Top 5 Work Trends To Watch for in 2012

The working world is in the midst of a major transition as we shrug off the shackles of 9-to-5 to accommodate our frenetic modern lifestyles and seek versatile, flexible work. Technological and societal changes are pushing us into wonderful new workplaces where employers invest in human capital, we’re no longer bound to our office cubicles and part time is getting the recognition it deserves.

Here are the Top 5 Workplace Trends to keep an eye on in 2012…


1. Pulling Away from Full Time, 9-to-5 in Favor of Part-Time Work that Works for You

For months we’ve been reporting on the upward rise in the part-time market as evidenced by the Australian Bureau of Statistics Labour Reports. In 2011, part-time employment increased in 8 out of the 12 months bringing it to 30% of the total workforce.

Whether it’s in the form of job share, 4-day work weeks, contract jobs or remote work, more Australians are searching for jobs that work for them and there is an army of well-qualified people out there prepared to work if they can only connect with the right employers for the right roles. And not only are more workers seeking out flexible work that fits around their families, class schedules, kids schedules, but employers are also realising the benefits of hiring part-time employees: better candidates, higher productivity, less financial responsibility, happier staff, the list goes on. Rather than hiring someone full time, when you don’t really need them all the time, more business owners and HR managers are realising there are plenty of quality candidates willing to work when they need them.

Full time, 9-to-5 is not the only option anymore and that will become even more apparent in 2012.


2. Teamwork & Open-Mindedness

Today’s workers want a compelling shared vision from their employers that speaks to their hearts and minds. Traditional, old-school or command-and-control approaches to managing people are becoming less effective as employees today want leaders with values like collaboration and shared purpose.

And people in the Noughties care less about job titles and positions and more about what their co-workers know and what they bring to the collective table. The new mindset is not about “playing your positions,” but that everyone chips in and does what is needed for the greater good.

Having a level of equality and open-mindedness where employees aren’t afraid to offer up ideas and suggestions can also lead to a fantastic office environment. Not every idea will be a winner, but shooting down one not-so-great idea may stifle the next stroke of genius you’ll never hear because the employee got stung the first time.

In fact, recent neurological research shows that that if an employee feels betrayed or unrecognized at work because they’re reprimanded, given an assignment that seems unworthy, or told to take a pay cut, they experience it as a neural impulse equivalent to a physical blow to the head. And, subsequently, they switch off and become purely transactional employees, reluctant to give more of themselves to the company, because the social context stands in their way. Certainly not the best way to encourage and motivate your staff in 2012!


3. Breaking the Shackles to our Cubicles

Cubicles and breakrooms are slowly disappearing as more employers adopt the virtual workplace where communication is instantaneous, but colleagues are no longer within arm’s reach.

The Cloud, smartphones and a host of other emerging technology are making “paperless offices” a reality. The downside is that without the confines of a four-wall office, people can feel on call (and under pressure) 24/7 but this is arguably a balance we’ll develop. The upside is with greater amounts of information and expertise to be shared and leveraged, employees are becoming known for who they know and can access, rather than how much time they log in the office – an important factor for working parents and ageing baby boomers who want to stay in the workforce but on a more flexible basis.

Hoteling is also becoming more common as employers look to reduce costs and use available space more efficiently. An alternative office style, hoteling is the practice of employees reserving desk space when needed rather than having a permanent spot. Not always a fan favourite among employees who can feel demoralised by the practice, employers may adopt remote work arrangements as a cost-cutting solution instead.


4. It’s All About Culture

Research shows customers patronize (and are often willing to spend more with) businesses that care about their staff and have a social conscious. The revenues, profit growth and ROI of companies with programs focusing on social responsibility are, on average, 10% greater than those of companies in the same sector without such programs.  (Watson Wyatt, 2008).

Realising not only the financial benefit of investing in company culture but the internal value, more and more companies are spending less on marketing and instead putting their time, energy and resources into their workplace.

Research shows that we no longer see work as a transactional or give-take situation, but a social system, like a family. Today’s employees are less motivated by money than feeling included, how they relate to their work and workplace and the fairness of their manager.

In fact, the top three reasons for choosing and staying with their Dream Employer in the 2011 Dream Employers report were: Culture, Work/Life Balance and Pay, Benefits and Conditions.


5. Diversity May Become the New “Green”

“Sustainable” is one of those new, old words we hear all the time. Well, here comes “Diversity” to take its place. As the benefits of diverse representation in the workplace mount up, more companies are making it a top priority.

From a customer relations perspective, companies need people inside their organizations who are representative of the people they are trying to reach outside. One reason harkens back to Trend #4: Customers Patronise Companies They Like. Another reason is what better way is there to appeal to your target market than to have an inside perspective: your employees!

Recent research from McKinsey and ION shows a correlation between having more women on corporate boards of directors and higher company earnings. A 2007 Managing Work/Life Balance International Survey, demonstrated that leading work-life employers in Australia reduce turnover by 15%, reduce absenteeism by 16%, and increase parental leave return rate by 40% on average. There is a wealth of information supporting the notion that improving diversity in the workplace has genuine implications for the country’s overall economic growth, as well as for individual economic well-being and equity. It’s a long road, but we’ll continue to get closer in 2012.


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