Work Culture Trends We Hope to See Continue in 2023

Summer Fridays, we’d like you to stick around.

In the last three years, more than a few aspects of life changed—some of them forever. The pandemic and its resultant lockdowns forced us to work in ways and environments we hadn’t before. As a result, work culture and the way we work look different now than they ever did, with changed expectations around how we do our jobs and what we want from them. According to McKinsey, amid a tenfold increase in remote work since 2019, 58 per cent of Americans (92 million people) are working from home at least some of the time. Among those who are able to work remotely, 87 per cent choose to do so. Water cooler conversations and after-work drinks have been traded for video calls and virtual meetups. It’s not just virtual meetings, though; significant changes to employee benefits and employer priorities have also surfaced. Work culture trends emerged and were strengthened in recent years—what are they, and which ones do we want to see stick around?

What is work culture?

First, what is work culture? In short, the term refers to the atmosphere and experience in the workplace, as affected by the attitudes and behaviors of those who work there. It is also called company culture, and there are different types of it. For example, an organization could have a very formal, structured work culture in which the hierarchy and roles are clearly defined and there’s not much flexibility. Or the work culture could be informal and relaxed, with lots of room for creative thinking and flexibility. Neither of these is necessarily right or wrong: what’s important is that the work culture aligns with the company’s mission statement and the best way to reach the company’s goals, and that it allows employees to be productive and fulfilled.

There are many factors that affect work culture, including national culture. For example, due to its stricter labor legislation, Canada’s work culture is more employee-centric than that of the United States, with shorter work hours, more breaks, more vacation time, and more benefits such as paid parental leave. 

84 per cent of companies introduced new or expanded benefits as a result of the pandemic.

That said, even in countries with more employee-centric cultures, healthy work culture is not a given in every workplace. With poor leadership, a toxic work culture is possible anywhere, with issues like poor communication, workplace bullying, little or no room for growth, poor work-life balance, burnout, and high employee turnover rates the order of the day.  

Workplace culture trends we want to see continue in 2023

For several years now, forward-thinking companies have been looking at ways to attract and retain top talent, with tech companies especially known for their perks. However, ping-pong tables in the break room can seem like an empty gesture when you have to work sixteen-hour days. So what are the work culture trends that have arisen in the past few years that we hope to see continue in 2023? Here are our top choices: 

See more: Why authenticity in DEI practices in the workplace leads to good business.

summer fridays text over a graphically treated image of a beach

Flexible working hours

Even before the pandemic, flexible work hours were a highly desirable job perk. In 2018, StatsCan reported that 61 per cent of men and 60 per cent of women who had a high degree of control over their work hours reported a high level of job satisfaction, compared to less than half of those who had less flexibility in their work hours. Why is that? Being able to choose their hours helps employees find a healthy work-life balance. It also acknowledges that different people are more productive at different times of day.

Employers are catching on: according to a 2021 study by Robert Half Talent Solutions, 48 per cent of senior managers let their employees choose when they work. 

Remote or hybrid work

One of the most significant changes the pandemic caused was on our work environment: the rise of remote work. In 2021, a StatsCan study analyzed new teleworkers, or workers who only started working from home when the pandemic hit. Of these, 90 per cent reported that they were at least as productive at home as at the office and 80 per cent would like to continue working from home at least half the time in future. 

There are many benefits to remote or hybrid work. For employers, these include lower overhead costs, more productive employees (reported by 94 per cent of remote employers), and the ability to recruit from a wider talent pool without geographic constraints. Employees spend less time commuting, which can save money and time. They can work more autonomously and can attend to their household and family throughout the workday. The drop in traffic from reduced commuting has environmental benefits and employees not having to live close to work can help some find more affordable housing. 

Is remote or hybrid work feasible long-term, though? It depends on the industry. An estimated 59 per cent of Canadians with bachelor’s degrees or higher education levels hold jobs that they can plausibly do from home. Of those who work in finance, insurance, or in the professional, technical, and scientific services, 85 per cent can work from home. However, only about 6 per cent of workers in accommodation and food services can do so. Not all industries can embrace remote or hybrid work, but many can (at least to an extent).

