Illustration by Justin Tran

Work Culture

What experts are predicting about work in 2022


Published on December 16, 2021

Many dimensions of how, where, and when we work have shifted over the past couple of years. As we head into 2022, we’re curious how things will continue to evolve. We talked to a few experts in various fields—workflows and productivity, communication and culture, wellness, and small business and creator economies—about what trends they’re predicting for next year.

Our tools will get better at capturing emotion

“The more people are communicating, the less isolated they feel, which is especially important with remote work. And with [communication] tools, we’re collaborating more synchronously, which allows us to move much faster and become more efficient. But aside from the technical features, there’s still a question mark about reading people’s emotions in the same way you can in person. How do I build emotional trust even though we’re virtual? When you hire new people and onboard them, how do you know if they can get a good sense of company culture? So I think technologies and tools are going to try to address those issues in the near future. I see room for improvement.”

Sophie Leroy is an associate professor of management at the University of Washington Bothell. Her research investigates the effects of interruptions on our ability to have focused attention. 

We’ll re-examine how and how often we meet (and maybe even make more phone calls)

“Many companies are now on the hybrid model. In a hybrid world, it's really important to make sure you're giving equal airtime to people on the screen and people in the room. You want to give the quiet ones a voice. It also makes more sense to have frequent, shorter check-ins with people. So maybe two or three 15-minute check-ins in the course of a week [works best]. Additionally, it’s important to be very conscious about when you're going to meet in person, when you're going to meet over video, and when you're going to meet over the phone. Recently, there’s been more research on how a phone call is more productive than either a face-to-face meeting or a video call. We often misinterpret each other's facial expressions, but with a phone call, you're just focusing on what the person is saying.”

Kim Scott has amassed years of knowledge and experience in communication and culture in the corporate world. She shares her learnings in her books Radical Candor: Be a Kick-ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity and Just Work: How to Root Out Bias, Prejudice, and Bullying to Build a Kick-Ass Culture of Inclusivity.

Workplace culture will continue to be refined

“Culture is not built by being in the office; it’s built by our rituals of communication and collaboration. Leaders must identify key cultural elements to preserve, communicate how to uphold them in practice, and start putting them into practice starting with their own behaviors. We must revise onboarding processes to effectively onramp and engage new employees virtually while reinforcing virtual watercoolers to break silos.”

Erica Dhawan is author of Get Big Things Done: The Power of Connectional Intelligence and Digital Body Language: How to Build Trust and Connection, No Matter the Distance. She’s an expert on how to build human connection through collaboration and teamwork.

We’ll learn to be even more resilient

“Remote workers will have to continue figuring out how to lead a balanced life. Stability and consistency are hard to attain in our lives because our routines have been lost and disrupted. Since stability is kind of tricky to find externally right now, you have to start looking internally. Find it within by asking yourself what your values and emotions are. Be reflective, whether that’s journaling or going on a silent retreat. Pause in a way that feels right for you. It’s important to slow down and think about how you’re feeling right now.”

Roger Leu is a mental health clinician based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His technique focuses on individualized and gradual healing.

The creator economy will continue to grow

“Ten years ago, the industry wasn't ready for the boom of the creator economy. We didn't have the platforms and the tools that give us the ability to do it relatively easily. The term ‘creator economy’ didn’t exist either. So the pandemic was incredibly well-timed in terms of accelerating the trend, and every indication shows that it will continue to grow into next year, just at a lesser rate. This year we saw self-employment grow 30%, and our forecast is about 7% or 8% growth next year. In a normal year, it’s about 3% or 4%. Historically, we’ve also seen when a big event like this pandemic happens, shortly after, we tend to revert back to the mean more often than not. So we’ll probably start to see revisions fairly quickly in the next year or two, but when we revert, we’ll be at a higher base than before.”

Steve King is a partner at Emergent Research, a consulting firm focused on the future of work, the rise of the independent workforce, and the impact of Big Data on small businesses.