In recent years, workplace trends have changed due to technological advancements, demographic changes, global issues, and evolving employee expectations. What workplace trends and work tools should HR teams consider to adapt to the current labour market, increase employee satisfaction, and attract new talent? 

What trends will shape HR in the next 5 years?

Various factors can shape workplace trends and transform the workforce of the future. To adapt to a changing landscape, HR professionals need a holistic understanding of these factors before implementing any changes within their organisation. Current labour shortages in the UK present barriers to economic growth and reinforce the importance of retaining employees. Consequently, evaluating HR management trends has gained increased significance. 

The future of the workplace will be shaped by new ways of working, with remote and flexible work arrangements becoming more common. In this context, HR insights will be crucial for organisations to respond to the changing needs of employees.

To help HR departments adapt to current work environments and focus on employee retention, we provide five key workplace trends compiled from the analysis of multiple surveys commissioned by Capterra and its affiliate companies. The study methodology can be found at the end of the article. 

Before assessing some of the latest HR trends, we will examine why these HR and employee trends are gaining momentum. Of the factors contributing to the changing work environment over the last few years, the following are among those that have had an ongoing impact.

COVID-19 triggered a shift to remote work models

At the onset of the pandemic, employees switched to remote work due to lockdowns and other restrictions. One year later, the 2021 HR in the New Era Survey showed that only 17% of new home-workers wanted to return to the worksite full-time. This suggests that many employees were reluctant to fully return to the physical office. 

Not long after the switch to remote work, many workplaces encountered the so-called Great Resignation. HR teams faced new challenges in attracting and retaining employees who were increasingly open to job-hopping. To win the battle for talent, businesses must understand what elements contribute to employee satisfaction.

Businesses have accelerated their digitalisation since the pandemic

The 2022 Digital Presence Survey found that the pandemic accelerated digital strategies for 53% of surveyed firms that had already started to digitalise before the COVID-19 outbreak, while 23% of businesses initiated digital strategies due to the pandemic. Digital acceleration requires investing in tools and practices to automate processes or manage productivity remotely and incorporating talent to implement these new strategies. The survey results indicated that over half (55%) of SMEs recruited new employees, such as digital market specialists and web designers, to implement digital strategies.

The pandemic put a spotlight on employee health and well-being

The COVID pandemic put employee well-being into the spotlight. The HR in the New Era Survey in 2021 found that 62% of UK workers' stress levels had increased or remained the same while working from home, and 71% experienced burnout. 

Businesses can implement measures such as mental health support, mindfulness training, and flexible work to try and help employees. However, a year after the pandemic, the 2022 Mental Health in the Workplace Survey showed that 71% of employees received no mental health resources from their company, and 36% would not discuss their mental health with their superiors. Mental health is not an issue managers should take lightly, and businesses need to find ways to reduce employee stress levels and improve general well-being. 

Sustainability and ESG initiatives can influence employee investment

Climate change is a subject that is affecting multiple industry verticals and is very present in the public debate. In this context, there has been a growing emphasis on sustainability in the workplace. In the 2022 Climate Change survey, 45% of senior managers at SMEs said employees had voiced their concerns about climate issues to a ‘great extent’. 

Companies are looking to reduce their carbon footprint and adopt more eco-friendly practices. Some of these practices include Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) initiatives. As well as helping businesses meet sustainability goals and comply with government regulations, these initiatives can help increase employee satisfaction and attract talent. The social aspect of ESG also caters to improving employee well-being by focusing on worker development, inclusion, and working conditions. 

With these catalysts in mind, here are five new workplace trends that UK businesses and HR managers should consider when trying to attract and retain employees. 

1. Invest in employee learning and development

We have seen that businesses accelerated their digital transformation processes during the pandemic. This included the adoption of technology and tools to adapt to remote work. However, some workers may need help adjusting to these changes. 

According to the 2021 HR in the New Era Survey, a combined 53% of employees felt overwhelmed to differing extents by the number of digital tools they use for work. To address this issue, managers should work on educating and training their employees to use new tools.

How overwhelmed are workers by the tools they work with

Furthermore, of the survey respondents who planned to look for a new job after the end of the pandemic, 36% of employees cited learning and development opportunities as one of the top three most important factors when considering a new job. This was the second most important factor, after pay and benefits. 

