Change is happening and accelerating. The future of workplaces is not a fixed destination. Automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) will affect every level of business and its people. Companies have a responsibility to their people, to nurture adaptability and re-skilling. How your employees feel will impact your business, so conversations about the future must start today.
Companies must be increasingly aware of the changing nature of today’s workforce to keep an upper hand. By staying on top of these trends, a company will be able to hire talent that pushes their business towards long term growth, have the tools and data needed to deepen their understanding of their workforce and what they will need moving forward.
Here are 11 workplace trends to help your company gain a competitive edge in 2020 and beyond:
1. Employee Well-Being is No Longer Just a Perk
When a workplace environment and culture are conducive to boosting employee happiness, morale and motivation, employees become highly engaged. In return, employees deliver 21% greater profitability, and 17% higher productivity.
Burnout and stressed workers had become prominent issues over the last decade. Employee wellness made a significant mark in 2019, resulting in more companies putting into place workplace wellness strategies to enhance employees’ health and well-being. For example, today you would not be surprised to find workplaces with onsite fitness centres, childcare or offices with views and natural light. Workplace Trends report that natural light and views boost employee happiness and well-being by 78%.
One method that has gained traction is practising mindfulness at work. Firms like McKinsey, Nike, Google, and Apple have implemented programs ranging from meditation to cognitive-behavioural training. New Zealand company Perpetual Garden trialled a four-day week which had a profound impact on well-being. Staff reported increased happiness, lower stress, higher engagement, and job satisfaction. Flexibility within the workplace, whether it be hours or location, is being demanded by workers. After two months of trial, the company reported that employee work-life balance increased by 24%, engagement rose by 20%, and stress levels dropped by 7%.
2. A New Generation Joined the Workforce
The first fully digital generation has entered the workforce for the first time. The Society for Human Resource Management reported that Generation Z would account for up to 36% of the global workforce. Generation Z was born and raised in a fast-paced and digital-centric environment and will take over the global workforce in the coming years.
Generation Z prefers to learn through YouTube tutorials and videos, requiring companies to incorporate more visual methods to engage their employees. They value connection, seek learning opportunities, and will be loyal to a company based on their ethos and social impact. A Deloitte report stated that Generation Z places more emphasis on diversity and particularly LGBT identity and religion than other generations. Companies must demonstrate equality and care for their workforce if they are to attract and retain top talent.
3. Employees Want to Talk about Mental Health
Harvard Business Review reported that most employees agree that company cultures must support mental health. In 2019, the World Health Organization said that one in four people would be impacted by mental health or neurological disorders worldwide at some point in their lives. Today, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide. Companies are investing in onsite mental health therapists and adopting prevention strategies by training staff to be mental health first aiders. The UK has taken it one step further with protections under the Management Health and Safety at Work Regulations Act of 1999. There will be higher expectations in the future for companies to create or support mental health programs, whether it be providing onsite support or upskilling staff.
4. Companies Must Build Agile Work Structures to Support the Upward Trend of Remote Work
A shift in perception of employees working remotely has resulted in people loving the newfound freedom and flexibility that comes with the type of work. The advancements of technology such as Skype, Slack, and Zoom have given remote work an upper hand. Buffer reported that one of the most significant benefits to working remotely is the flexible schedule and people value their ability to spend more time with family. Remote work will become more prevalent as Upwork is predicting that 73% of all departments will have remote workers by 2028.
5. Work Anywhere, Anytime
People’s lives have become busier, technology has disrupted workplace practices, and work environments have become global. The change in work schedules is long overdue. Kronos reported that 71% of workers expressed that rigid work schedules impact their personal life negatively.
Since the New Zealand firm, Perpetual Garden introduced the four day week to the world, many companies have begun to organize flexible work schedules. The Japanese government promoted employees having Monday mornings off, and Humana, a US healthcare company, equipped call centre employees with new at-home technology that enabled remote work. Sodexo, a French food and facilities company created an initiative FLOW (Flexibility Optimizes Work) to support employees individually to develop flexible work options to meet their unique needs. Sodexo report that managers in Belgium encourage their employees to come in late and leave early to avoid the dreaded rush-hour commute whereas in India the introduction of half-time work and the flexibility to take up to two years unpaid leave has significantly impacted by dramatically increasing the number of women working for the brand.
6. Evolution of Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Today’s climate robots can be automated to handle mundane tasks in and out of the workplace, freeing up precious time for employees. Workplaces have made transitions to coexist with robots. Datamation reports that nearly 1 billion users will rely on AI-powered virtual assistants by 2025. AI has bridged the skills gap, facilitated faster decisions, improved operational efficiency, reduced costs, and as a result, companies are increasingly adding AI. This trend will only speed up over time.
7. Human Skills
Often referred to as ‘soft skills’, human skills such as communication, leadership, and empathy are critical for companies. They play a crucial role in employee performance productivity within a digital landscape when it comes to workplace transformation. Human skills illuminate a pathway to gaining visibility, build, nurture and maintain relationships and open doors for advancement opportunities. Human skills foster connection which is a pillar for high-performance teams.
8. Managers to Be More Human
Harvard Business Review reported that managers spend 54% of their time on administrative tasks. The benefit of the introduction of AI to managers is that transfer of administrative tasks to be automated while giving managers the time and energy to focus on people management. Managers can invest their energy into coaching their people and nurturing a work culture where both people and businesses flourish.
9. Employee Monitoring
Not a new concept that companies have been collecting data on how employees spend their time at work. While people have in the past expressed their concern about ‘big brother’, Gartner reports that employees are becoming more comfortable with the process when it has improved their employee experience. Companies that are transparent and honest about their intentions can add significant benefits to employees and customers. Domino’s pizza introduced the AI-powered camera to ensure customers get the right size pizza, and a Swedish company introduced microchipping employees as a way to sign in without needing a card. A Chinese company adopted “emotional surveillance technology” to monitor people’s brainwaves and emotions to identify their current states.
10. Voice Activation in the Workplace
Most people are familiar with Siri and Alexa to answer questions, obtain newsworthy updates and order products. Voice technology has permeated people’s homes, cars and now into workplaces. Companies are exploring and testing in the workplace to identify what tasks can be eliminated. “JiLL” is a voice AI assistant that helps employees arrange meetings, book meeting rooms and check cafeteria menus. Amazon released “Alexa for Business” to improve meeting room experiences, increase room utilization, and enhance employee productivity. Gartner predicts that by 2021, 25% of digital workers will be using a virtual employee assistant daily.
11. Sustainability is a New Standard
Alongside companies instilling purpose at work, HP reported that 61% of people believe sustainability is mandatory, and 46% would only work for sustainable companies. Dell Technologies developed a “2020 Legacy of Good Plan” articulating their commitment to putting their expertise to work where they can make the most impact for people and the planet. Dell made significant progress as they recovered more than 2 billion pounds of used electronics via responsible recycling, reused 100 million pounds of recycled content, plastic, and other sustainable materials, and delivered 5 million service hours to communities worldwide.
Companies Must Shift to Keep Pace with the Latest Workplace Trends
Companies face new ideas and trends that disrupt the way they operate and conduct business. The nature of work is changing, multiple generations of collaborating and digital technology evolving at a rapid pace.
The onus is on both the company and its employees to observe how trends will evolve in the coming years and how to meet rapidly changing work demands. Company thinking must move from focusing on an endpoint to adopting a growth mindset where gradual, continuous improvement is embraced to create long term sustainable change. Start small so you can build upon it.