Forewarned is forearmed, so we have compiled a list of workplace trends you’ll be hearing about in 2024, from the gig economy to ageism and the death of quiet quitting.
2023 was a year defined by return-to-office debates, skills shortages and Gen Z making its presence felt in the workplace – all of these topics generated quite a few headline inches.
Some of these ‘trends’, like the rise of Gen Z work worries are a legacy of the pandemic; we have only in the last year begun to see what young people want from employers as workers emerge from pandemic limbo.
The skills shortage issue is arguably a long-term problem, and it will certainly continue into 2024.
Other trends we saw in recent years – such as 2022’s ‘quiet quitting’ – will morph into newer buzzwords, but the concept behind them may still linger.
We have rounded up a few predictions from industry insiders about the year ahead.
Quiet the meetings please, managers
First up, it looks as though we may be able to leave the term ‘quiet quitting’ behind in 2024. In case you’ve forgotten, the phrase was coined to describe someone mentally checking out of their job and offering the least amount of commitment possible without actually resigning.
If you loathe buzzwords look away now because where quiet quitting is leaving us, another phrase is taking its place.
The time managers spent addressing the quiet quitting problem – ie arranging regular check-ins with employees to make sure they were still engaged and not letting their duties slide – has apparently led workers to feel micromanaged.
Instead of quiet quitting, they’re beginning to wish employers would ‘quietly manage’ and leave them to get on with their work.
According to research by workflow software makers Slingshot, workers want clear deadlines and less unnecessary meetings.
“Employees often feel overloaded, unsure of priorities and deadlines, and afraid to say no to additional work – even when they have too much on their plates already,” said Dean Guida, founder of Slingshot. “And leaders are left scrambling when employees haven’t been focusing on the highest-value task or miss deadlines after taking on too much. This is all caused by a lack of visibility and alignment across teams.”
A less in-your-face and more discreetly efficient management style is what will most likely work.
‘Smarter’ return to office
Another hangover from 2022 that’s still looming over us is the hybrid-working debate. Unlike quiet quitting, this one is likely to follow us in to 2024.
Many companies want employees to return to the office – if not all the time, then at least some of the time. For their part, plenty of workers like the mix of office and remote because it gives them the best of both worlds.
However, teething problems with what denotes flexible and hybrid working are still being ironed out and this is taking some time.
According to Sam Naficy, data will become key to navigating employer-employee relations as the return to office continues.
“Hybrid is here to stay – it’s no longer a nice-to-have,” says Naficy, CEO of Prodoscore, an employee management software suite.
“In 2024, organisations are going to be focused on how to make it work and mitigate some of the associated fear. Employees are getting better at performing well in a hybrid setting and that will only improve, but data is going to play a big role. We’ll see greater reliance on data to help employers manage and employees thrive.”
Gig economy is ready to boom
“The market is increasingly moving towards shift-based work, away from static scheduling and towards more flexible distribution of work,” says Tim Chatfield, co-founder and CEO of Jitjatjo.
While Chatfield’s company is in the gig economy business – it is a platform that connects workers to shifts – he may be correct about his 2024 prediction.
For one thing, gig work has really taken off over the past few years and there is a proliferation of platforms such as Jitjatjo, Upwork and others that connect workers with various skillsets to jobs.
Another driver is efficiency, according to Chatfield. He claims that gig work is the solution to keeping workers, employers and consumers happy without losing out on a smoothly-running economy.
“With static scheduling, there’s loads of inefficiency and cost,” he argues. “In a shift-based scheduling methodology, you’re optimising the shifts for the actual demand of those resources, therefore limiting unnecessary wastage on labour costs by aligning the resources with the actual business need more closely. For 2024, that is going to continue because the infrastructure is now available to make it happen.”
The EU has recently taken steps to give gig workers the same employment rights as contracted employees if they wish to avail of them. While the rules won’t be enshrined in law for another few years yet, it is at least a start for people whose rights are often overlooked or flat out denied by employers.
The skills shortage that affects important industries from engineering to cybersecurity is an ongoing problem. While initiatives such as the European Year of Skills and domestic education measures are being implemented, skilled workers are not made overnight.
So, expect lots of talk about addressing skills gaps to continue into 2024. This is one of Sam Dooley’s main predictions for the coming year also. Dooley oversees IrishJobs as part of his role as country director of the Stepstone Group for Ireland.
“With 2024 on the horizon, Irish businesses will continue to face challenges in a tight labour market and skills shortages prevailing across a number of sectors,” he says.
Some companies are beginning to emphasise skills over degrees when it comes to hiring.
“Employers have traditionally relied on criteria such as education or years of experience to indicate whether a candidate can perform a job. Skills-based hiring aims to look beyond those traditional markers and screen for specific competencies, focusing on the skills that are applicable to the role,” says Dooley.
“With ongoing challenges in competing for talent, a skills-focused approach can better enable employers in Ireland to secure suitable candidates for roles. This approach also enhances employer attractiveness, as candidates are more inclined towards opportunities that offer ongoing career development and employability.”
Age is but a number
Age diversity is going to be a hot topic this coming year, Dooley predicts. This is a timely conversation because Ireland’s working population is ageing, according to ESRI data. The proportion of the workforce aged 55 and over is continuing to rise, so workplaces need to prepare for this.
“Recognising this, HR professionals in Ireland are placing an increased emphasis on fostering an age-friendly work environment,” says Dooley.
“Employers are also beginning to understand the importance of enhancing cohesion within multigenerational teams to support better collaboration and success. Encouraging managers to articulate a shared objective in teams and emphasise the importance of diverse expertise and experience will play a key role in preparing for these changes.”
The recent case of 65-year-old Thomas Doolin, who said he was forced into retirement by Eir is an indicator that age is an issue that needs to be addressed. Doolin took a case against Eir to the Workplace Relations Commission, which ruled in his favour. Eir must give him his job back and pay him for the time he spent without a job, according to the ruling.
It would appear it’s not just Gen Z workers that are struggling with a lack of understanding from employers.
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