Software can help employees develop different skills

Businesses can use learning management systems to help employees develop both hard skills to make the most of new tools and reinforce their soft skills to adapt to remote or hybrid work environments. 

2. Keep employees informed about monitoring practices

Supervising remote workers can present challenges for businesses that want to track productivity when staff are working from home. However, the misuse of employee monitoring software can raise ethical concerns. In the 2022 Employee Monitoring Survey, three in ten UK employees said their company uses monitoring tools.

There are several reasons employers may want to track their workers. When we asked monitored employees which activities their employer tracked in their workplace, most of these respondents said their company tracks attendance (79%), with time management (65%) and workload management (51%) also featuring in the top three most commonly monitored activities.

Communication is key when monitoring employees

Clear communication about employee monitoring can be crucial for maintaining a positive company culture. According to the survey, 24% of monitored employees had not been informed of the use of employee monitoring software and their rights. Employers can provide transparency and clarity by creating communication plans to explain how and why they are monitoring employees and sharing this information through internal communication platforms or employee portals.

3. Strengthen social connections between employees

While some employees may prefer to work from home, others may feel isolated working alone for an extended period of time. Even after restrictions were lifted during the pandemic, one in five workers still felt lonely at work

In the 2022 Company Culture Survey, around a quarter of respondents (26%) saw building relationships with co-workers as one of the three most important factors affecting job satisfaction. However, employee perspectives differed depending on whether respondents were remote, hybrid, or on-site workers. 

the role of relationships in the future workplace

Despite remote and hybrid employees placing less importance on social connections than on-site workers, there is still value in in-person gatherings and social events. In fact, two-thirds (66%) of surveyed employees said they were ‘somewhat’ or ‘extremely likely’ to attend such events organised by their employers, and around half (51%) felt that it was worthwhile for their employer to invest part of the company budget in building social connections between employees. 

While over half (54%) of remote employees thought that having friends or social relationships at work was minimally important or not important at all, HR managers can also strengthen connections with fully remote workers by using employee engagement software to encourage employee awareness of corporate culture and increase their investment in the company, as well as to facilitate communication channels.

HR teams should choose the right tools to encourage cooperation

Although not all employees may be inclined to attend parties, it is still essential for them to collaborate or connect with their peers. Moreover, fostering healthy relationships with their colleagues becomes more likely when collaboration is strong. To facilitate smooth cooperation between dispersed teams, businesses can utilise various tools such as collaboration software and video conferencing, which enhance teamwork and communication. Additionally, virtual team-building activities, games, and quizzes can also help connect workers. 

4. Reassess workloads, work-life balance, and flexibility

During the pandemic, SME workers had to adapt to new work conditions, causing both positive and negative outcomes. In the 2022 Mental Health Survey we observed that COVID-19 played a part in increasing levels of stress, but other more common workplace challenges had a bigger impact. Being given too much work topped the list of the most common sources of workplace stress, cited by 40% of respondents.

Unbalanced workloads can hinder the attainment of objectives and negatively impact employee morale. Employers may risk losing overburdened workers if they fail to alleviate unexpected pressure on employees. Workflow management tools enable managers and HR leaders to oversee processes and balance employees’ workloads. Meanwhile, the use of project management tools for planning and prioritisation can help prevent employees from feeling overwhelmed.

The importance of work-life balance

There are numerous ways that firms can improve employee retention and keep a competitive edge. According to the 2022 Company Culture Survey, work-life balance was a top factor that contributed to job satisfaction for on-site, hybrid, and remote employees.

what does the workforce of the future want?

To maintain employee well-being, businesses should focus on supporting their staff in improving their work-life balance. Some ways to achieve this include offering parental leave, flexible work arrangements, and encouraging time off by promoting a culture where vacations are valued and supported. 

Time tracking and attendance tracking software can allow HR managers and employees to track their hours and alert them when they are overworking. At the same time, leave management systems can help HR teams plan and coordinate time off for workers. 

5. Strengthen company culture to retain employees

Brand loyalty is not a trait that is exclusive to consumers. With workers readdressing their relationship with the workplace, employees may also look for reasons to stick with their employers. To maintain a competitive edge in attracting employees and retaining workers, businesses should strengthen their company culture. 

Company culture can combine a company’s shared values, practices, and behaviours and shape how employees interact and collaborate within a company. While the 2022 Recruitment Process Survey showed that employees prioritise flexibility and growth opportunities when applying for a job, it also indicated that 31% of job applicants consider company culture when choosing who to work for. 

