5 things that will change how we work in 2022 and beyond

December 8, 2021

Technology has given us the power to express ourselves and interact with one another — both at work and in our personal time. Over the past year and a half, we’ve seen the pandemic completely shift the way we work. The role of technology has never been more critical in keeping us all connected. But the technology we use today — like video and email — doesn’t convey the full range of human expression and connection that being physically together historically has. 

At Meta, we believe the metaverse will fundamentally change the way we get things done in our personal and professional lives. How? By allowing us to experience the world with greater richness and offering us a deeper sense of presence, because we will be in the experience and not just watching it from the outside. Many years from now, the metaverse will be as indispensable for society as the internet is today.  By making the metaverse a strategic priority today, companies can avoid falling behind in the future. We must begin by making small changes in the way we approach work — including work styles — to start laying the foundation for working in the metaverse down the road.

Meta’s leaders have been thinking strategically about what work will look like in 2022 — and the changes companies (including Meta) will need to make as the work environment continues to evolve and change — more than ever before. Here are their top five predictions: 

PREDICTION 1: 2022 will be a year of learning that will lay the groundwork for the next era of work 

After nearly two years of working from home, we’ve seen that good work can be done nearly anywhere, and people expect flexibility in how they work. But there is still so much we don’t know about what it takes to make remote and hybrid work successful, because until companies start returning to offices at scale, we are still ‘working from home during a pandemic.’ Over the next year, as we establish new routines, we will begin to understand the opportunities and challenges this new era of work will bring. Setting up a distributed workforce for success isn’t a quick change; the challenge is to design work in a way that is thoughtful and intentional while also staying open to iteration. At Meta, we’re focused on learning in several areas that we believe are key for what lies ahead — reducing friction in collaboration across distance, ensuring location isn’t an advantage in terms of participation or opportunity, striving for people to have work/life balance, and leveling individual choice with the health of teams and organizations. Leaders across industries are likely looking at these same areas. But we are just beginning to scratch the surface. 2022 will be a crucial year of learning across companies and industries, and we should be fiercely supporting people and teams as we experiment, iterate, and evolve, and, hopefully, we can work to build a future together that’s even brighter than the past. —Brynn Harrington, VP of People Experience, Meta

PREDICTION 2: Sophisticated home office technology is here to stay, so distributed teams can work smarter without sacrificing quality, even as some companies return to traditional office spaces. 

According to a 2021 Gartner Hybrid Workplace survey, approximately 15 percent of employees want to return to an office full time. With remote work becoming a long-term strategy, companies that don’t invest in catering to every work style — including working remotely — will fall behind. Physical distance shouldn’t limit our ability to connect with people. By investing in the right technology, distributed teams will benefit from feeling like they’re together in the same room without sacrificing tech quality or experience. Companies need to continue investing in work technology and reimagine how devices are used — at home and in the office — to unlock opportunities for collaboration in the spaces where business gets done. —Ryan Cairns, VP, Home and Work, Meta

Frontline workers will be as important as the C-suite, and their experiences will become a key competitive differentiator for companies. 

The focus on employee experience has never been keener, and equipping employees with the tech they need to do their jobs is a priority for many companies. This is especially important for frontline workers because, whether they’re doctors at a hospital or baristas at a coffee shop, they provide essential services — making these employees a vital part of companies that want to truly understand people's needs and receive real-world, real-time feedback. This is a priceless competitive differentiator for companies that often spend significant portions of their budgets on market research and can use this frontline worker feedback loop to enhance and perfect their services. Yet, despite frontline workers playing such a critical — and strategic — role, some companies continue to ignore them, causing them to feel unappreciated, unheard, and disconnected. We believe this is contributing to the so-called great resignation. In fact, according to the U.S. Labor Department, about 4.4 million people quit their jobs in September, a record high in 2021. This indicates that companies that don’t invest in their frontline workers' experience risk losing a large majority of their workforce, and now is the time to make that change before it is too late. Companies that invest in their frontline workforce as much as they do in their leadership now will come out ahead in 2022. —Ujjwal Singh, Head of Workplace, Meta

PREDICTION 4: Companies will increasingly shift customer service from phone and email support to messaging channels as a better way to get business done. 

Over the past year and a half, you’ve undoubtedly had to call an airline to cancel a flight, a hotel to rebook a room, or the cable company to discuss your bill. And each call meant waiting endlessly on hold, getting transferred to multiple call agents and having to remember the name of your high school mascot three different times. Needless to say, it was a frustrating experience. People don’t want to spend hours listening to elevator music or have their email to the support@ address go into the ether — they want to send a message and get a quick and personal response. While business messaging is already commonplace across Latin America, India, and Asia, many companies in the United States and the EU are still using legacy channels that are ineffective, inconvenient, and impersonal. Expect that to change in 2022 as companies realize messaging is what their customers want — and it’s beneficial to a company's bottom line as well. Not only is messaging more convenient, easier, and more natural for people, but it also gives businesses the opportunity to foster stronger customer relationships and serve multiple customers efficiently. This will only lead to increased customer satisfaction and call agent productivity — and in the year ahead, that’s just smart business. Emile Litvak, VP of Business Messaging, Meta

PREDICTION 5: VR will become a more multifunctional tool, making it easier for people to collaborate from afar or simply get stuff done. 

Remote work lets us work from nearly anywhere, but with that flexibility also comes new challenges. Some people struggle with feelings of isolation from coworkers or difficulty focusing in distracting home environments. That’s where VR has superpowers: It lets people feel like they’re really together so they can build vivid memories of sharing a space and conversation. Those conversations flow much more fluidly with all the important body language cues, and with audio that gives you a sense of direction when someone speaks. And without physical limitations, VR brings infinite space for displays, persistent whiteboards, and easily expandable rooms. So whether it’s to brainstorm, work on a document, or just hang out and socialize with your team, VR will aid people’s ability to collaborate, communicate, and connect remotely. In 2022, VR devices will get even more comfortable for longer wear, offer advanced optics for increased text clarity, and will enable avatars to mirror your real expressions — so you can be yourself at work. This is also the year VR will begin to connect more seamlessly with your existing workflows, including commonly used business tools, 2D services, and peripheral devices, like keyboards. It will be inevitable that companies begin to normalize VR in addition to tools like laptops, tablets, and phones. It’s the best way to create a shared sense of space and connection among dispersed workforces.  —Mark Rabkin, VP of VR, Meta

These are the areas we are focusing on for the year ahead, as some employees return to their offices, others opt for remote work or continue to work on the frontlines, and we all begin to find what works for us. As we learn more about what’s most important in this new era — to keep employees connected, effectively collaborating, and engaged in their work — we’ll adapt. We look forward to seeing the tools and innovative solutions that the year ahead will bring.