These are the workplace trends that give us hope

From flexible work opportunities to more pay transparency, there are plenty of reasons to feel excited about what’s happening at work.

These are the workplace trends that give us hope
[Photos: MangoStar_Studio/iStock; LeszekCzerwonka/iStock; Dobrydnev/iStock]

Are we finally creating a kinder, gentler workplace? We’ve certainly seen a number of positive signs over the past decade. A greater emphasis on culture, for instance, has set the stage for higher job satisfaction.


The biggest trends we’ve seen in the workplace have come about due to changes in the economic environment, says Michelle Armer, chief people officer at CareerBuilder. “In the years immediately following the recession until now, where we’ve seen steadily low unemployment, companies began to recruit and think about their employees in a different way, putting more of an emphasis on the workplace experience than before,” she says.

Here are six that have us feeling hopeful for the next decade:

1. More opportunities for flexible work

Technology has allowed employees to ditch the 9-to-5 format in exchange for flexible arrangements, both in hours and location.

“Companies are demonstrating that they understand that boundaries between work and life are blurred, and that allowing for elasticity in employees’ schedules better reflects an always-on society,” says David Hanrahan, chief human resources officer at Eventbrite, a global ticketing and event technology platform company.

“Low unemployment brings about fiercer competition for top talent, and remote work opportunities enable companies to expand their pool of candidates beyond their geographic regions by offering remote opportunities,” says Armer. “Enabling other employees to remote work on certain days of the week also helps morale and mitigates issues caused by long commute times.”


2. Rethinking the hustle culture

Technology has fostered an always-on mentality, but the past decade has created a shift where more employees and employers understand the importance of unplugging. We saw the creation of digital detoxes as well as rules around email hours.

“We don’t operate naturally when we’re shackled, acquired, resourced, and managed like cattle, widgets, or capital,” says Jason Averbook, author of The Ultimate Guide to a Digital Workforce Experience. “When organizations renewed their focus on workforce tools and solutions to increase work-life integration and promote harmonious synchronization of the two, everyone won. Employers get increased and higher quality output when there is support and balance, and people are able to produce that more easily and without sacrificing elsewhere.”

Companies that offer unlimited PTO and flexible work arrangements are realizing that the full human being is naturally inclined toward motivation, creativity, inspiration, and accountability, says Averbook.

3. Emphasis on diversity and inclusion

Having a diverse workforce helps companies with productivity and success, and that led to diversity in hiring becoming a bigger priority this decade, says Armer.

A recent study found organizations in the top 25% for gender diversity outperform their competitors by 15%, and those in the top quarter for ethnic diversity exceed competitors’ performance by 35%.


“By keeping diversity in mind when recruiting, companies started building stronger and more inclusive workforces to gather new perspectives and bolster creativity,” says Armer. “Diversity and inclusion have become core focus areas for companies beyond just hiring; organizations have built-in programs that help recognize biases and therefore support efforts to be more inclusive in the workplace.”

4. Pay transparency

Pay transparency is a growing trend with 27% of hiring professionals sharing a salary range with candidates and 22% saying they’ll likely start within the next five years, according to LinkedIn’s Global Talent Trends 2019 report.

“I’m most hopeful about and intrigued by the trend of pay transparency in the workplace,” says Mary Abbajay, president and CEO of Careerstone Group, a leadership consulting firm, and author of Managing Up: How to Move Up, Win at Work, and Succeed with Any Type of Boss. “If done properly, this can help organizations in myriad ways.”

Creating a clear and objective formula for salary helps organizations set standards for promotions and raises, helping to close gender and racial pay inequity. “When pay is transparent, organizations can close pay gaps and diminish unconscious bias and subjectivity in their hiring and compensation,” Abbajay says.

But pay transparency can only work when the organization does the hard work of creating clear and objective standards—and actively holds themselves accountable to adhering to these standards, says Abbajay.


5. Focus on skills

The past decade has put a renewed focus on skills—both in what workers can do and what they can be trained to do. On-the-job training and skills development programs became more commonplace since companies started looking at cultural fit in addition to past experience, says Armer.

“Skills, not just past experience, were given more weight, causing a change from the traditionally linear career path,” says Armer. “Last year, a study showed that 80% of employers gave equal weight to soft skills—including the ability to be team-oriented, attention to detail, and customer service, and critical thinking—as they did to hard skills.”

And employers are increasingly exploring how they can work with their existing team, reskilling or upskilling them into more advanced positions, says Jason Tyszko, vice president of the Center for Education and Workforce at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. “This has the added benefit of employers investing more in training and mentoring as they intentionally build a talent pipeline from within,” he says.

6. Purpose-driven work

Finally, the past decade has seen employees and consumers demanding that the companies they work for and do business with have a purpose. “In 2014, Aaron Hurst published The Purpose Economy, highlighting the shift to purpose-driven workplaces and away from the information economy that has been in place since 1950,” says workplace neuroscience researcher Dr. Britt Andreatta, author of Wired to Connect: The Brain Science Of Teams And A New Model For Creating Collaboration And Inclusion.

Increasingly, employees want to find work that is meaningful. According to a survey from BetterUp Labs, a leadership development platform, nine out of 10 career professionals would sacrifice 23% of their future earnings for “work that is always meaningful.” And employees who say they find meaning at work also report having higher levels of job satisfaction.


“Perhaps the hope of the last decade was ‘permission,'” says Averbook. “The permission to be get real and be real—in life and at work—to blur the lines between the two for common good. We expect people to work like they don’t have lives. . . . In the last decade of work, we finally gave ourselves permission to stop doing this.”