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HR trends in 2023 include offices that feel like home

The major HR trends for next year will include office designs that borrow from home life, while actually working from home might be harder to do if there's a recession.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the shift to remote and hybrid work have significantly affected how work gets done.

Here are four HR trends likely to get increasing attention as 2023 begins.

These HR trends include offices becoming more homelike, metaverse adoption by HR, a new challenge for remote work and why "quiet hiring" might replace quiet quitting.

Offices try to compete with home

The shift to hybrid work is prompting businesses to rethink the office environment. They are working with designers to create a more homelike setting with plants, couches and seating arrangements to fit any preference. The atmosphere could range from a coffee shop type of setting to something more akin to a living room.

This workplace design trend began in the tech industry, which was an early adopter of flexible work arrangements. But the pandemic and hybrid work have broadly accelerated the HR trend. Offices are being designed using softer color palettes and finishes to help people feel more comfortable, as well as encourage employees to come to the office.

"That is what people have gotten used to over the two years working from home," said Aimee Collins, senior principal of design Americas at Unispace, a commercial design and construction firm headquartered in Sydney.

The design approach is to create an office space that "feels more like someone's home," Collins said. It includes creating an environment that allows employees to work where they want -- whether at a desk, at a table or outdoors -- just as they might at their own house.

Not having an assigned desk means there isn't necessarily a permanent place for a family photo or personal belongings, but there is an alternative. Employees work in "neighborhoods," and in those areas, employers will create specialized spaces where people can add pictures of their kids and pets, sometimes using a video display, Collins said.

Collins said the new office involves gathering input from managers and focus groups of employees. Adapting to a new office requires change management, including training staff to use it so that "they'll embrace it."

Photo showing the homelike atmosphere at Bread Financial's new office space in Ohio.
Unispace client Bread Financial's new office space in Columbus, Ohio, includes shelving, plants and a variety of seating options for employees.

HR might be a metaverse early adopter

The metaverse, a 3D immersive virtual environment, is still more concept than reality. But in 2023, HR could become an early adopter and start testing it. Employee onboarding and training gives HR one of the strongest use cases for metaverse adoption, according to professional services giant PwC.

In July, PwC released results of a survey of 1,000 U.S. business leaders, who picked onboarding and training -- by 42% -- as the top business use. And 82% of respondents expect the metaverse to be part of their business activities in three years, according to Emmanuelle Rivet, vice chair of U.S. technology, media and telecommunications and global technology leader at PwC.

The metaverse has a lot of potential in onboarding, Rivet said. For instance, a cohort of new hires could attend a virtual class on the company's security policies. They could do the same thing in Zoom or Teams or a physical classroom, she said, but the experience will be better in the metaverse.

In the metaverse classroom, people are avatars. Despite that cartoonlike appearance, there's a much stronger sense of presence in an entirely virtual environment, and the level of attention is better, Rivet said.

In this virtual world, "you are very focused and effectively cutting out the rest of the distractions around you," she said.

But there are other reasons why businesses might become early adopters of metaverse technologies. When HR puts virtual reality headsets in the hands of employees for training, it is also upskilling them on the technology, Rivet said.

Employee experience with the metaverse could generate employee-led innovation around what's possible and how "they can use that type of technology for their products and services," she said.

"You can't ignore the metaverse," Rivet said.

Remote work faces challenges in 2023

Some CEOs -- notably Elon Musk, CEO of both Tesla and Twitter -- are critical of remote work. In 2022, Musk ended it at Tesla, for the most part, and tried to do the same at Twitter. If there is a recession in 2023, other business leaders might feel empowered to follow his example.

There are two theories about what might happen in the event of a recession, according to Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics, a telecommuting research and consulting firm. The first is that employees might voluntarily return to the office to "be seen," and "leadership will seize the opportunity to harden the line on remote work," she said.

"There's no doubt in my mind that were it not for talent shortages, organizations would be far less receptive to the post-pandemic continuation of remote and hybrid work," Lister said.

The second theory is that a recession might also prompt businesses to cut their real estate costs.

"If a recession takes hold, and leaders look around for ways to trim costs, they will see largely empty buildings as the low-hanging fruit, and that will further normalize remote and hybrid work," Lister said.

Others believe that workers with in-demand skills will continue to have the upper hand.

"It's still a very talent-driven market," and this talent is showing "a strong preference toward remote," said Evan Hock, co-founder and vice president of product at MakeMyMove. This Indianapolis-based firm connects remote workers with relocation offers.

Hock pointed to a recent LinkedIn study that shows the high desirability of remote jobs.

LinkedIn reported that remote job postings on the site hit an all-time high in February 2022, accounting for 20% of all advertised U.S. jobs, but by September, that fell to 14%. However, remote job ads attracted 52% of all U.S. applications.

"Remote work continues to be a high priority," Hock said.

'Quiet hiring' replaces quiet quitting

The so-called quiet quitters could miss out on opportunities for promotion and stretch assignments in 2023. But the workers who aren't quietly quitting might benefit from "quiet hiring."

Companies are slowing down on their hiring, and it is getting harder for them to add head count, but most are still operating "with a fair bit of a talent shortage," said Emily Rose McRae, an analyst at Gartner. "How do you get those skills without necessarily adding full-time head count?"

In some cases, these companies will hire more contractors and gig workers, but another approach will be to increase internal mobility, McRae said.

While businesses might support internal mobility on paper, they could still face resistance from managers who want to hold on to their talent, she added.

Gartner sees quiet hiring as an HR trend in 2023. It is the product of a genuine cultural shift regarding talent, with companywide policies that enable organizations to move top performers to areas that are generating growth and "hire" them into new roles. McRae said this also involves creating more opportunities for upskilling and stretch assignments.

This quiet hiring is a way of acquiring skills without necessarily hiring for full-time external talent, she said.

Patrick Thibodeau covers HCM and ERP technologies for TechTarget Editorial. He's worked for more than two decades as an enterprise IT reporter.

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