Understanding how the workplace has changed since 2020

Has the global pandemic created long-lasting change in the workplace? What are employees looking for from employers? Are companies following through on promises surrounding diversity, accountability and transparency? And how important is workplace flexibility really?  

These are just a few of the questions individuals and companies around the United States are asking as we collectively set our sights on what the workplace will look like in 2023 and beyond. 

To dig deeper into workplace trends, we looked to several workplace reports – including Quirk’s annual Q Report – published in 2022. This article summarizes several key points from the reports, with the goal of sparking conversation throughout the industry. 

Employees value flexibility 

With work from home trending in 2021 and 2022, Quirk’s annual client-side survey posed the following question to respondents, “How important is it to you that your organization allows the flexibility to work remotely either partially or fully?” In 2022, 58% of respondents reported that they believe flexibility within an organization is extremely important, followed by 27% who believe it is very important. This was a 10% increase compared to when we first asked the question in 2021. 

When looking at flexibility and remote work, McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace report also states that choice is critical – whether remote or on-site. In fact, 71% of HR leaders say remote work has helped their organization hire and retain more employees from diverse backgrounds. 

Ipsos’ What the Future: Work issue shares similar data, reporting that most people want to work in hybrid-mode, with 46% of American adults saying they would prefer working in a hybrid remote/worksite model. The report digs into how flexible work can impact everything from retirement to ridesharing and where we live. 

Essentially, “one-size-fits-all” approaches to flexibility aren’t working. 

Diversity, accountability and transparency in the workplace

Quirk’s research shows that diversity is still at the forefront in the workplace. Like many industries around the world, the marketing research and insights industry put a heavy focus on diversity within the last two-plus years. In Quirk’s 2021 client-side survey, when asked, “How important is it to you that your organization has a commitment to diversity in the workplace?” a combined 69% of respondents said extremely important or very important.  

When reviewing diversity and accountability in the workplace, McKinsey’s report points to the “Great Breakup.” “Women are demanding more from work, and they’re leaving their companies in unprecedented numbers to get it. Women leaders are switching jobs at the highest rates we’ve ever seen – and at higher rates than men in leadership. That could have serious implications for companies.” Reasons for stepping away include microaggressions as well as the lack of importance placed on diversity, equity, inclusion, employee well-being and flexibility. 

Because we believe a lot can be learned about workplace issues from large organizations’ report measures, we also looked at diversity reports from Microsoft and LinkedIn. 

It is clear while reading Microsoft’s fourth annual Global Diversity & Inclusion Report that the company’s core workforce worldwide is changing. Since 2018, representation of women has grown at least 1.0 percentage point every year, and employees from racial and ethnic minority communities now make up 53.2% of Microsoft’s core U.S. workforce. 

Microsoft has added the following to its reporting this year: new dimensions of self-identification, military status, workforce exits data and additional pay data (which expands on the pay equity data the company has reported on since 2016).

LinkedIn also prioritized sharing a breakdown of employee representation in its Workforce Diversity Report, sharing that Black employee representation is up over 50% in a single year, and representation of women in technical roles is up 11% to 27.8%. In fact, the report states, “For the first time, we see no gaps in attrition rates for U.S. Black and Latino employees or global women in leadership and technical roles relative to our overall averages.” 

The report also details LinkedIn’s recruiting practices and its investments in equity across its platform, such as the launch of Top Voices in Racial Equity to Follow. 

Real transformation in the workplace

When discussing how the pandemic has changed work, Ipsos’ report quotes an interview with Jon Izenstark, head, worldwide business development and solutions, HR and workforce transformation, Amazon Web Services: “People talk about how the pandemic increased cloud transformation. I would argue that’s not what happened. We increased the use of the cloud to keep things running — but we didn’t actually transform anything. We just pushed it all into the cloud and hoped it would work.” 

This tech transformation – or lack of – may be a good analogy for those studying changes across the entire workplace. Are recent workplace transformations superficial or do they go deep? Are employee needs truly being met? While the workplace has experienced many changes since 2020, it may be that real transformation among key issues like flexibility and diversity is just beginning.