Workplace trends changing how business is done

2: Workplace trends changing how business is done recently listed 25 trends that will transform the world of business management over the next 10 years. Here are a few of the more interesting:

Future e-mail systems will heighten connectivity while solving the problems of inbox overload and unwanted spam. Powerful information-management and collaboration tools will emerge. Unified messaging will allow workers to check e-mail, voice mail, mobile messaging and fax machine from a single box.

Corporate involvement in public schools will continue to increase over the next decade. Alarmed by under-performing public schools and students poorly equipped for the job market, business is getting directly involved. Corporate sponsorships, school-to-business field trips, internships, meetings with top executives in office settings, and even paychecks are available for older students.

Open for business around the clock, seven days a week, will become standard operating procedure for more and more companies in the future. About 24 million Americans already work in the 24/7 culture, according to Circadian Technologies. More will do so in coming years as businesses seek to reach new customers in foreign time zones and to speed up production and services.

Workplace dissatisfaction and anger aren’t likely to evaporate even with the economy in recovery. Only 25% of workers feel a strong attachment to their employers, and 4 in 10 feel trapped in their jobs, according to Walker Information. Employers who ignore workplace discontent run the risk of periodic productivity slumps as skilled staffers depart for higher-paying positions whenever the labor market surges.

Office design will be increasingly recognized as an important component of business management. Trends include more shared workspace coupled with private desk areas, especially in creative industries.

Telework will be increasingly common. By the year 2010, more than half of American wage earners will spend more than two days a week working outside the office, according to Sulzer Infrastructure Services. Today, 28 million people telework under formal company policies – a leap from 4 million in 1990 – and millions more work informally out of the office one or more days a week. As inexpensive broadband Internet access and mobile technologies take hold, the number is sure to increase.

Consumer-driven health care, i.e. health-care dollars that employees can spend as they see fit, will eventually become routine, predict benefits experts. Consumer-driven plans take many forms. All are designed to make employees more aware of, and responsible for, the cost consequences of their health-care choices. Employers will be responsible for education, advocacy, and assistance.

Access to quality childcare will continue to be a major issue for working moms and their employers. Increasing numbers of companies will offer backup-care arrangements that employees can use in the event of emergencies. A related trend may be the rise of contractors that provide innovative activities for company-sponsored day care.

Outsourcing will grow by double digits every year. Companies spent $61.2 billion worldwide in 2002 on human resources management outsourcing, an amount expected to jump 11% annually, to $103.3 billion by 2007.

Recruiting older workers will be a business requirement in the future. By 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be 168 million jobs in the US economy but only 158 million people in the civilian labor force. Fortunately, older workers expect, want and need to work. A recent AARP-sponsored study, using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 workers age 45 to 74, shows that 69% plan to work in some capacity during their retirement years. They will work not only for money but also for intangible benefits such as enjoyment and a sense of purpose.

Freelancers and consultants are likely to grow in number and as a share of the total workforce, as companies are becoming increasingly enamored of outsourcing as a way to control costs and increase flexibility. Today some 30 million Americans are self-employed. Dan Pink, author of the 2001 book Free Agent Nation, predicts that corporate workplaces will evolve into a continually shifting mix of employees and freelancers, to the point it will become difficult to distinguish one from the other. This may lead to profound changes in company health plans, and to the concepts of retention and career development.

Women at work will make further inroads into executive and management ranks, as women continue to earn more college degrees and ascend more corporate ladders. Between 1979 and 1999, the number of women earning four-year college degrees jumped 44%, from 444,000 to 640,000, while the number of men receiving four-year degrees declined to about 500,000. Glass ceilings are going to shatter in the coming years; balance between work and home life will be more valued; temporary and part-time work and job sharing will be more common; and there will be more re-entry opportunities for women who leave the workplace for a few years and then return.

Security vs. privacy will be a major workplace concern. As technology becomes more sophisticated, the ability of those who administer company computer networks to monitor the comings, goings and doings of workers will grow exponentially. In the future, the use of surveillance, data encryption, and sophisticated data-mining techniques will be common. Privacy experts may shudder, but cameras, keystroke logging, biometric devices and network monitoring are becoming de rigueur within many organizations.

Copyright FutureScan Oct 2003

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