The past two years have seen rapid changes in the world of HR. A large number of companies have had to quickly adapt to everything from new working norms, a shift in management structure, staff shortages, and employees being furloughed or leaving the business. And the change hasn’t stopped there. Even long into the pandemic, there are still curveballs that HR teams are having to manage, including changing government policies and the end of furlough.

With this in mind, Edays has rounded up four HR predictions and employee trends for 2022:

A rise in healthy work culture and absence management

Since the start of the pandemic, a number of companies have been tasked with the challenge of adapting to remote working and hybrid strategies. Employees within these companies will therefore spend less time in the office than ever before.

This will particularly affect those who are joining the workforce after freshly finishing school or university. With hybrid working being the new norm since the pandemic, these employees may be working from home more than any other previous generation, who were previously accustomed to working in the office. These new changes to work norms will see some challenges, including creating a healthy attitude towards absence.

Working from home is also leading to people being less likely to take sick days when unwell, with research suggesting people who can work from home take fewer sick days. According to Edays’ Absense Risk Profiling research, negative absence culture leads to a lack of productivity, poor work culture, staff burnout, and an increase in sick days.

Alongside this, in October 2021, it was revealed that 41 per cent of employees globally have more than half (55 per cent) of their holiday left to take before the end of the year. To tackle these issues, managers and business leaders need to make creating a healthy attitude towards absence a priority. This includes encouraging employees to take their annual leave to go on holidays and feeling free to take sick days when feeling under the weather, instead of carrying on working from home and battling through.

HR teams need live data insights and reporting functionality to manage and be aware of absence trends in their company. This way they can support team members and use trends to make decisions about employees that are showing signs of burnout or presenteeism.

Hidden employees

A lot of people are aware of presenteeism when it comes to going to work and putting on a happy face when feeling ill. We must also pay more attention to another meaning of presenteeism, related to people not showing their real selves at the workplace. Some people may not feel welcome to express their true self at work, including their gender identity, sexual orientation, or religious/cultural expression. This alternative branch of presenteeism may be improved by companies putting DEI strategies on top of their agenda and encouraging a more welcoming and open-minded work culture.

Businesses should incorporate more progressive company values, encouraging diversity and inclusiveness, including holding DEI seminars and celebrating differences. This will lead to people feeling more free to express themselves in a more accurate way.

Managers and company leaders must be on the lookout for patterns and signs showing that an employee may be unhappy or withholding their true self at work, such as changes in their social behaviour, increase in sick days, being less productive at work, and showing signs of being burned out. Addressing these points of concern through DEI seminars and incorporating things like anonymous employee submissions and HR meetings will not only create a better work culture and reduce company presenteeism but will also increase employee productivity, efficiency and mood.

Rise in self-care to prevent absence as a result of burnout

Increasing rates of employee burnout as a result of high-stress work environments due to the pandemic has been a big conversation in 2021. As a result, next year is likely to see more employers and employees being more self-aware of burnout and start putting more self-care practices in place in order to predict and prevent it.

High-stress levels manifest in a number of ways, such as poor physical health (from fatigue to aches and pains), and could also lead to compromised mental health. Edays’ research strongly links wellness and engagement, and how stress undermines both. Some strategies to combat the rising epidemic of burnout include workshops on stress management and resilience, investing in mental health first aid training, and ensuring employees take regular breaks throughout the year. Doing this will lead to a workforce that is happier, healthier, and more productive, decreasing the chances of employee burnout.

An increased focus on company culture

With so much sudden change and turbulence in the workplace from both businesses and employees in the past two years, business leaders need to focus on improving and fostering a positive, safe and inclusive company culture for all in 2022. From suddenly shifting from working in the office five days a week to hybrid and remote working, the past two years have left employees with a feeling of uncertainty, without a lack of structure.

Managers should show empathy and an open mind in order to create the best workforce with high staff morale and productivity. Leading with compassion is a must. If employees seem rundown and on the road to burnout, employers need to encourage them to take time off to recharge. By creating a culture of trust through openly promoting absence, employees will feel able to take time off when feeling sick.

Even though one of the things we have learned from the pandemic is that long-term planning is increasingly tricky to do, next year is the perfect time to re-evaluate employer/employee relationships and create a positive company culture of trust and safety your employees need.

There’s been a lot of change over the past two years, and there’s no doubt that this will continue as we approach 2022. However, prioritising self care, focusing on company culture, promoting healthy absences, and looking out for ‘hidden’ employees will alleviate some of the many challenges that HR teams face.