of critical workers and drove home to organizations that employees’ mental health and need for a sane work-life balance are critical to retention and engagement.

So what does 2023 likely hold for you at your job, regardless of your industry?

There are welcome and unwelcome developments on tap, along with some potentially confusing ones, too.

Layoffs will rise from historic lows

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first.

Regardless of whether the United States slips into a recession, there will be more widespread job cuts than what we’ve seen happening so far in industries like tech, media and finance.

“We’re starting to see more layoffs pick up in other industries. I do anticipate rising layoffs in most sectors,” said Andrew Challenger, senior vice president of outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

But that shouldn’t be surprising, given that layoffs in 2021 and 2022 were at their lowest levels since 1993.

That said, the job market has cooled a bit — but it’s still running hot, with a high level of job openings per job seeker.

The overall slowdown in hiring is likely to continue, with employers more likely to reinstate performance-improvement plans for underperforming employees and performance-related layoffs, Challenger predicts.

And, of course, should there be a real recession, the layoffs would cut much deeper.

Work flexibility is here to stay, and may improve for front-line workers

While there is still tension between executives and employees about how many days people should be physically present at work, hybrid work and work flexibility isn’t going away.

“Today, the majority of employers (66%) are permitting hybrid working and an additional 9% give employees the option to work from home every day,” according to benefits consulting firm Mercer.

Nevertheless, this may be the year employers start to actually enforce their minimum-days-in-the-office mandates, Challenger said.

Just this week, for example, Disney CEO Bob Iger ordered employees to return to corporate offices four days a week beginning March 1.

Front-line employees like retail workers, health care aides and security guards, whose jobs require them always to be on site, may be offered other forms of flexibility, said Emily Rose McRae, senior director of research at Gartner, a workplace consulting firm.

That could include being given a regular schedule, as opposed to working “on demand,” where they don’t know their schedule in advance, McRae said. It also could mean getting more paid leave, or that front-line workers could opt out of working certain shifts or certain days.

Get ready for some group down time

McRae said she sees more employers offering what she calls “proactive rest” options this year.

The idea is to actively help people recover before becoming fully depleted not only by work, but by the upending of their lives from the pandemic and the social and political upheaval of the past few years.

“The big shift is in recognizing our work force is in trouble,” McRae said.

Proactive rest can take many forms. Some employers may offer days off — whether it’s a whole week or just one day a week for a set period of time. Or it could simply mean branding a given workday as a no-meeting day.

The talent war will line the pockets of some

Information technology professionals will continue to win the day at work when it comes to who gets the biggest raises and bonuses.

“Most organizations are anticipating the talent market to remain as competitive, or more competitive, at least in the first half of this year,” said Tony Guadagni, a senior principal in Gartner’s HR practice. “They will do what they have to to attract that critical talent.”

Employers’ projected increases for this year in terms of merit increases (3.9%) and total pay (4.3%) are the highest they’ve been in 15 years, according to workplace consulting firm Mercer. But given that inflation is still pacing higher than those levels, you may not feel the raise you get is making a huge difference in what you can afford — unless your skills are in high demand.

It will be easier to assess the worth of your talents

It used to be difficult to figure out whether you were being paid competitively for your talents, since companies weren’t open about what they paid others and colleagues wouldn’t discuss their pay.

But now that New York City, the state of California, and a handful of other states and localities have implemented pay transparency rules for job postings, it will be easier in 2023 to confirm you’re being paid fairly relative to your teammates, and to determine the salary range on offer if you’re looking for a new job.

Still, these laws are very new, and companies have not been uniform in how they’re handling the new rules. Some recent job postings, for instance, have advertised unhelpfully wide pay ranges — think $50,000 to $200,000.

You may get more discretion in how you spend some benefit dollars

Beyond the big benefits employers typically offer full-time staffers (e.g., subsidized health insurance, a 401(k) match, etc.), they also offer a range of secondary benefits or perks, such as tuition reimbursement, supplemental life insurance, a stipend for home office supplies or financial coaching.

Gartner and Mercer are seeing more companies let employees decide how best to spend these perk dollars by letting them direct a fixed amount of money across the secondary benefits that are most important to them.

Your job description may fall to the wayside

Your organization may engage in “quiet hiring” this year, if it hasn’t already.

It’s a misleading term, in that it is neither quiet nor does it involve actual hiring.

Rather, your company will want to repurpose existing employees — possibly you, if you have relevant skills — for the employer’s highest priority projects this year.

That could be a great opportunity if you hate being limited to the same tasks of your official job, or if you want to develop new skills and work with new people in your company.

It also could be highly frustrating, especially if a company is simply putting everyone on rotation to make sure understaffed, critical tasks get done by anyone with the adequate skills to do so.

Either way, “quiet hiring” may offer an initial taste of a broader trend likely to unfold over the next several years that could spell the end of “jobs” — and specifically job descriptions as we know them, according to consulting firm Deloitte.

That’s because many employers want to transition away from being a jobs-based organization to a skills-based one so they can quickly adapt to change, address talent shortages and provide their workforce with opportunities to develop professionally, said Arthur Mazor, a principal and global leader at Deloitte’s Human Capital Practice.

So instead of viewing you as a holder of Job X, your company is likely to view you as a person with an array of skills that can be deployed in many ways.

Early adopters this year can be found across various industries, Mazor said — from software makers to auto manufacturers to financial services to health care.

Even at companies that have not formalized a shift to being a skills-based organization, the change is happening anyway. Roughly 70% of workers say they’re already doing work outside of their job, according to Deloitte.

One recent example, cited in Deloitte’s latest work report, comes from M&T Bank, a leading Small Business Administration lender. Its chief talent officer told the firm, “when the Paycheck Protection Program was rolled out during the pandemic, we had to stop thinking about jobs and start thinking about skills. … By focusing on skills versus jobs — and rapidly mobilizing talent in an agile way — we outperformed our peers.”

It’s too early to determine exactly how this will play out for employees, in terms of incentives offered for switching to a new project or pinch-hitting for another department, how an employee’s work will be assessed and rewarded, and how much say they will get in the projects assigned.

But done right, Mazor said, employees should have the opportunity to share on an internal database their skills and what areas they wish to develop before being matched with a new assignment.

“This isn’t a clandestine effort. It involves worker input.”

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