The key trends for the future that are shaping the workplace today


The way we work is forever changing. New technologies and trends that came into force in 2019 have had a significant impact on the world of work. 5G is already speeding up day to day tasks, employee wellbeing has become a key focus for businesses, workers are demanding more flexibility and a whole new generation has joined the workforce.

Damien Sheehan, Country Head for IWG Australia

Featured | Workplace

By Damien Sheehan

The way we work is forever changing. New technologies and trends that came into force in 2019 have had a significant impact on the workplace. 5G is already speeding up day to day tasks, employee wellbeing has become a key focus for businesses, workers are demanding more flexibility and a whole new generation has joined the workforce.

For businesses looking to gain a competitive edge or win the battle for top talent, recognising and exploiting these movements may be what sets them apart in the year ahead.

Employee wellbeing is no longer a nice-to-have

Employee wellbeing has been an area of increased focus for businesses in 2019. There has been an increased awareness of burnout at work and the detrimental effect this can have on physical and mental health. A recent Levell study found that as many as 60% of workers in the US and UK are experiencing stress and exhaustion in the workplace, with the same amount (60%) stating that their performance drops as a result of chronic stress and burnout in the workplace. In Australia, a new study released by Superfriend found that half of all Australian workers have experienced a mental illness – and 43% of those say their workplace caused it.

So how do businesses tackle burnout and re-engage employees? One method that has gained attention is practising mindfulness at work, with firms like McKinsey, Nike, Google and Apple all implementing programmes ranging from meditation to courses of cognitive behavioural training. These techniques can refocus and relax employees, with neurological studies showing that meditation can increase the areas of the brain that can regulate emotion, improve attention span, increase job performance and productivity as well as improving job satisfaction at work.

Workers worldwide demand flexibility

Today, the option for flexible working is not just wanted by workers, but demanded, with 62% of businesses worldwide now offering a flexible working policy. Flexible working has emerged as a super trend and it is here to not only stay but grow.

Rapid technological advancements and the growing globalisation of the workplace have enabled this movement to expand. Flexible working embraces employees’ differences and allows them the freedom to work in a way that suits them, from starting earlier or later, to working from outside of the office. When firms allow their people more autonomy over their working day it increases employee satisfaction, workforce retention, loyalty and wellbeing.

Flexible working policies benefit employers as well, with the IWG global workspace survey finding that most business leaders believe these policies improve workplace efficiency, with over two-thirds claiming they increase productivity by 20% or more. Not only this, but employees that take advantage of flexible working policies are shown to be absent less often, as they are able to adjust their work schedule in line with their life outside of work.

Generation Z join the workforce

This year saw Generation Z enter the workforce for the first time. They are known as the first fully digital generation with studies showing that 60% of Generation Z prefer to learn through YouTube tutorials and videos. This presents a new challenge for HR, who will need to adapt existing training to incorporate more visual methods in order to engage with these social media natives.

Read more: LinkedIn reveals the top 15 emerging jobs for 2020

Generation Z also have different outlooks and ideals compared to their predecessors. A recent Deloitte report stated that they place more emphasis on diversity, and particularly LGBT identity and religion, than their elders. Businesses can no longer rely on favourable reputation and social responsibility alone but need to demonstrate equality and care for their workforce to attract the top Gen Z talent.

5G speeds up the workplace

This year the world was introduced to 5G networks, promising firms significantly faster connection speeds, quicker response times and greater reliability than the veteran 4G networks. This new generation technology will see lag time become almost none existent, with data being shared in close to real time. Businesses will be able to perform more complex tasks with the speed and power opening up new, immersive possibilities. 5G will also help with the digitalisation and automation of more processes to support new levels of productivity for firms.

Despite 5G still being in its infancy, those able to adapt and adopt ahead of the competition will reap the rewards in the future.

Flexible workspaces

Flexibility has been the word of 2019, with flexible workspaces also growing in importance for businesses. They offer people the ability to work from an environment that suits them, whether that be an office closer to home to reduce their commute, or in a building that they love in their favourite city.

Giving employees the chance to work from flexible workspaces has been shown to increase productivity, with 54% of employees saying that remote working enables them to get more done.

Research from IWG’s annual Global Workspace Survey also revealed that 65% of people believe that being able to tailor their work environment makes them more productive. A win-win opportunity for organisations in 2020, particularly in Australia where 74% of workers now believe flexible working is the ‘new normal’.

2020 opportunities

By utilising technology, supporting wellbeing and encouraging flexible working, new generations can keep up with the evolution of the modern workplace. This will help benefit both businesses and their employees, by improving productivity, profitability and employee wellbeing.

The pace of change across all aspects of our lives can seem incredible, especially in a world where 5G enables instant connections. Businesses must be alive to these changes and think about how they can exploit them to gain competitive advantage and attract the top talent. Those that don’t may not be around to see next year’s trends.

Read more about how the world of work is changing here.


Damien Sheehan is the Country Head for IWG Australia. He has lived and worked across a number of continents including Oceania, North and South Asia, USA, Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa markets. Damien graduated from the Helsinki School of Economics in Singapore and the SP Jain Centre of Management in Dubai.

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