Tomorrow @Work identifies trends that affect the Workplace of the Future, as forecasted by Lindsey Pollak. Partnering with The Hartford, Pollak communicates anticipated changes in the workplace, job search, and employee benefits to help employees prepare, protect and prevail, while helping employers cultivate a productive work environment to reach their business goals.
A recent Swedish study has revealed that people who commute at least 45 minutes one way to work are more likely to divorce than people with shorter commutes.¹ That statistic confirms what we already know: Commuting can be a nightmare, now more than ever. Thanks to suburban sprawl, more extreme weather events and an aging transportation infrastructure requiring constant repairs, traffic is only getting worse. Is high-speed rail the answer? More flexible work hours? Telecommuting? Frustrated commuters are eager to know.
If you’d like to shorten your
commuting time, consider a “commute makeover,” which might entail negotiating slightly altered working hours (to avoid the worst traffic), carpooling or considering public transportation options. Check to see if you can qualify for rewards or incentives at work for carpooling or taking mass transit. Now, before winter weather hits is a good time to check in on your company’s policies and programs. If you can’t change the time you’re commuting, you can do your best to limit the stress: Thanks to technology, it’s easier to make your commute more enjoyable with a fully stocked iPod, e-reader (not while driving, obviously), tablet or handheld video game.
Outline expectations for commuters, even if it varies by level. Will you allow employees to leave early/late to miss traffic? Does that mean that they are expected to be working while in transit? Consider promoting carpooling. The Hartford holds an annual “commuter challenge” in which employees are asked to carpool, bike or take public transportation into the office at least one day that week. Participants can be recognized through the company’s rewards program. Also, long commutes can be seen as a chance for employees to take a digital detox. Having employees unplug from electronics will give them the opportunity to keep their minds fresh and active. In situations where the stress of commuting may be affecting employees, communicate how to access support services, such as an Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
Globalization may be among the most overused buzz words of the 21st Century, but shouldn’t be overlooked. Events across the world can now impact your business as quickly as local happenings. Depending on your industry, pay close attention to global markets, weather, political movements, technology trends and more. You’ve likely heard about the importance of BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and now experts are focusing attention on the “Next 11” countries poised to join the world’s largest economies (Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Turkey, South Korea and Vietnam).¹ No matter which countries emerge as powerhouses, it’s a simple fact that your biggest potential business challenges – or opportunities – may come from thousands of miles away.
Do everything in your power to build your global awareness. Follow your international partners and competitors on Twitter and other social media sites. Talk to your international colleagues and ask about business practices and trends in their home countries. Read news websites and even novels from other regions to better understand their customs and cultures. And always assume that your audience in any meeting, presentation or client pitch will include a diverse mixture of people with a variety of different backgrounds and perspectives.
Make sure that if you have a global presence you are updating all your geographies about the news in other offices. Educated employees mean smarter recommendations on the future of your company. Consider implementing a company-wide newsletter, sharing headlines from around the globe, or, encouraging cross-geography working partnerships to help employees gain global perspective.
One of the biggest changes in the workforce today is the fact that no one ever seems to be there. That’s an exaggeration, of course, but it’s clear that the days of everyone at his or her desk from 9-to-5 everyday are long gone. Employees are out of the office for more reasons than ever: flexible schedules, telecommuting, global travel, extreme weather, military leave, maternity leave, paternity leave, etc. And, even those with chronic illnesses, such as cancer, can often manage their illnesses with treatments and intermittent leaves of absence while continuing to work. It’s a positive development that the workplace is more flexible and accommodating, but it can be quite challenging to get things done with a forever-fluctuating staff.
Most everyone will require some sort of flexibility over the course of their careers, so be as understanding and accommodating as possible when this occurs with a colleague. When scheduling a project or meeting, be as mindful as possible of each team member’s unique schedule and make use of shared documents, videoconferencing, Skype and other technologies that allow people to contribute from outside the office. In case you’re the one requiring flexibility, familiarize yourself with your company’s various policies and procedures. Consider helping to protect yourself financially with disability insurance, which can help if you need to take extended time off from work due to an off-the-job injury or illness.
Up to 30 percent of a company’s workforce¹ can be absent on any given day. Managing absence can be an administrative burden for companies, from tracking employees’ time out of work to tracking day-to-day costs, such as temporary workers. Keep in mind any resources that you may have with your benefits providers. The Hartford can help employers know who is absent on any given day and its impact on their company’s productivity. Also, clearly define company policies related to absence and work arrangements. It’s also worth investing in tech-nology that can improve the efficiency of remote workers. As more and more employees are searching for flexibility – whether on an ad-hoc or more regular basis – it will keep up morale and productivity if you have the technology to best facilitate those arrangements.
1 Hewitt’s 2010 Road Ahead - Emerging Health Trends survey, Hewitt Associates, March 2010.
By the end of 2014, every baby boomer in the United States will be over the age of 50.¹
What trends will shape 2014? As we turn the calendar to a new year, we’ll likely see a lot more of the same: an ever-so-slowly improving job market and more political stalemates in the U.S. Congress leading up to the mid-term elections. But one change will be profound: the generational one. By the end of 2014, every baby boomer in the United States will be over the age of 50.¹ This demographic shift marks a transition to a world with more Millennial influence. Look for more Millennial leaders in business, government and popular culture and even more attention heaped on this up-and-coming generation of 80 million Americans – the largest in our history.²
Consider macro issues as you plan for your career development in 2014, but keep in mind that most employers are maintaining the status quo. If you want to move forward, your destiny is in your hands, so volunteer for big projects, promote your accomplishments and build an even stronger network online and offline. And be sure that network includes Millennials – the emerging leaders of today and tomorrow. Another part of moving yourself forward is protecting your future. The Hartford’s 2013 Benefits For Tomorrow Study (April 2013) found nearly half of employees (49 percent) said they are on track in meeting their financial goals. Pay attention to benefits you get through work, such as disability insurance, that can help keep you on track with your personal and professional goals.
Take a look at your company environment and policies with an objective view about how “boomer-focused” they might be. With Millennials about to take charge of the workforce and become leaders within the working world, some changes may be made in order to stay relevant. Perhaps you tap a group of your most valued Millennial employees to discuss possible ways to adapt to the workplace of the future. Find ways to give Millennials the things they’re looking for – feedback and recognition.