The right to disconnect from work

The Robert Half study on working flexible hours found that there are some negatives to working from home, too. One major issue for many remote workers has been that when the office is a nook in the living room, it’s hard to switch off from work mode. And it’s not just the physical environment that causes blurred lines—employers who can’t switch off from work may expect their employees to be available at all times, too. This digital presenteeism, where remote workers are always in work mode, is a fast track to burnout. 

The idea of the right to disconnect started with a 2001 ruling by the French Supreme Court and has since been adapted to include digital tools. Several other European countries as well as the Philippines adopted similar legislation. In 2021, Ontario followed suit, requiring companies with 25 or more employees to have a written policy on what they expect from their workers in terms of being available for work-related communications after hours. While this doesn’t guarantee workers’ rights to disconnect, it encourages employers to think about whether they really need a reply to that email at 10 pm on a Saturday night. 

Wellness days and mental health days

According to the 2021 Benefits Canada Healthcare Survey, 64 per cent of full-time plan members took fewer PTO days in the previous year, jumping to 71 per cent of members who worked almost exclusively from home. At the same time, work stress had a negative impact, with 21 per cent of members being diagnosed with a mental health condition such as depression or anxiety.  

To combat some of the negative effects of work on employee health, more and more companies now offer the opportunity to take flexible mental health days or pre-scheduled wellness days (sometimes called Summer Fridays). These extra paid days off can allow employees to disconnect, refresh, and take care of themselves.  Remote work is also a potential contributor to better mental health, with 70 per cent of respondents to a Mental Health America survey saying that a remote job would have a considerable positive impact on their mental health. 

Related: Here's how automation saves you time and money.

a clock reading 10:30 am

Shorter work weeks

What if every weekend could be a long weekend? Iceland started testing the four-day work week in 2015 and since then, companies in several other developed countries, including the UK, New Zealand, and Canada, have been doing the same. A four-day work week can mean that employees now work four ten-hour days, but forward-thinking companies would rather slash the number of hours worked to 32 for the week, with no change in salary or benefits packages. While shortened work weeks make little sense for hourly workers, there are many benefits to shorter work weeks for salaried employees. The Robert Half study found that 31 per cent of senior managers surveyed didn’t mind if employees worked for fewer than 40 hours a week, as long as their work got done.

As Indeed points out, shortening the work week improves employee wellbeing, which in turn leads to increased productivity and loyalty to the company. It reduces overhead costs for the company, while employees save on costs like commuting and daycare. Because working mothers are more likely to have to step away from their jobs to care for children, they may find a shorter work week less challenging to balance with family commitments. Thus, shortened work weeks can promote gender equality in the workplace by offering more balance between work and childcare. Additionally, a company that offers a shorter work week has a greater chance of attracting the best candidates. Automation through the kind of partnership program you can find through PartnerStack makes a shorter work week more feasible because it lets employees work smarter, not longer.  

Improved employee benefits 

Companies that want to attract the best talent are finding that the traditional benefits package just doesn’t cut it anymore. However, employees want meaningful benefits rather than free snacks. Ping-pong tables and pizza lunches are nice, but they’re not actual benefits.

According to a study by Mercer, 7 in 10 companies are increasing spend on employee benefits as a result of the pandemic. Further, 84 per cent of companies introduced new or expanded benefits as a result of the pandemic. What are some of these benefits? Parental and family leave is one, with some top employers now offering not only improved parental leave (only 1 in 4 employees in the United States has access to paid family leave), but also IVF and adoption subsidies to help employees become parents in the first place. On-site daycare is still a scarce but sought-after job perk, though.  

Expanded benefits go well beyond health spending accounts and time off, though. On the hunt for creative ways to meet the needs of their employees, more unusual perks like vet bill insurance are cropping up. It’s becoming evident that the more ways an employer can help out their employees, the better—for retention, satisfaction, and productivity overall.

No matter which work culture trends your employer is embracing, the important part is that each employee feels supported and fulfilled by their job and each employer aims to make the employee experience the best it can be. Here’s to even better work culture in 2023 and beyond! 

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