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The Future of Work: Emerging Workplace Trends

The 9-to-5, eight-hour workday became mainstream just a century ago. Since then, the international work landscape has seen many more changes brought about by technological advancement and social movements – it’s safe to say that the workplace will continue to evolve as we enter a new decade. Let’s examine some radical trends that are shaping the future of work.

Unlimited Holidays

It may sound too good to be true – especially in Hong Kong where minimum statutory annual leave starts at just seven days – but many companies like Dropbox and Netflix are already offering unlimited paid holidays to all of their employees. In companies that value results more than face time, this perk gives staff the flexibility to recharge whenever they need, resulting in a happier, more productive workforce. In practice, however, it may backfire – not because people take too much holiday, but rather the opposite. When workers are unsure how much time off is too much, they often end up taking fewer leave days for fear of being judged. The solution may be to provide clear guidelines on what’s expected, so no one feels guilty about taking the break they deserve.
Flat Organisational Structure
Imagine a company with no vertical hierarchy. In other words, everyone is equal. While most companies are structured like a pyramid, companies such as US-based online retailer Zappos and video game developer Valve have gotten rid of hierarchies and job titles entirely. With few to no levels of middle management, employees gains greater autonomy and a sense of ownership. It also speeds up the decision-making process as bureaucracy is minimised, so businesses can better adapt to the rapidly changing market. Sounds like a win-win strategy? Unfortunately, the flat structure also comes with its own flaws: workers may experience power struggles due to the lack of reporting lines, and the absence of middle management positions means fewer advancement opportunities.

Open Salaries

Once upon a time, it was a taboo to talk about pay. But now some international companies, including the likes of Whole Foods Market and social media marketing firm Buffer, are publicising their employees’ salaries for all to see. The rationale behind this seemingly odd policy is that it maximises transparency to reduce wage gaps, making it an effective tool to eliminate age, gender and racial discrimination. It also holds senior management accountable by substantiating their high pay rates. But of course, all the reasons why we’re sometimes advised to keep the details of our incomes hush-hush remain – the jealousy and resentment such knowledge might cause – so this policy remains controversial.
Four-Day Work Week
Extended weekends are no longer a fantasy at companies like Microsoft and Shake Shack, who have been experimenting with the four-day work week. The idea is that by shortening the business week, employees become more efficient and motivated at work. The results seem promising: Microsoft announced that productivity at their Japanese offices had increased by a whopping 40 percent, while significant improvement in employee work-life balance was shown. But when it comes to implementation, one glove doesn’t fit all. Some companies extend each work day, while some adopt a flexible schedule to manage the seasonal ebbs and flows. The bottom line for this to work is for employees to have a say in what works best for them.
Do Good Business
We live in an age where environmental and social issues are more visible than ever, but the good news is that people, and therefore businesses, are also more aware of these problems. Today’s consumer cares not only about products or services, but also about how businesses reinvest their profits. This is why more and more enterprises are incorporating social responsibility into their brand strategies – as people increasingly make more responsible choices by shopping at and doing business with organisations committed to giving back, ultimately companies that are willing to do good will do better than those who only care about maximising profits.

Would you change anything about your work life? Check out our office wish list for more ideas!
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