Jenny Baker
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New Trends in Workplace Psychology From Around the World

Laura Dryjanska, Biola University; Sachin Jain, PepsiCo; Sharon Glazer, The University of Baltimore; and Andrei Ion, University of Bucharest; on behalf of the International Affairs Committee

Recognizing the rapidly changing conditions at workplaces across the globe, 2021 SIOP Conference organizers invited the International Affairs Committee (IAC) leadership to facilitate a discussion with SIOP members about new trends in workplaces around the world. The information presented below is a result of that discussion. We take this opportunity to express our gratitude to the 140+ attendees from around the globe who participated in this robust 8am EST session.

Insights From IAC Session Attendees

In order to manage the unprecedented numbers of attendees for an international session, the authors created 17 breakout rooms. After a brief introduction, attendees were asked to address three questions and take notes on a Google document or share their notes post conference with the facilitators. The three questions that were tackled in each breakout room were

  1. What are the most relevant I-O trends in your country?
  2. How do you define workplace diversity in your country/region?
  3. What initiative could SIOP focus on to support workers and work-eligible populations?

Although many session attendees were located in North America, the majority of them identified as international I-O psychology-related professionals who had ties with different countries around the world. Following brief introductions, groups spent most of their time answering the first question.

New I-O Trends in Selected Countries

The attendees shared insights from the following countries: United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Romania, Dominican Republic, Kenya, as well as reflections about Europe in general. Irrespective of the country or region of reference, two trends dominated the conversations: (a) remote work and (b) diversity, inclusion, and equity. Several more specific trends are subsumed under each.

Remote Work

Remote work stood out as the major I-O trend around the world. This trend captured several subtopics that were important: psychological well-being, personnel matters, and organizational climate and culture.

Psychological Well-Being

Attendees noted regional/local differences in burnout and mental health associated with working remotely. They expressed an increased focus on work–family integration, flex time, and adding health days. Additionally, office space/design was raised as an important consideration to ensure employee physical health as many members of the workforce will be returning to offices.

Personnel Matters

Another trend associated with remote work is the advent of artificial intelligence (AI) in selection and the opportunities to engage in video interviews but also the possible exclusion of some populations who do not have access to reliable Internet connectivity or a computer. Some group members voiced concerns over biases inherent in computer-mediated and AI-influenced selection processes. Subsequent to selection is socialization. Some groups discussed increasing virtual onboarding but lamented over the need for human connectedness. Many organizations are currently attuned to the impacts of remote work on salary (e.g., pay equity related to area cost of living).

Impact of Remote Work on Organizational Climate and Culture

Several concerns were raised over organizational culture and team dynamics impacted by remote work and computer-mediated connectivity. With care providers having to split their attention between work and home more than ever before due to work-from-home orders, some breakout groups identified a virtual glass ceiling affecting women’s progression in their organizations. Relatedly, organizations are working to redefine productivity measures and performance criteria. Visibility was given to the importance of training and educating managers to support remote employees and developing remote leadership competencies.

Finally, a group expressed increased attention being given to the advantages and disadvantages of online education and degrees. An advantage is the experience of the online platform and easy access to an education. A disadvantage is the limited ability to network and get to know faculty and peers in a close and meaningful, long-lasting way. This concern was echoed with ongoing remote work environments.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

The second major I-O trend across the world that has been extensively discussed as particularly relevant in English-speaking countries (especially the United States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom) consisted of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). I-O psychologists from the United States emphasized the subtopic of social and racial injustice, as well as implications of DEI for personnel selection. Attendees familiar with Canada and the Dominican Republic spoke about gender and intersectionality (Gender Based Analysis Plus in Canada), as well as inclusion of women in the workforce in light of childcare availability. Other subtopics mentioned in relation to DEI consisted of developing initiatives in corporations (e.g., the pressure on companies, such as Trader Joe’s, to change their brand) and in the public sector (e.g., how the federal government can attract and retain younger workers).

Certainly, there is some overlap in the two major trends of remote work and DEI. When considering the virtual glass ceiling and incorporating DEI initiatives, employers might be prudent to account for the shift in household dynamics that might be affecting a person’s career progression, as well as a person’s feelings of inclusion associated with work (and schooling)-from-home orders and computer-mediated communication for remote workers.

Definitions of DEI in Selected Countries

National context matters for diversity and inclusion theory, policy, and practice (Dale-Olsen & Finseraas, 2020); it would be incorrect to assume that researchers and practitioners from different countries have the same understanding of DEI in the workplace. Given the importance of DEI in relation to the new international workplace trends, attendees of the session were asked to define DEI in their countries. In general, they agreed that overall more attention has been paid to race and gender. In the United States, the most relevant DEI categories seemed to be race, gender, age, disability, and LGBTQ+ status, similar to Australia. However, participants agreed that DEI covers more than just race or ethnic identity, and includes religion, age, beliefs, ideals, and mindset. In fact, attendees familiar with India concluded that DEI was more gender than race focused, as was the case with some European countries. In the Dominican Republic, the perception of diversity was more along the lines of social class and not skin color; furthermore, in the Dominican Republic, country or national origin seemed more related to prejudice and discrimination than race. Participants familiar with Kenya also mentioned social class as relevant for DEI, alongside tribal diversity (with some tribes having higher status than others). Linguistic diversity stood out as an important component of DEI in Europe where there is a need for cross-cultural inclusion and learning to value culture rather than using it as a stereotype.

