From proximity bias to productivity paranoia, here are 10 buzzwords from the world of hybrid work

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This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Kate Whiting, Senior Writer, Forum Agenda

This article has been updated.

  • Quiet quitting was one of Collins Dictionary’s 10 words or phrases of the year for 2022, while “career cushioning” made a return as economic fears grew.
  • They are just two of the work trends or buzzwords that have come about since the COVID-19 pandemic shifted working patterns to hybrid.
  • From proximity bias to productivity paranoia, here are 10 work buzzwords or phrases you need to know.

What started as a TikTok work trend has now gone down in English language history – “quiet quitting” was named one of Collins Dictionary’s 10 words or phrases of the year for 2022, along with permacrisis and Kyiv.

Since then, it’s been a time of uncertainty, with the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine contributing to an energy crisis and record inflation in the Eurozone, and concerns of a global recession.

Employers have been watching the impact of these crises on their businesses, all while attempting to make hybrid working a success and attract new talent as the Great Attrition rages on.

Work trends and buzzwords

All this flux is giving rise to some new work trends and buzzwords – and bringing back some old ones.

1. Quiet quitting or lying flat?

Quiet quitting is defined by Collins as “the practice of doing no more work than one is contractually obliged to do, especially in order to spend more time on personal activities; the practice of doing little or no work while being present at one’s place of employment”.

In September 2022, when we wrote this explainer article on #quietquitting, the hashtag had 17 million views on TikTok – come January 2023, it now has more than 462 million.

Whether it’s an actual workplace trend or just a social media phenomenon, it has its roots in another movement from 2021: “lying flat”, or tang ping in Chinese, is literally about having a more relaxed life and avoiding burnout.

Have you read?

2. Proximity bias

As people began returning to the office once COVID-19 restrictions were lifted, there were warnings about the negative impact of “proximity bias” on those who continued to work from home.

In a September US study, most executives (96%) said they valued employees’ work produced in the office more than work done from home.

Annette Reavis, Chief People Officer for workplace platform Envoy, which carried out the survey, told CNBC: “Managers and employees need to be very intentional about including their peers who aren’t there in the office culture.”

There’s a big gap between how leaders and employees view productivity. Eventually leading to a new buzz word - 'Proximity bias'.

There’s a big gap between how leaders and employees view productivity. Eventually leading to a new buzz word – ‘Proximity bias’. Image: Microsoft

3. Productivity paranoia

Microsoft’s Chief Executive, Satya Nadella, said homeworking has sparked “productivity paranoia” over whether employees are doing enough at home.

He told the BBC it’s time to get past the paranoia because “all of the data we have shows that 80% plus of the individual people feel they’re very productive – except their management thinks that they’re not productive”.

This gap in perspective on how business leaders and employees view hybrid work is one of the main findings in Microsoft’s Work Trend Index Pulse Report, published in September.

“Productivity paranoia risks making hybrid work unsustainable. Leaders need to pivot from worrying about whether their people are working enough to helping them focus on the work that’s most important,” says the report.

4. Juggling two jobs or ‘overemployment’

Far from not being productive enough at one job, some people are now taking on side hustles and even second full-time jobs to pay the bills, without telling their employers.

Moonlighting is not a new phenomenon, but it’s growing in India among tech workers. This is largely because remote working makes it possible, with one human resources head saying it should be normalized as “the future of work”.

Also known as “overemployment”, it’s becoming more of a trend in the US too, where a community has been set up – – by Isaac Price, who says he has kept to a 40-hour work week while doing two jobs at once.

5. ‘Social capital’ – or why ‘frolleagues’ matter

The opportunity to connect with colleagues is a huge motivator for going back to the office, the Microsoft report says, with more than 80% of Gen Zers and Millennials saying socializing with work friends would make the commute worthwhile.

Work trends corporate buzzwords: Chart that shows the importance of social connection on the commute

Despite new work trends like remote work, the opportunity to connect with colleagues is a huge motivator for going back to the office. Image: Microsoft

Friendship at work is something London Business School Professor of Management Practice and Future of Work expert Lynda Gratton is a huge advocate for.

“When so many hours are spent working, having someone who understands our situation – the players involved, the office dynamics, and the general organizational culture – can help buffer routine stress,” she writes in this article for MIT Sloan Management Review.

Women in particular are more than twice as likely to be engaged at work if they have a best friend or frolleague, according to Gallup research, she says.

“I have a close friend at work and share with her my innermost worries, successes and frustrations,” Gratton adds. “My life feels chaotic at times, but our friendship has been a steady and nurturing force. Sharing strengthens a sense of belonging.”

6. The ’90-day rule’

Half of workers surveyed in 2022 by the US recruitment platform Jobvite were actively looking for work or planning to do so within the next year. Almost a third of employees had left a job within the first three months.

This has given rise to more emphasis on a recruitment trend known as the “90-day-rule”, as The Wall Street Journal reports. Recruitment experts say if you can keep a new employee for the first 90 days, they’re more likely to stay for longer.

There’s greater focus on onboarding, with companies pairing employees with buddies and new-hire bonuses being paid after 90 days.

Top reasons for leaving a job within the first 90 days. work buzzwords

A third of employees have left a job within the first 90 days. Image: Jobvite

7. Chief Remote Officer

The pandemic has seen a shift to companies adopting fully hybrid work models, particularly in the IT sector, with 94% of those surveyed in the US having shifted to hybrid since the pandemic.

To ensure the remote element of hybrid working actually works, some businesses have introduced the senior position of Chief Remote Officer, reports the BBC.

Chase Warrington, who holds the role at productivity-software firm Doist, told the BBC: “The landscape changed following the pandemic… We wanted a cohesive strategy in forging deeper connections, both in person and virtually.”

8. Career cushioning

The evolution – if you want to call it that – of quiet quitting is career cushioning. This is where people spend less time focusing on their current job and more time upskilling and looking at the job market in case the economic downturn leads to them becoming unemployed. LinkedIn has found that its members have been busily adding skills to their profiles – with 365 million added in 2022, up 43% from 2021.

9. Quiet hiring

Quiet hiring is the top work trend that IT research and consultancy company Gartner expects to see in 2023, to counteract “quiet quitting”. It’s described by Gartner’s Senior Director of Research, Emily Rose McRae, as acquiring “new skills without actually hiring new full-time employees“. This can be in one of several ways, says Gartner:

  • A focus on internal talent mobility to ensure employees address the priorities that matter most without changes in headcount.
  • Stretch and upskilling opportunities for existing employees while meeting evolving organizational needs.
  • Alternative approaches, such as leveraging alumni networks and gig workers to flexibly bring in talent only as needed.

10. The ‘Great Regret’

With record numbers of people leaving their jobs in 2022, there were always going to be some wrong decisions made. But a new US survey suggests that eight in 10 people who quit during the “Great Resignation” now wish they hadn’t. Most of those experiencing the “Great Regret” are Gen Zers, according to Paychex. The top reasons behind this new work trend are people missing their former co-workers and salaries, it says.

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