Here's how we think the workplace is set to change this year
With the dawn of the new year it’s time for another look ahead to speculate on what we think will be happening over the next twelve months. Over the past year or so, the news cycle has been dominated by Brexit, while companies have adapted to new generations of staff with new ways of working, skills shortages, and the gig economy – all of which will have large impacts on the way things go in 2017.
Here are our predictions:
Towards the end of 2016, the “gig economy” was the new buzzword – referring to self-employed people who contract for companies like Uber and Deliveroo. While we’re not recommending other businesses follow suit in imposing such an arrangement on employees, 2017 will see companies beginning to give employees more and more choice as to how their contracts work.
The blended workforce will see full and part-time staff joined more and more by freelancers for certain projects, allowing specialists to share their expertise and enjoy the benefits of a regular workplace for a period of a few months, without losing the freedom to pursue other projects independently.
The three keys for the blended workforce to work for everyone are, firstly, choice – to freelance rather than become a full member of staff needs to be chosen rather than imposed. Secondly, there must be transparency – people should in no way be misled into thinking they are interviewing for a full-time role when in fact they will be expected to work as freelancers. Finally, inclusivity is essential – freelancers must experience the same treatment as employees, and be able to integrate into a team, rather than being viewed as an “other”.
The tech industry often leads the way, and one of its most enduring stereotypes is of the t-shirt and jeans over a shirt and tie – tech firms generally project a casual image, with no dress code, and plenty of distractions around the office to keep creative juices flowing.
While not every company needs sleep pods and free beer, more and more are waking up to the idea that people who aren’t in client-facing roles, (at least, in the physical sense of seeing clients and customers in person, rather than using phone and email comms) don’t necessarily need to be in formal business dress every day.
It’s hot and uncomfortable in summer, it costs more to maintain a wardrobe of smart clothing, and many dress codes can be inherently sexist – so why bother? There is, of course, a middle ground between suits and a shorts/flip-flops combo, and that’s where more and more companies will increasingly sit. You never know – the difference between a formal and casual dress code could be the deciding factor for a talented young graduate weighing up two similar companies…
2017 will hopefully see the end of people griping about millennials – because Generation Z are on their way into the workforce.
Much like the millennials, otherwise known as Generation Y, there’s no consensus on when Generation Z begins. Common starting points include those born in the mid-90s, who will now be graduating from university, and those born after 9/11 – who this year, will be turning 16 and may be leaving school and starting full-time work for the first time.
Generation Z didn’t adapt to the internet at a young age like Millennials – because it was around long before they started school, and it’s always been a part of their lives. Many will have had childhoods disrupted by the recession. Early research suggests that Gen Z will be a far more level-headed and cautious generation than the ones before.
Internal emails on the way out
Email is still essential for communicating with clients, customers and suppliers, but its internal uses are becoming increasingly unnecessary. While it’s still obviously useful for managers to be able to email their whole team with policy changes, for example, the majority of day-to-day internal emails are often nothing more than a distraction.
Tech firms have been relying on collaborative tools like Slack for years, but in 2017 the chat, file-sharing and organisational software – and others like it – could well do away with a huge chunk of unnecessary internal emails. Sharing links, asking quick one-liner questions, sending files and – let’s be honest, we all know it happens – idle chatter – is better kept for a more immediate program that integrates a bit more easily into day-to-day work, rather than having to break off and check an email client.
With a younger generation entering the workforce, used to instant messaging (and showing older people how to use software), programs like Slack, Hangouts and Trello will only become increasingly common.
Focus on wellbeing
2016 was a very good year for mental health awareness, with a great deal of media conversation around the issue. However, awareness is only half the battle – 2017 will see many organisations focus on providing mental health services to their employees. Private medical insurance is already widespread, but lifestyle packages that provide staff with counselling and mental health support are far less common.
With 45% of working days lost to illness in 2015/16 caused by stress, depression and anxiety according to the HSE, businesses can no longer afford to ignore the mental health of their staff. While many are already taking these steps, change has been slower to come to certain corners of the employment world, with those in banking and the public sector in particular feeling the pressure of poor mental health due to the stressful nature of their job roles.
Focus on development
With the UK’s national skills shortage continuing in 2016, bosses need to get serious about training the next generation of senior staff – after all, with Generation Z on the way in, Generation Y will need to be their managers.
2017 may be the year the annual review disappears, instead replaced with more regular, informal reviews that give more of a chance for ongoing development, guidance and feedback – rather than the once or twice-yearly pleading of the case for a raise.
There will also be an increase in mentorship schemes to develop the skills of younger employees, with managers developing long-term plans for progression. Organisations may also start to offer more employee benefits such as salary sacrifice programs that help junior employees on lower wages access external training courses.
Finally, with Article 50 due to be triggered in March, 2017 will by no means see an end to the uncertainty of Brexit. With many businesses still uncertain as to whether they will remain located in the UK, and many employees worried that they will lose their right to remain, the year ahead will require organisations to prepare for the unexpected. Transparency with employees is essential above all, calming any fears and offering support where possible.
Whatever 2017 brings, we hope it is a positive one for you and your staff – happy new year!