Top Ten Work Trends Quarterly Updates

A diverse group of SIOP members are serving as Trend Champions for the people-related work trends that SIOP members collaboratively predicted to be the most impactful in 2021. Each Trend Champion has expertise in and professional passion for their trend subject. SIOP appreciates their service to the profession in providing quarterly updates on their chosen topics.

Find the full list of topics and links to the other Top 10 Work Trends here

The Latest on Trend #1: Remote Work and Flexible Work Arrangements


2021 3rd Quarter Update

The return to office that we thought we would see in Q3 has been delayed again due to rising COVID-19 cases and the delta variant, meaning remote work is here to stay . . . at least for a while longer. While many employees still say they find the work-from-home arrangement to be a positive one, their supervisors don’t always share the same sentiment: “In the US, a whopping 72% of managers currently supervising remote workers would prefer all their subordinates to be in the office” (BBC Worklife). 

Despite how long we have been working in this environment, many leaders still struggle to effectively manage remote employees. Why is this the case? In their podcast on The Leadership Challenge of Remote and Flexible Work, SIOPer Ben Baran and Christopher Everett suggest that organizations are now reaping what they did (or didn’t) sow in terms of leader development. The skills required to manage employees in-person are the same as those required virtually – they are just increasingly important now. Actively listening, clearly communicating expectations, and providing regular feedback haven’t gone out of style; leaders may just need to be more intentional about doing so when working remotely. 

SIOP members are leading the way in research on “Zoom fatigue,” a concept we discussed in Q1. Kristen Shockley, Ph.D and colleagues found that having your camera on all the time during virtual meetings is exhausting for everyone – and even more so for women and new employees. While it can be nice to connect face-to-face while working remotely, companies should avoid going overboard. Camera breaks can actually help engagement! 


2021 2nd Quarter Update

At the end of Q1 , a question on everyone’s mind was whether we would truly see businesses maintain the “new normal” of flexible work arrangements that became ever prevalent due to the coronavirus pandemic. Research from this quarter indicates the answer is a resounding “yes” if organizations intend to recruit and retain top talent. With nearly 1 in 4 Americans looking for new opportunities, job seekers hold the power in the post-pandemic job market, and they have made it clear that flexibly and work-life balance are top priorities (Forbes, CNBC). Recent surveys indicate that the majority of workers “would choose a permanent work-from-home option over a $30,000 pay raise” and “would ‘absolutely’ look for a new job if they weren’t allowed to continue working remotely in their current position” (HR Executive). As SIOPer Cathleen Swody eloquently explains, “if some companies are offering (remote work), then it’s going to force the hand of other companies” (VOA News).

Business and HR leaders must now consider how to keep hybrid and remote workers engaged and aligned with organizational culture . SIOPer Eric Knudsen and his colleagues at Glint found that “organizations investing more heavily in remote work appear to be creating more inclusive and psychologically safe work experiences.” SIOPer Tracy Brower notes that fairness and equity are key components to maintaining strong relationships and cultures in a hybrid environment. Organizations should have an established, widely-communicated set of principles for deciding how and where work gets done to avoid the “haves” versus “have nots” conundrum (Forbes). Companies can consider having remote workers come onsite periodically to socialize with peers and leaders or organizing off-site meetings so that remote workers from similar geographic areas can form internal networks (SHRM). SIOPer Setrice Grice recommends that employees consider agreeing to travel for these types of larger gatherings when negotiating a flexible arrangement. She suggests that having a clear plan for how you plan to get work done effectively can help strengthen your case if interacting with management that is not on-board with remote work.

As organizations recruit for remote roles and consider who should remain fully remote, they will likely start asking what individual characteristics make workers best suited for this type of work arrangement. Cambridge company Cangrade found that “follow-through, establishing tasks to regulate day-to-day work, and monitoring one’s own performance are key” (Boston Globe); however, SIOPer Chelsea LeNoble is not convinced that personal attributes alone will prevent anyone from being successful in a remote arrangement. She believes that searching for the “ideal” remote worker could mean missing out on qualified talent and that companies should instead seek to provide the appropriate support and surroundings to set all employees up for success.

I-O psychologists continue to offer their expertise to organizations as they navigate this new landscape of work. SIOPer Melanie Standish is organizing a townhall at the end of July called “Remote work is here to stay: So what is next?” If you would like to offer your expertise as a panelist or attend as a participant, please contact Melanie at Stay tuned for more exciting research in Q3!


2021 1st Quarter Update

Prior to and at the start of the pandemic, there were concerns that the work from home (WFH) set-up make would make employees feel like they were out an island and reduce productivity and teamwork. While some may still suffer feelings of isolation and disconnectedness by being out of the traditional office environment, recent research indicates that remote work creates a new type of challenge: collaboration overload.  Microsoft’s latest Work Trend Index revealed startling upsurges in remote collaboration with virtual meeting time more than doubling and chat usage increasing 45% between February 2020 and February 2021. 

Zoom fatigue” seems to be the latest buzz phrase, as we have seen increasing reports on the dark side of remote work in this quarter.  Stanford researchers are examining why spending all day on our webcams makes us feel so tired and are in the early stages of creating a Zoom Exhaustion & Fatigue Scale. Being on camera all day can result in cognitive overload, as we have to work harder to process non-verbal cues through a screen. SIOP member and University of Georgia professor Kristen Shockley, Ph.D., received a grant from the National Science Foundation to examine how workers are coping with the abrupt transition to telework and will be looking at Zoom fatigue as part of her study. You can learn more about how organizations can make the most of remote work arrangements by reading her SIOP White Paper

Past research has shown that, when done well, remote work arrangements can lead to increased job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and job performance. Guidance from Gartner and HBR encourages employees to build in breaks, avoid multitasking, and reconsider the most appropriate communication channels for different types of work situations (Spoiler Alert: Picking up the phone or sending an email can work just as well – not everything has to be a Zoom meeting!). SIOP member Ronald Riggio, PhD, also recommends having a designated “work only” space to stay productive and focused while working remotely. 

As vaccines continue to rollout across the globe, we will be keeping close tabs on how organizations handle the return to work. We have already seen corporate giants like Ford and Facebook offer WFH options indefinitely. Will we truly see a “new normal” come to fruition or will more companies return to “business as usual” once it is safe to do so? Stay tuned for more in Q2!  

For more exciting research on remote work, join us for the upcoming SIOP conference. There will be a session led by Amy E. Crook, Ashley Rittmayer Hanks, and Katharine O. Murray on Remote Workforces in a Post-COVID-19 World, a symposium hosted by a panel of experts on Remote Work in the Time of COVID, and more! 


Champion: Lindsey Wuerfel, MA, MBA

Lindsey Wuerfel, MA, MBA

Lindsey Wuerfel is a recent graduate of Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. She completed her MBA and MA in Industrial-Organizational Psychology & Human Resource Management in August 2020. She joined Collins Aerospace as a HR Intern in May 2019 and now works as a Senior HR Generalist, supporting a global client group as business partner and managing a variety of talent management and analytic projects. Lindsey currently resides in Summerville, SC with her pug, Milo.