These Trends Are Re-Shaping the Workplace
We’ve seen open concept desks, standing desks, treadmill, and cycling desks — and even the lack of personal desks altogether — become workplace trends over the years.
Fortunately, workplace trends are about much more than furniture (or its absence). We are seeing bigger and more tectonic shifts coming into focus heading into 2020, as more Gen Z workers enter the job market; social and cultural norms continue to evolve; and technology rapidly advances.
Here are six workplace trends re-shaping work as we know it:
1. Preparing for the oldest (and youngest) workers.
As more people are living longer, the workplace is seeing its oldest workers — the baby boomer generation — working longer and putting off retirement, either by necessity or by choice. It’s predicted that by 2026, people ages 55 and older will make up 25 percent of the workforce. In addition, the number of workers ages 65-74 is projected to grow by 4.2 percent every year between 2016 and 2026, compared to 0.6 percent for the workforce overall.
Baby boomers offer a myriad of knowledge, experience, and wisdom that enriches the workplace experience for everyone. To attract and retain these workers, some employers are initiating programs aimed at helping them shift into a new and more flexible phase in their careers. These initiatives include enabling them to transition from managers to individual contributors, work part-time, or take on consulting positions.
On the other side of the age spectrum, employers cannot afford to ignore Generation Z — loosely defined as those born between 1995 to 2010 (though Pew Research defines Gen Z as anyone born after 1997). Gen Z is the youngest, most ethnically diverse, and largest generation in American history, currently comprising 27 percent of the U.S. population. Gen Z workers are used to getting information quickly and conveniently, so employers should consider this in their recruitment efforts. Members of this generation are characterized as diverse, community-minded, entrepreneurial, and pragmatic. Employers should be taking steps now to better understand this generation and what they deem important in a potential employer and its culture.
2. Stress management + mental health.
We’re getting incrementally better at talking about mental health issues as a society, and the workplace is the next frontier for mental health acceptance and transparency. An estimated 18 percent of adults in the U.S. have an anxiety disorder, 450 million people worldwide currently suffer from mental or neurological conditions, and 1 in 4 people will be affected by such conditions over the course of their lives. Companies’ failure to recognize this reality has serious costs in the form of their bottom line, lost productivity, and damaged professional relationships. In contrast, $4 is returned to the economy for every $1 spent caring for people with mental health issues.
Research has shown that feeling authentic and open at work leads to better performance, engagement, employee retention, and overall well-being. Employers are starting to lead by being transparent themselves when it comes to mental health. TOMS Shoes founder Blake Mykoskie was diagnosed with mild depression five years ago, and has announced plans to launch a self-help toolkit in 2020 “to help people live their best lives.”
EY (formerly Ernst & Young) launched an “r u ok?” program to help employees talk about mental health openly and frankly. And at Buffer, employees as well as the founder and chief executive Joel Gascoigne, post in Slack about their anti-anxiety medications and therapy sessions. Talking about these issues, particularly when executives are leading the charge, helps encourage others to talk about them or seek help.
3. Hiring contract workers.
According to an NPR/Marist poll conducted in 2018, 1 in 5 American jobs are currently held by a contract worker, and it’s predicted that within a decade, contractors and freelancers could make up half of the U.S. workforce. Contracting enables employers to hire for specialized experience on-demand, quickly size up or down depending on workload needs, and trial employees they may want to add to full-time staff. Companies often turn to contract talent solutions when they need a subject matter expert; have urgent hiring needs; or experience project-based needs. (If you’re considering contract talent solutions and not sure where to start, reach out — we can help.)
Workers who decide to add contract work to their resume can gain many benefits as well. These include the opportunity to work on interesting projects, often while having more control over their schedule and the flexibility of working where and when they choose. These benefits can boost work-life balance, job satisfaction, and productivity.
4. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and skill shortages.
Gartner, Inc.’s 2019 CIO Growth Survey found that the deployment of AI in enterprises has risen from 25 percent in 2018 to 37 percent in 2019, and that organizations across all industries use AI in a variety of ways, including chatbots, computer-assisted diagnostics in the healthcare field, and fraud protection and consumer fragmentation. Though we may not yet be at the point where AI can wholly take over tasks, we have reached the point of ”augmented intelligence.”
Yet, organizations are experiencing serious shortages of employees with the necessary AI skills to scale their AI efforts. More than half (54 percent) of organizations in a Gartner Research Circle Survey view skill shortages as the greatest challenge facing their organization. “In order to stay ahead, CIOs need to be creative,” said Chris Howard, distinguished research vice president at Gartner. He recommends that companies invest in training programs for employees with backgrounds in statistics and data management, or create job shares with ecosystem and business partners.
5. Environmental awareness.
Workplaces are waking up to environmental standards that are often already second nature outside the office walls. Greta Thunberg is far from the only Gen Z-er who considers the environment to be a major concern: The Deloitte Global Millennial Survey 2019 found that when it comes to the challenges facing societies around the world, “climate change/protecting the environment/natural disasters” topped the list for both millennials and Gen Z at 29 percent (7 percent higher than the No. 2 concern). Many candidates consider sustainable practices crucial when choosing an employer.
As Patagonia’s VP of HR Dean Carter shared, Patagonia has made it its explicit mission to be a steward of the planet. They give 1 percent of sales to environmental groups, offer employees two paid months off a year to volunteer with an environmental organization or project, and even pay bail for any employee (and their spouse) who gets arrested for peaceful environmental protests. The company’s commitment to both the planet and their employees’ priorities has paid off: They experience just 4 percent turnover each year, and have roughly 9,000 applicants for the few jobs that do open up.
You may not be able to add sweeping environmental policies to the employee handbook, but if you want sustainability to be part of your organization’s values, look for small but meaningful ways to better the planet and help your employees make a positive impact, too. It’s a win-win.
6. Flexible and remote work.
The concept of 9-to-5 is starting to blur, and more employers are realizing the advantages of being flexible against the backdrop of a 24/7-connected existence. By 2028, 73 percent of all teams are expected to have remote workers, according to Inavero and Upwork’s 2019 “Future Workforce Report.”
This trend is key to attracting and retaining younger generations of workers (are you noticing a theme here?). Twenty-two percent of millennials and 19 percent of Gen Z-ers in a Deloitte study responded that they would leave their current employer in the next two years due to a lack of work/life balance and flexibility. As Cynthia Blevins Doll, employment lawyer with Fisher Phillip in Louisville, KY, says of millennials, “They like flexibility, they like flexible hours, they like paid time off. They like being able to work remotely.”
For employers, workplace flexibility doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Flexible hours or remote working conditions can vary based on your workplace culture and employee needs.
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About Signature Consultants, LLC
Headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Signature Consultants was established in 1997 with a singular focus: to provide clients and consultants with superior staffing solutions. For the ninth consecutive year, Signature was voted as one of the “Best Staffing Firms to Work For” and is named the 15th Largest IT Staffing Firm in the United States (source: Staffing Industry Analysts). With 28 locations throughout North America, Signature annually deploys thousands of consultants to support, run, and manage their clients’ technology needs. Signature offers IT staffing, consulting, managed solutions, and direct placement services. For more information on the company, please visit https://www.sigconsult.com. Signature Consultants is the parent company to Hunter Hollis and Madison Gunn.