Participants in the session also posed some relevant questions in relation to DEI across countries. For example:

  • What are possible differences in workplace DEI in STEM versus non-STEM fields?
  • How can a researcher capture “56 different gender categories in a survey?”
  • How do we attract diverse talent and onboard them?
  • How do we alleviate the skills gap as we transition to new economic areas (i.e., solar from coal/ gas) and reskill the workforce that may be resistant to change in light of socio-economic gaps?

There was much discourse on what is “DEI” and how to build it. For example, a group reported the importance of maintaining openness to different factors involved in diversity beyond race and gender to include identity issues, education levels, and access to technology and transportation.

Recommended Initiatives

The third question posed to the session attendees prompted them to identify a specific initiative that SIOP could focus on to support workers and work-eligible populations. Unfortunately, the vast majority of small groups reported not having enough time at their disposal to discuss this last question.

The attendees who were able to consider specific initiatives would like for SIOP to create virtual learning opportunities, such as a knowledge database that stores uploads of various sessions, webinars, posters, and other materials. They also recommended a stronger international focus and more international perspectives and contributions at the conference.

Some other initiatives discussed featured branding and marketing to enable SIOP practitioners and researchers to help organizations navigate multiple workplace challenges. The same group recommended more I-O psychology-oriented lobbyists to help North American decision makers, leaders, and policy administrators understand what SIOP does and what I-O psychologists do.

Finally, another recommendation consisted of taking a full system, multidisciplinary approach to evaluating how people work, who might benefit from greater advantage or suffer from lack of advantage, and who might be victims of prejudice and discrimination, including groups that are not so vocal. Attendees would like to see SIOP identify elements of infrastructure that are important for workplace DEI and support the efforts that can impact education, transportation, and access to technology.

Discussion and Conclusions

For the good of reflection, but also a source of uncertainty, the COVID-19 global pandemic has disrupted myriad ways of working for many people and ignited a conversation about the future of work for all of us. As evident in the workplace trends presented across the world, albeit primarily English-speaking North America, issues associated with COVID-19 work-from-home orders have permeated many practitioners’ and scholars’ purview. This impact is further evident in a Gallup poll conducted in late April 2020 showing that nearly 7 out of 10 employees were working remotely in some capacity (Hickman & Saad, 2020). As more employees work from home, they may be more likely to struggle with unplugging after work, loneliness, and collaborating with others (Buffer, 2020). Rudolph et al. (2021) discussed 10 of the most relevant research and practice topics in the field of industrial and organizational (I-O) psychology that would likely be influenced by COVID-19. The topics discussed included occupational health and safety, work–family issues, telecommuting, virtual teamwork, job insecurity, precarious work, leadership, human resources policy, the aging workforce, and careers. These issues were echoed in the groups’ discussions. In fact, Brenner et al. (2021) benchmarked 20 Mayflower member companies to understand the importance of needing more in-depth research due to COVID-19 on each of the above focus areas. The results indicated that virtual teamwork and telecommuting were the two most important focus areas needing more in-depth research. Interestingly, these two domains were not identified as trends by SIOP attendees. We believe that together, the insights from various published works and SIOP attendees with ties in different countries shed light on workplace trends across the globe, albeit more Anglo-speaking countries. Emphasis on implications of remote work, as well as attention to diversity and inclusion, stands out as seminal challenges associated with the ever-present COVID-19 pandemic.

References

Brenner, J., Jain, S., Leas, K., Samudio, D.C., & Amundson, M. (2021). Mayflower group benchmark on changes in work due to COVID-19: Now and in the future. Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 14(1–2), 139–143. https://doi.org/10.1017/iop.2021.35

Buffer. (2020). The 2020 state of remote work. https://lp.buffer.com/state-of-remote-work-2020

Dale-Olsen, H., & Finseraas, H. (2020). Linguistic diversity and workplace productivity. In A. Wilkinson & M. Barry (Eds.), Labour Economics (p. 49–64). https://doi.org/10.4337/9781786438256.00011

Hickman, A., & Saad, L. (2020, May 22). Reviewing remote work in the U.S. under COVID-19. Gallup. https://news.gallup.com/poll/311375/reviewing-remote-work-covid.aspx

Rudolph, C. W., Allan, B., Clark, M., Hertel, G., Hirschi, A., Kunze, F., Shockley, K., Shoss, M., Sonnentag, S., & Zacher, H. (2021). Pandemics: Implications for research and practice in industrial and organizational psychology. Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 14(1–2), 1–35. https://doi.org/10.1017/iop.2020.48

 

 

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