Workplace 2020: Key trends for the future of work

Businesses can no longer rely on favourable reputation and social responsibility alone

Workplace 2020: Key trends for the future of work

by Pierre Ferrandon is the New Zealand country manager for IWG

The way we work is forever changing. New technologies and trends that came into force in 2019 have had a significant impact on the world of work. 5G is already speeding up day to day tasks, employee wellbeing has become a key focus for businesses, workers are demanding more flexibility and a whole new generation has joined the workforce.

For businesses looking to gain a competitive edge or win the battle for top talent, recognising and exploiting these movements may be what sets them apart in the year ahead. 

Employee wellbeing is no longer a nice-to-have 
Employee wellbeing has been an area of increased focus for businesses in 2019. There has been an increased awareness of burnout at work and the detrimental effect this can have on physical and mental health.

A recent Levell study found that 60% of workers experience performance drops as a result of chronic stress and burnout in the workplace, whilst Kronos research shows that 95% of HR leaders think that stress is “sabotaging workforce retention”. 

So how do businesses tackle burnout and re-engage employees? One method that has gained attention is practising mindfulness at work, with firms like McKinsey, Nike, Google and Apple all implementing programmes ranging from meditation to courses of cognitive behavioural training.

These techniques can refocus and relax employees, with neurological studies showing that meditation can increase the areas of the brain that can regulate emotion, improve attention span, increase job performance and productivity as well as improving job satisfaction at work.  

Core changes to how we work can also have a profound effect on wellbeing, as the trial of a four-day week by New Zealand company Perpetual Guardian proved. Working on the basis of productivity, not time in the office, and retaining full pay, staff reported increased happiness, lower stress, and higher engagement and job satisfaction.

Workers worldwide demand flexibility 
The Perpetual Guardian four-day week model is based on flexibility, one of the biggest trends relating to work around the globe. Today, the option for flexible working, whether that be flexible work locations or flexible hours, is not just wanted by workers but demanded, with 45% of firms implementing flexible working policies for this reason alone. Flexible working has emerged as a super trend, with 62% of businesses worldwide now offering a flexible working policy. 

According to Statistics New Zealand, over half of Kiwi employees have flexible hours, allowing them to start and finish work at different times each day, and one-third have worked from home.

Rapid technological advancements and the growing globalisation of the workplace have enabled this movement to expand. Flexible working embraces employees’ differences and allows them the freedom to work in a way that suits them, from starting earlier or later, to working from a flexible workspace. When firms allow their people more autonomy over their working day it increases employee satisfaction, workforce retention, loyalty and wellbeing. 

Flexible working policies benefit employers as well, with the IWG global workspace survey finding that most business leaders believe these policies improve workplace efficiency, with over two-thirds claiming they increase productivity by 20% or more. Not only this, but employees that take advantage of flexible working policies are shown to be absent less often, as they are able to adjust their work schedule in line with their life outside of work.  

Generation Z join the workforce 
This year saw Generation Z enter the workforce for the first time. They are known as the first fully digital generation with studies showing that 60% of Generation Z prefer to learn through YouTube tutorials and videos. This presents a new challenge for HR, who will need to adapt existing training to incorporate more visual methods in order to engage with these social media natives. 

Generation Z also have different outlooks and ideals compared to their predecessors. A recent Deloitte report stated that they place more emphasis on diversity, and particularly LGBT identity and religion, than their elders. Businesses can no longer rely on favourable reputation and social responsibility alone but need to demonstrate equality and care for their workforce to attract the top Gen Z talent. 

5G speeds up the workplace
This year the world was introduced to 5G networks, promising firms significantly faster connection speeds, quicker response times and greater reliability than the veteran 4G networks. This new generation technology will see lag time become almost non-existent, with data being shared in close to real time. Businesses will be able to perform more complex tasks with the speed and power opening up new, immersive possibilities. 5G will also help with the digitalisation and automation of more processes to support new levels of productivity for firms.

Despite 5G still being in its infancy, those able to adapt and adopt ahead of the competition will reap the rewards in the future.

Flexible workspaces
Flexibility has been the word of 2019, with flexible workspaces also growing in importance for businesses. They offer people the ability to work from an environment that suits them, whether that be an office closer to home to reduce their commute, or in a building that they love in their favourite city. 

Giving employees the chance to work from flexible workspaces has been shown to increase productivity, with 54% of employees saying that remote working enables them to get more done. Research from IWG’s annual Global Workspace Survey also revealed that 65% of people believe that being able to tailor their work environment makes them more productive. A win-win opportunity for organisations in 2020. 

2020 opportunities 
By utilising technology, supporting wellbeing and encouraging flexible working, new generations are able to keep up with the evolution of the modern workplace. This will help benefit both businesses and their employees, by improving productivity, profitability and employee wellbeing.  

The pace of change across all aspects of our lives can seem incredible, especially in a world where 5G enables instant connections. Businesses must be alive to these changes and think about how they can exploit them to gain competitive advantage and attract the top talent. Those that don’t may not be around to see next year’s trends.  

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