Technology is advancing. Awareness of diversity and the lack thereof is rising. Mental health challenges are becoming less stigmatized. The reality is that these factors – and many more – are changing the way society views the modern workplace.
The current trends, in light of wider societal changes, seem not only practical but simply inevitable. They’re intricately linked to each other and feed into one another. Though we all may want to believe that our CEOs and MDs have our best interests at heart, the reality is that the changes happening are also intricately linked to our own productivity in the modern workplace and therefore their ROI.
Last year we saw an email talking about mental health go viral because a) someone was actually brave enough to admit their mental health challenges to their employer and b) the manager responded positively and acknowledged the importance of the employee’s mental health.
Mental health challenges in both the modern workplace and general life have become less and less stigmatized and employers are (finally) seeing the impact this has on employee productivity. Statistically, we’re looking at mental health challenges causing an average of 5 missed work days and 11.5 days of decreased productivity in a 3 month period.
Employers are trying to combat this through various wellness programs such as team events, nutritious lunch options, improved work-life balance policies and some are even implementing yoga and meditation programs.
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We live in a society of diverse genders, races, nationalities, sexual orientations, cultures and religions; yet the integration of our differences is something that has largely been ignored in workplaces, with minorities often feeling like they cannot speak about their concerns. This silence has slowly but surely been shifting for a few years but last year reached a tipping point. People now have more platforms on which to speak and with Time Magazine naming their Person of the Year as the Silence Breakers behind the #metoo movement, this shift has been solidified.
Again, the acknowledgement of and communication about these concerns are finally becoming less stigmatized. Furthermore, a study by McKinsey & Company has found that teams with diverse races, ethnicities and genders actually perform 33% better than those who aren’t. But the fact is that our differences also need to be heard and understood within our teams – hence Starbucks’s decision to close all their US stores (risking the loss of $12 Million) on 29 May for diversity training.
Technology has provided employees with the option of being able to work anytime and anywhere which is both an advantage and a disadvantage. The disadvantage is that employees have in fact been working more outside of their allocated (and compensated for) work hours. This has even caused France to pass a law allowing employees to “disconnect” outside these allocated hours. The advantage is that employees no longer need to be at their desks, staring at their work computers to actually do their work.
Studies have shown that flexible work hours is rated the second highest benefit when millennials (35% of the workforce) consider new job opportunities and that for 82% of millennials flexible work hours increases their loyalty to their company.
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This is one trend that is both exciting and quite terrifying for a lot of people. AI still seems like a relatively new concept for most people and yet, already about 20% of companies are employing it – and this number is expected to rise to 57% by 2021. AI is now largely used for chatbots which, among other things, act as personal assistants, provide answers for customer service related questions, streamline business processes, and mine data. The scary aspect of AI (putting aside the Sci-Fi induced fear of robots taking over Earth) is that, while increasing productivity and lowering costs, it will replace some employees completely.
We’re certainly in the midst of exciting changes in the modern workplace and I for one am excited to see how and to what extent these trends will shape our work time into a more diverse, flexible, automated and healthy part of our lives.
Written by Maraine Basson
Featured On CTInsider