What employees want when applying for a job

Steps to improve company culture

What can businesses do to improve their company culture? To build a strong organisational culture that attracts and retains talent, consider the following steps:

  • Foster a positive work environment by encouraging teamwork, open communication, and mutual respect. Employees can be encouraged to provide feedback and fill in surveys to improve processes and share their thoughts. 
  • Recognise employee contributions to establish an atmosphere at work that encourages loyalty. The 2021 Employee Recognition Survey found that 58% of respondents believe employee recognition is a priority in their company. Businesses can use employee recognition software to showcase employee achievements by providing a platform for managers and colleagues to give positive feedback, acknowledge accomplishments, and celebrate successes.
  • Promote diversity and inclusion and benefit from a diverse workforce that represents a variety of backgrounds and perspectives.Three-quarters of employees interviewed in the 2021 Diversity in SMEs Survey said diversity in the workplace was important to them. Gartner research found that in a diverse workforce, performance improves by 12% and intent to stay by 20%. The future workplace should focus on promoting equality. Some applicant tracking systems allow recruiters to remove elements such as name, photo, and gender identity from candidates’ CVs to help reduce unconscious bias in the early stages of the recruitment process.
  • Implement environmental, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives: Deploying ESG initiatives can help improve brand awareness and attract employees who are interested in working for a company that shares their values. The 2022 Climate Change Survey revealed that while 39% of SMEs already apply ESG initiatives, 52% are interested in doing so. Companies can leverage ESG tools to help them carry out ESG projects and attract employees by promoting initiatives that they care about. 

The future workplace and priorities

The employee of the future will be looking for more than just their wages to determine how satisfied they are in their jobs; they will want a sense of purpose and a positive work-life balance. Employers will need to adapt to these changing expectations to attract and retain top talent. Employee relations will also change as a result of these expectations, with a greater emphasis on communication, collaboration, and trust.

The employee experience will also be a top priority, with a focus on creating a positive work environment and providing opportunities for growth and development, as well as offering competitive compensation and benefits.

Another critical trend that will shape the future workplace is the use of technology. HR departments will need to adapt to new tools and systems to manage their workforce effectively.

The HR industry is in a period of rapid change, with new ways of working and employee relations all playing a significant role in shaping the future workplace. HR professionals will need to be agile, adaptable, and forward-thinking to stay ahead of the curve and meet the changing needs of their organisations and employees.

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This Capterra Human Resource (HR) Trends article identifies 5 trends that are the result of a meta-analysis of multiple surveys commissioned by Capterra and its affiliate companies.

This report includes data from online surveys conducted between January 2021 and December 2022. Participants are aged between 18 and 65 and live in the UK. The results derived will be representative of the participants who took the survey and not the entire country/region.

Participant selection criteria for each of the surveys used for this report are as follows:

  • HR in the New Era Survey 2021: 1,050 full- or part-time employees of SMEs (with between 2 and 250 employees) were interviewed in January 2021. 70% worked in an office environment prior to the pandemic.
  • Digital Presence Survey 2022: 297 full- or part-time employees in a mid-level or higher role at an SME that had adopted a digital strategy before or since the COVID-19 pandemic were interviewed in August 2022.
  • Mental Health in the Workplace Survey 2022: 1,031 full- or part-time SME employees with directorial, managerial, senior, mid-level, or associate-level positions who had not changed jobs between January 2020 and January 2022 were interviewed in February 2022.
  • Climate Change Survey 2022: 269 owners and senior managers of SMEs founded more than a year ago, and in which a significant portion of employees attend a physical workspace, were interviewed in December 2022.
  • Employee Monitoring Survey 2022: 744 full- or part-time employees who were not in ownership positions and worked at a company with at least two employees were interviewed in February 2022. Respondents could identify what employee monitoring tools are after being provided with a definition.
  • Company Culture Survey 2022: 1,015 respondents who worked in remote, hybrid, or on-site positions at companies with over six employees were interviewed in June 2022. 
  • Employee Recognition Survey 2021: 1,012 full- or part-time SME employees were interviewed in June 2021. 
  • Diversity in SMEs Survey 2021: 1,001 full- or part-time SME employees were interviewed in October 2021.
  • Recruitment Process Survey 2022: 829 full-time or part-time SME employees who had been through a recruitment process in the last year were interviewed in September 2022.