Workplaces are constantly evolving. For ages, the most common office layout gave each employee his or her individual workspace, whether it was a cubicle or a standalone office. In the new millennium, the trend moved toward open-concept workplaces, with everyone doing their work in a wide-open room and sometimes even at one giant common table. In recent years, more businesses have been reverting to individual workspaces or a mix of common spaces and individual spaces to remedy the productivity concerns of putting everyone in the same room.
Fluctuations in workplace trends occur constantly as individual businesses decide what works best for them and their employees. While the isolation vs. collaboration argument is a classic workplace design conundrum, not all fluctuations are driven by these push-and-pull debates. New trends emerge every year to trigger a wave of evolution in the modern office environment. Here are five of the trends that are shaping workplaces in 2017.
1. An emphasis on creating superior candidate experiences
According to Dr. Andrew Chamberlain, Glassdoor's chief economist, 2016 saw 180,000 new jobs a month in the United States. That statistic shows that the job market hasn’t just recovered from the 2008 economic collapse but is booming. The growth in the job market means that employers are now competing for candidates instead of the other way around. As such, it’s become more important for employers to offer convenient and engaging candidate experiences.
By implementing faster and more intuitive online applications, supporting non-traditional application strategies (such as video resumes), and stressing personal communication with applicants, employers are going to greater lengths to win over top-tier talent. Employers are also working to “sell” their workplaces to potential hires more than they have in the past by showcasing the workplace outside of the interview room and introducing candidates to team members on the spot.
2. A focus on workplace wellness
More employers are becoming conscious of the fact that spending an entire day at the office—usually sitting at a desk and in front of a computer screen—is not ideal for employee health, morale, or innovation. There has been a drive to create workplaces that promote wellness in multiple ways, from trading out old furniture for ergonomic alternatives to doing away with fluorescent lighting. Many companies have also instituted workplace wellness programs, which make health coaching, clinical care, and other health services available to employees. Don’t be surprised to see more on-site company gyms over the next few years.
3. Shrinking office spaces; growing remote workforces
Between the gig economy and the evolution of technology, businesses are either contracting out more responsibilities or giving employees more freedom to work remotely. These factors create another workplace trend: the shrinking office space. More businesses are finding that they can save money by expanding their remote workforces and consolidating office space. Especially in big cities where rent prices are high, this strategy can deliver huge savings while also giving workers more flexibility in where to work and how to structure their schedules. Not all companies are willing to go this route and some, like companies that meet with clients and customers in person on a regular basis, can’t. However, for many companies, embracing technology and allowing employees to work remotely has opened up new avenues for success.
4. Casual workplace attire
Millennials have been taking up an ever-increasing role in the workplace over the past few years, and even the members of Generation Z have begun joining the workforce. For the most part, people from these younger generations have had minimal reason to adopt formal or semi-formal wardrobes in their lifetimes. Millennial men, for instance, don’t wear suits and ties. It’s more common to see a millennial male in the workplace wearing a polo and khakis, but even that wardrobe might be a bit formal going forward. Between remote workers and younger employees who have never dressed formally in their lives, the idea of a “business formal” wardrobe is slowly going the way of the dinosaur.
Accelerating this trend is job searchers who have more power thanks to the burgeoning job market and have the means to make their voices heard. While a business casual dress code that allows employees to wear jeans and t-shirts isn’t likely to be a make-or-break factor for candidates in 2017, it will certainly be seen as a perk.
5. A return to more traditional workplace benefits
For a few years, it was common to hear about unusual or exotic workplace benefits—especially at big corporations trying to attract the best and the brightest. Employers have experimented by offering their candidates everything from gym memberships to charitable donations made in their names. Such perks seemed attractive at first but have mostly turned out to be little more than gimmicks according to employee accounts. At the end of the day, most job searchers want the perks that will have the most noticeable long-term benefits for themselves and their families.
Regarding the benefits that actually accomplish those goals, employers haven’t found anything that job searchers want as much as health insurance, retirement savings, and ample paid vacation days. More and more businesses are returning to these benefits, having learned the mantra “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Remember that nothing is static when it comes to workplaces or hiring. Technology, the economy, and even social psychology can take something that is on-trend in the workplace one year and renders it obsolete the next. Candidates today expect more out of their employers than they once did, and that expectation includes things like wellness, attractive benefits packages, flexibility, and work-life balance. Taking these trends into account for your own workplace can go a long way toward helping you attract the best candidates.
Michael Klazema has been developing products for criminal background check and improving online customer experiences in the background screening industry since 2009. He is the lead author and editor for Backgroundchecks.com. He lives in Dallas, TX with his family and enjoys the rich culinary histories of various old and new world countries.