As we usher in the new year, the workplace landscape continues to evolve, driven by technological advancements, changing employee expectations, and global events. In 2024, organisations need to stay agile, proactive, and open to change in order to thrive and attract and retain the best talent.
So, what can we expect working life to look like in 2024? Here are five key workplace trends to be aware of in the coming year.
1 . Hybrid work models
Commuting data suggests that in many key cities employees are continuing to split their week between remote and office work, as time moves on after the pandemic.
In 2024, hybrid work models will redefine the traditional office structure as companies continue to embrace a flexible approach. Studies reveal some employers are gradually starting to pull employees back into the office, however, but with staff now ranking flexibility over salary in terms of priorities, businesses will need to manage it carefully and stay open-minded.
Companies will likely look to invest in robust technology infrastructure, prioritise cybersecurity measures, and establish clear communication channels. While the onus will increasingly be on trust, there may be closer monitoring of staff as a result of this more permanent-looking trend. It does bring advantages; as one that not only supports a better work-life balance but also enables organisations to tap into a global talent pool, fostering greater diversity and innovation.
The rise of the ‘coffee badger’
In response to some employers pushing for a return to the office, a new trend has emerged from the US called ‘coffee badging’. Essentially, this is when an employee comes into the office mostly just to be seen to be there; to have their ‘badge’ or pass swiped at the door — but then might only stay for a coffee with colleagues, or perhaps attend one meeting, before slipping out quietly to head back home.
A recent survey from Owl Lab shows that 58% of nearly 2,000 employees on a hybrid work model admitted to coffee badging. TikTok has also highlighted the new trend.
2. AI becomes reality
After years of speculation around AI and what it might mean for the future, in 2024 it will cross from theory to practice for lots of businesses, as the need for its cost saving benefits prevail. We’ll see AI integrate into a range of daily systems from the automation of routine tasks to enhancing decision-making processes.
In the new year, companies will increasingly leverage AI tools for talent acquisition, employee training, and predictive analytics to optimize performance and streamline HR processes.
Financial Times writer Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson predicts that in 2024 AI will work its way into “smaller-scale” workplace activities, for example; “the way we interact with the HR department, the way we file our expenses, the way we manage our sort of personal assistants and organise our days.” For the most part, it will assume a role in the more mundane, admin-type processes.
Meanwhile, businesses will be looking to address concerns related to job displacement and the ethical use of AI, and invest in employee training programs to develop skills that complement AI technologies to help foster a harmonious man-machine collaboration.
3. Employee wellbeing takes centre stage
Employee wellbeing has emerged as a top priority for organisations seeking to attract and retain top talent. In 2024, companies will place a greater emphasis on holistic wellbeing programs that go beyond physical health. Mental health support, stress management initiatives, and flexible work arrangements that promote work-life balance, will become integral components of the workplace culture.
Businesses that prioritise employee wellbeing will not only boost morale and productivity but also enhance their reputation as employers of choice.
WATCH: Our interview with CIPD and Scale Up Institute from our 2023 programme The Future of Work
Matt Stephens, CEO of Inpulse, an employee engagement consultancy, believes that “wellbeing as we know it will change as we move towards a pivotal moment when real listening and forming deeper relationships take the place of superficial corporate strategies.” He foresees that there will be a greater emphasis on human-centred solutions rather than relying solely on technology or apps.
“Employers need to move beyond the concept of investing in wellbeing programmes and strategies and get back to the basics of spending time talking to employees, understanding who they are, what makes them tick and how to support them to flourish.”
4. Continuous learning and skill development
In our fast-moving business landscape — and with the rise of AI — the need for continuous learning and skill development will be more critical than ever. In 2024, organisations will invest heavily in employee training programs to upskill and reskill their workforce. Lifelong learning initiatives will become commonplace, fostering a culture of adaptability and innovation.
Rather than looking to hire from outside the organisation, businesses can increasingly look to hire from within and develop new skills within the existing workforce — which both helps bridge gaps and foster a supportive culture where employees feel their company has a vested interest in their development.
Ultimately, employers will need to collaborate with educational institutions and online learning platforms to provide relevant training opportunities. A focus on soft skills like adaptability, communication, and problem-solving, will be just as important to prepare employees for the challenges of a dynamic workplace.
5. Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as business imperatives
Diversity, equity, and inclusion will continue to be at the forefront of organisational priorities in 2024. Companies will recognise the business benefits of a diverse workforce and actively work towards creating inclusive environments. DEI initiatives will extend beyond recruitment to encompass leadership development, mentorship programs, and inclusive policies.
Organisations that champion diversity will not only grow their reputation but also drive innovation and creativity. Transparent reporting on DEI metrics and fostering a culture that values diverse perspectives will be essential components of successful DEI strategies.
One new trend gaining traction is ‘reverse mentoring’, where younger employees — typically Gen Zs, born in the digital era — spend time with more senior employees to offer their insights into the latest tech trends and innovations. In this interaction, they can provide new perspectives on areas of business that senior team members might not be aware of, and open up conversations on their specific experiences and challenges in the workplace.
The concept can be hugely positive in helping the C-suite become champions of diversity, bolstering employee engagement and morale, and driving productivity across the business.
As we navigate the evolving landscape of the workplace in 2024, businesses will be proactively adapting to these key trends. Embracing hybrid work models, integrating AI responsibly, prioritising employee wellbeing, investing in continuous learning, and championing diversity and inclusion will position companies for success in the years ahead.
UPCOMING PROGRAMME: The Future of Work: People, Culture and Tech
ITN Business will showcase how HR professionals can stay ahead of the curve and adapt to the latest developments across the employment field, in The Future of Work: People, Culture and Tech — our new programme coming soon.
There are commercial opportunities for leading organisations to be featured in the programme and spearhead their own news item. If your organisation wants to share what you stand for and be part of this important conversation, please contact ITN Business’ Programming Directors Charlotte Lenman and James Salver.