The Future of Visualising Work

Trends / Realness
Delmaine Donson
Rebecca Swift
Mar 6, 2023
We have all seen how the world has shifted since the pandemic and office‑based businesses have been wrestling with the need to cater to employees whose priorities have changed so are approaching work differently. We saw it in the Great Resignation and it is evident in the high number of open positions available.

In our day jobs we are also aware of how the businesses we work with are attempting to show how they have evolved to meet the current needs of employees and showing their own customers that they are forward‑thinking and not stuck in the pre‑covid past.

Our latest VisualGPS research looks at how consumers are thinking and feeling about the future of work and how priorities may have shifted since the pandemic.

Combined with our internal search data for work—and business‑related images and videos, our findings point to several trends you should be aware of—particularly what they mean visually. Some may seem obvious, others are new and inspiring.

Are you speaking the new visual language? Let’s find out.

—Dr. Rebecca Swift
Where does work end and home life begin?

Before the pandemic we could visualize work/life balance by showing two environments, the workplace and home. However, with more flexible or hybrid working, the line has been blurred with those concepts often becoming one and the same. For example, styling for business or lifestyle content is blending as business has become increasingly more informal. For two years, working at home or working socially distanced created a new visual trope that felt fresh and relevant. But times have changed. Future imagery will be more about workers that have made the leap from the old ways of working to the new, so we’re creating imagery that reflects how hybrid work is having a positive impact on employees/workers.

Equally important is showing the life in work‑life balance, either through working in environments that are aspirational and unexpected (we have found that working while on the road or closer to nature test well with consumers when asked about the aspirations for the future of work) or showing typical afterwork chores or activities during the daytime (examples – shopping in less busy shops/malls). It’s a subtle shift.
Work is still important, but the focus on quality of life has grown

Quiet quitting may have gotten the headlines over the past few months, with stories of employees doing the bare minimum or being burnt out. But something more transformative is going on.

Through our VisualGPS research, we’ve found that since the pandemic, almost three‑quarters (73%) agree that achieving a better balance between work and their personal life has become more of a priority. This is particularly the case for the younger generations as they join the workforce. Older generations are also trying to find ways to create a work/life balance that they have not previously experienced, or thought could exist. We’ve seen this reflected in a new type of visualization of "work".

Companies need to show they care with flexible work arrangements and new norms for engagement

Because of media coverage of the Great Resignation, we’ve seen twice as much interest by brands in visualizing employee appreciation (there has been a +45% increase in global searches linked to employee appreciation in 2022). That goes beyond more than showing you allow individuals to choose what type of working situation works best for them. You must also show that business leaders are empathetic to the rest of the workforce and are able to communicate in a more personal and emotional way. This has influenced the visual language in that there is more "care" being demonstrated in business transactions. We’re also seeing a shift to businesses showing the culture of their company through the culture of employees working together.

The power of teamwork

There’s nowhere clearer than in themes around TEAMWORK. Teamwork is a concept that is fundamental to all brand communication, whether for a multinational or a small start‑up. Customers want to see how businesses encourage employees to work together, how they work with suppliers, and how they work with people who use their products or services. It’s important as human beings to see how the people behind the company interact. Combined with the need to care for ourselves and others, this means for decades, visuals have focused on people "doing" the work. Now there has been a shift as the need to see how people interact more informally is becoming more important. Visually this is either through supporting each other, enjoying each other’s company while at work, or taking a break together. This also reinforces the benefits of spending time together – something that businesses are trying to emphasize.

Create a sense of belonging is key—as mental health has grown in importance; companies have a part to play

While there’s still a feeling of optimism about the future of work, those who were indoctrinated in the old ways (pre‑covid) of working are trying to maintain the feeling of belonging that was more tangible when physically situated together. Even though most workers prefer having a choice, (66%) agree that they miss the social interaction and connections when they’re not working at their company's office.

Search trends this year align with this finding, with sharp rises in content related to networking, team building, events, and conferences, especially amongst corporate businesses. Importantly, while companies are promoting in‑work interaction, workers are looking to their employers to create opportunities for social interaction, either by instigating team projects or creating space for workers to gather socially – this seems to be everything from bonding exercises to informally learning about each other’s roles/work to coming together to eat and drink together.

The great divide on being together 

Corporate communication has not caught up with this yet – When analyzing the content in the market we have seen bonding more like the image on the left, but what people are looking for is more like the image on the right. Connection and collaboration are key to business, so it’s important to use visuals that represent a sense of company culture that allows teams to get to know each other.
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