Future of Work in Europe

Trends / Wellness
Catherine Falls Commercial
Sandra Michalska
Mar 14, 2023
Whether it’s an open plan, a cubicle or a flex space, the office has seen many rearrangements. From Frank Lloyd White’s soaring columns in the Great Workroom to modern corporate campuses, offices can be reflective of the outside world and wider societal shifts. There have been many numerous cycles of design trends, from Taylorist to collectivist, industrial to knowledge‑based. In recent years, offices have become a place of work and social connections, to organize meetings in the cafeteria, or have our nails done in between. Essentially, the main function of an office remained the same — serving the company's productivity.

Below are some archival images from the old days, when the division was relatively simple: home for private life, office for both productivity and connections. Today, we know that the pandemic remodeled those once‑simple associations. Not only do more than a half of European workers say they are more productive when they work from home, nearly 7 in 10 believe that working from home allows for a better work/life balance. So, do we even need an office? Our latest VisualGPS research looks at how European consumers think and feel about the future of work and how priorities have shifted since the pandemic.
From connectivity to connection
While hybrid work boosts short‑term productivity, it can also diminish long‑term creativity1, and most of all, connection. 6 in 10 Europeans say that they miss the social interaction and connection that comes with working in the office, and it over‑indexes for the youngest generation—the tech‑savvy Gen Z. Even though they see technology as empowering — 71% have recently used technology to solve problems that used to be a struggle — the increased connectivity replaced real human connection. Connection and collaboration are key for both business and workers, so it’s important to use visuals that promote a sense of company culture that allows teams to get to know each other. Think creative brainstorms, problem‑solving or simply having fun together, whether in front of the coffee machine or on a lunch break. Our proprietary data also reveals that people crave levity, with 92% of Europeans agreeing that it’s refreshing to see content that has humour in it. 
From KPIs to purpose
The workism myth that conflates success and work seems to be officially outdated in Europe.
While North Americans are less likely to give up financial success for a more balanced life, Europeans look for balance. VisualGPS consumer data shows that having a work/life balance has become an important life priority, along with spending more time with loved ones — ahead of growing or progressing in a career. Defining success shifts from money, status, and position to social responsibility, personal growth, and quality time outside work2. Furthermore, in times of climate quitting3, Getty Images and iStock customers are taking up these new work purposes. For example, in the visuals they're using, we have seen a subtle shift in workplace design with more plants, floral walls and natural textures as a visible sign of growing sustainability concerns amongst employees. The change is subtle, but beneath vertical gardens, purpose as a definition of success is a new trending pattern. Five years ago, success was represented through concepts representing growth in corporate‑looking settings. In 2022, we start to see visuals that are more inclusive of teamwork and overall contentment at work, but also get‑togethers in surprising locations, hobbies or enjoying holidays. The way success looks is now redefined as a force that moves us down a chosen path, rather than the endpoint.
From clockless work to the right to disconnect
If for many people, a hybrid and more flexible work model helped to achieve better work/life balance, for many others, especially those with imposter syndrome4, the home office instituted clockless work. The increased flexibility allows people to work nonlinear workdays—a trend accelerated by the rise of remote work—however, some studies show its more insidious side, where people are always on5. Over the last year, we have seen a pattern of our customers turning to visuals showing people working late, which can be a sign of more flexibility but also increased working hours. Despite all the self‑care advice available, Europeans experience burnout more than ever6, and they now expect companies to be more empathetic and caring. 9 in 10 Europeans would like to see more support for those with mental health issues and nearly 7 in 10 think that companies have an obligation to implement policies and provide resources to support employees' mental health. As early as 2013, France was the first country to legally recognise the right to disconnect and more European states have followed suit ever since7. This disconnection is also one of the preferred patterns in visual storytelling in Europe. Visuals which convey ‘mental health’ in a positive light—having support from family/friends, or simply being at peace in nature—perform best for European consumers. This means that mental health at work is marketable, both for talent management and end consumers.

At Getty Images, we've seen twice as much interest by brands in visualizing employee appreciation globally. In visual storytelling, it goes beyond showing flexible or hybrid work. It's about concepts of empathy and care as an integral part of the post‑pandemic work culture.
Caring For Those Who Care