This article is sponsored by Philip Morris International.
In 2022, coping mechanisms for living with uncertainty will advance, as will new methods for building and supporting communities, large and small. All are signs of a growing acceptance that multiple market complexities are here to stay, says Marian Salzman, senior vice president of global communications at Philip Morris International. She recently released “22 trends for 2022: Measuring Up What We Thought We Knew,” the latest edition of her annual forecast series.
Some of the mechanisms described in the report run counter to long-held practices in business and private lives, as well as challenge how individuals define themselves in each. The implications across all segments of the economy could be significant.
A caring workplace
For an example, look no further than the humble workplace. In 2022, employers may do more to look out for their own. Retaining valued staff members is one motivator, of course, as the Great Resignation challenges businesses to win over workers they might once have taken for granted. Another motivator is the need to have certain skill sets represented in-house.
Many industries face shortages of staff members with certain specialized skills, such as how to analyze big data sets. These skills would be practical to have in the near future, if not immediately. Convenient online education offerings that grew in number and popularity in the first year of the pandemic make upskilling or reskilling easier. With so many industries — and associated technologies — advancing rapidly, practical skills may trump those long heralded by traditional university curriculums in 2022.
Companies are also looking for ways to support the mental health of employees, as the stigma of discussing substance abuse, depression and anxiety has decreased and associated costs, if left unattended, have become more apparent. Good mental health has been arguably more difficult to maintain amidst pandemic-era triggers such as social isolation, financial worries, health concerns, extreme weather events, and social and political strife.
One way employers may try to support workers is with concessions, such as flexible work schedules, which have proven popular in some industries.
A hybrid world
Hybrid workplaces that allow employees to work from home at least part time seem here to stay. Yet examples of the trend to combine two seemingly disparate solutions can be found in multiple parts of the economy.
While brick-and-mortar stores have reopened, many customers opt for online shopping, making hybrid retail the new norm. Marketing and business development that once relied heavily on the handshake or in-person events have shifted to models that incorporate multiple communication formats.
Another dynamic, yet more complex model emerging is the metaverse: a computer-generated environment in which users can interact in very real ways. It exemplifies the growing mix of virtual and actual spaces forming across personal, educational and financial sectors. Even value is now virtual, witnessed in the growth of Ethereum blockchain and the boost in sales of virtual 3D-printed goods.
A redefined home
In many ways, a metaverse is simply a new community construct, which helps explain why it may prove popular. Many of society’s informal communities, long taken for granted, weakened during the pandemic.
Hyperlocalism is another trending form of community we’ll see in 2022, according to Salzman. Residents will seek ways to support neighborhoods, especially as logistical challenges make it tougher to access some goods, discretionary travel remains less frequent, and residents spend more time closer to home, either working remotely from home or the corner coffee shop.
One community, albeit conceptual, that appears to be losing members is “the middle”: The middle class, the political moderates, the understood average. The pandemic exacerbated economic differences between the haves and the have-nots. Political and cultural polarization, fueled by misinformation campaigns on social media, have increased. Most Americans are still moderates, but are drowned out during discussions by those expressing extreme viewpoints.
A coping strategy
The result of so much change in a short time is a general angst among members of society, but also a desire to find ways to address it.
“The accelerating complexity and chaos of modern life bring with them an urge to compartmentalize and quantify — to establish some small sense of control in this big, unmanageable world,” Salzman explains in the report.
That may mean taking action on difficult, complex topics such as climate change or racism. Or it could mean redefining what is expected of governments, communities, retailers and employers.
“Our priorities have changed and so has what we are willing to tolerate,” Salzman says.