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 2022. 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

Trend #3: Managing the Transition Into Post-Pandemic Work

2022 3rd Quarter Update

No matter where we turn, a term that we cannot escape is “quiet quitting”. Quiet quitting is when an employee decides to no longer perform tasks or duties outside of the core functions or duties of their job. Quiet quitting is a trendy topic and seems to be yet another obstacle to the return to “normal” at work. Like many things since March 2020 quiet quitting may feel new to practitioners. However, this supposedly new is explained by existing industrial psychology/organizational behavior research. 

Equity theory explains the desire many employees feel to no longer “go above and beyond” or perform tasks outside of their core job functions. Equity theory presents the employment relationship as an exchange between an employee and their organization. In this exchange, a balance between outcomes and inputs determines an employee’s satisfaction. Outcomes are things (e.g. pay, benefits, meaningful work) that an employee receives from their organization in exchange for the inputs (e.g. effort, persistence, time) they offer. Employees are satisfied when there is a balance between inputs and the outcomes their employee provides but imbalances between inputs and outcomes reduce employee satisfaction. It is this reduced satisfaction that is the source of reduced effort which employees use to even the score with their employers.  In some ways, quiet quitting is a mutual experience.    

Considering unsafe work conditions during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the suboptimal return to the office, and compensation not keeping up with the cost of living, it is no surprise that many people feel that their effort does not match the outcomes employees offer. As a result, employees have taken matters even the score. Fortunately, we are quite familiar with the potential solutions for quiet quitting. Primarily, managers need to recognize that employees were expected to carry on as normal despite the multitude of challenges that have arisen since March 2020. Therefore, managers should reward current employees with benefits they find valueable instead of seeking to replace employees viewed as “lazy”. Additionally, employees should be given the opportunity to offer input and feedback on their jobs. No one understands their jobs and how they could be improved more than the employees that perform them. Allowing employees the opportunity to voice concerns about their work sand modify how work is done is an excellent way to ensure continued engagement and the best way to improve organizations for everyone. Quiet quitting may feel new and scary to many practicing managers and industrial psychologists but fortunately we have the tools to take it on. 

2022 2nd Quarter Update

Quarter 2 of 2022 finds us facing many familiar challenges. Initial optimism surrounding the "return to the office" has turned into desperation for some corporate leaders or thinly veiled threats. At this point, it is clear that employees that can work from home prefer to do so and that the future of work will likely involve hybrid work. Though, the question of “how” to best get to the hybrid work future remains. Recent research published by Carol T. Kulik, a Research Professor at the University of South Australia, proposes that HR practitioners focus on three areas to navigate the current environment successfully. 

Primarily, Professor Kulik recommends that HR take the long view and invest in employees even if it does not immediately benefit the bottom line. This advice contradicts many organizations' actions in recent weeks. As we know, layoffs can adversely impact the employees that remain and damage the reputation of organizations. Instead of haphazardly engaging in layoffs to boost the bottom line temporarily, Kulik argues that organizations should work to create psychological safety and trust with employees because these investments in people ultimately pay off over time. 

Additionally, Professor Kulik proposes that organizations try to avoid dichotomous thinking in decision-making. Limiting decisions, especially those as intricate as those involved with HR to simple “yes” or “no” answers limits performance during “normal” times. Though, inflexibility in the face of the challenges we face now could decrease employee satisfaction and increase the likelihood that they seek other job opportunities. 

Finally, Professor Kulik argues that organizations resist formalization in planning for hybrid work. Many organizations demonstrated tremendous flexibility early in the pandemic when many had to shift to remote work. Many employees came to appreciate this newfound flexibility and relative informality regarding work performance. Now, much of this flexibility has been exhausted, which has drawn significant objections from employees. All processes certainly cannot be informal, but employees would certainly appreciate informality in some workplace manners.   

The suggestions presented above do not mean that organizations’ reasons for wanting employees back in the office do not hold some merit. Many organizations have invested significant resources in the construction and maintenance of physical workplaces. However, as we advance, organizations will have to be as creative and flexible in using these spaces as they have demanded their employees be over the past two years.  

2022 1st Quarter Update

Quarter 1 of 2022 finds us two years into the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the past two years, people and organizations have adapted to the “new normal.” As case numbers have decreased across the United States many large organizations anticipate that employees can return to the office safely soon. However, employees’ preferences, personal circumstances, and in-person communication or collaboration needs should be considered in this decision. Organization leaders’ commitment to safe practices are also crucial to a successful return to the office

Enthusiasm about returning to the office is not shared by all employees. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, women experienced burnout and poor health because of their workplace experiences. Also, many women of color have found that virtual work has reduced the microaggressions, biases, and other issues they routinely face working in person. These indicate that organizational culture can make or break employers’ efforts to retain women and people of color. 

Industrial/organizational psychology research highlights three factors decision-makers must understand to return to the office successfully. First, decision-makers must understand the relationships between employees, which influence how they communicate and collaborate. Understanding the relationships between will help managers schedule time for in-person work and leverage potential synergies. Second, decision-makers must also understand that workplace stressors can adversely impact employee health. Managers should ensure that employees are physically safe and face minimal stressful events when returning to work. Third, decision-makers must understand that the choice of allowing work teams to remain completely remote or hybrid modalities will impact their performance. Employers should configure work teams to satisfy employees and match the work performed. 

Over the next few months, I expect employers and employees to seek a balance between fully working in-person and hybrid modalities. In many cases, employers will have to be sensitive to the demands of their employees now more than ever. As we continue forward, it is also important to remember that the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine and other macro events could significantly impact the return to in-person work.  


Champion: William Luse, PhD

William Luse, PhD

Dr. William Luse is an Assistant Professor of Management and Leadership at the University of La Verne where he teaches Negotiation, Organizational Behavior, and Conflict Management courses. Dr. Luse’s research interests include individual differences, groups/teams, and organizational justice. His research is published in Current Psychology and Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion: An International Journal.