Employees matter, offices get redesigned and other trends to look forward to in 2013

As the nation recovers from the recession, changes lie ahead

The Miami HeraldDecember 29, 2012 

As the country recovers from a recession, our workplaces are moving forward in new ways with new rules. Changes are afoot from how our offices look to who runs them and what equipment will be used.

Here are the trends to expect in 2013:

Employee engagement returns. There’s no polite way to say it – workers have had it. In 2012, we lost our happy-to-have-a-job mind-set, and now we want appreciation. For some of us, it’s been a few years since we’ve had a raise or bonus. An survey in October by MSW Research and Dale Carnegie Training found a mere 29 percent of employees are fully engaged. Experts say if our employers want us more engaged, they need to boost our confidence in senior management and look for ways to reward us. “Companies are going to have to decide, ‘Do we want to invest in our people again?’ ” said John Hollon, vice president for editorial at TLNT.com, which follows workplace trends. “They will need to reconnect with workers in ways they haven’t had to worry about for about five years now.”

The embrace of lifelong learning. It hasn’t been easy, but American workers finally realize we need to take control of our careers. Most companies cut way back on training and on reimbursement for education at the same time that we discovered a need to add to our skills toolbox. Being the top sales associate, or even the best doctor, now means we have to keep up with new technology, trends and approaches, and we have to do it on our own time and on our own dime.

Flexibility reigns. Sure, we want to be paid well. But more importantly, we want to know that our employers “get it.” We want the day-to-day flexibility in how, when and where we work to better manage our lives. This year, we even saw reports that claim almost half of all workers would give up some of their salary to get more flexibility. We also saw smart employers of all sizes begin to position flexible work as part of their culture. Guillermo Rotman, president of Regus Americas, predicts that more businesses will offer their employees flexible work options going forward, particularly as technology untethers us from our desks.

Wellness programs will rise. Our employers really do care whether we eat that doughnut or go for the apple. They care so much, in fact, that more are willing to pay us to lose weight or participate in a wellness program. Expect this trend, which started a few year ago, to get even more attention because the Affordable Care Act will expand the ability of employers to reward workers who achieve health improvement goals.

Overtime gets scrutinized. Is stopping on the way in for doughnuts for co-workers considered on-the-clock time? It could be. Companies are running into trouble with workers who claim there’s a rampant disregard for overtime pay provisions. In 2012, employees filed more than 7,000 federal lawsuits, commonly known as wage-and-hour cases, against their employers or former employers. Losing these cases proved costly for some employers, and lawyers say they see such lawsuits continuing in 2013, along with a new interest in management training on what counts as a violation.

Workplaces redesigned. Our workspaces are changing along with our work habits. As collaboration becomes more important, we are finding that workplaces that allow for sharing ideas are the new norm – open floor plans and collaborative work environments, standing work stations and dual monitors. We also see increases in shared office space and virtual offices, preparing us to say goodbye to cubicles of the past and look forward to opportunities for better networking. And while we’re at it, we likely will be bringing our own devices with us to the office of the future. A Cisco study showed a staggering 95 percent of organizations permit employee-owned devices in the workplace. This includes laptops, tablets and smartphones.

Leading organizations recognize the challenges and opportunities that these trends bring. For most, the belt-tightening is over, and 2013 will be the year to refocus on top talent and move forward together.

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