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5 workplace trends to spot in 2016

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2016 is shaping up to be a bellwether year, if forecasts from prognosticators merit any credence.

Such trends as wellness initiatives, workplace flexibility and the rethinking of office space are going to accelerate and perhaps dominate the corporate landscape in the year to come. Or so says an outlook piece from Staples Advantage.

Staples based its predictions on qualitative and quantitative materials, drawing upon surveys it has commissioned and its ongoing feedback from its extensive client base.

So, with no further introduction, here are the big five for 2016 from Staples:

Wellness widget

Staples thinks employers are going to zero in on wellness program design and results in 2016. They’ve had enough experience to know intuitively that wellness initiatives can accomplish the double aim of a healthier, happier workforce and lower health care costs. Now, it’s time to fine-tune these programs so that true metrics can be established and outcomes can be iterative.

“Employers will invest in wellness initiatives that power employee productivity and help control health care costs, as employee burnout erodes productivity and rising health care costs continue to chip away at the bottom line. At a time when 66 percent of employees claim burnout is eroding their productivity, wellness efforts that focus on physical and mental wellness enhance employee health and productivity,” Staples says. 

See also: 10 of the hardest working cities in America

Flexible freelancers

In its forecast, Staples addresses an often-overlooked body of workers: freelancers, who comprise an ever larger portion of the workforce. Freed by health care reform from the bondage of employer-sponsored health coverage, this segment is now growing as more employers embrace flexible work options.

Flexible schedules have been shown to make people happier, and employers who integrate more freelancers into their workflow benefit by reducing benefits costs and reconfiguring workspaces, thereby cutting real estate overhead.

“Desire for workplace flexibility will continue to drive the freelance economy. Among part-time freelancers, nearly half acknowledged they would quit their primary job to freelance full time to achieve more work flexibility,” Staples reports.

See also: The new “gig” deal for financial reps

The space race

Corporate real estate will be high on the agenda of many cutting-edge employers in 2016. First, they will be looking to “right-size” space to accommodate a more mobile workforce through such tactics as hot desking and hoteling.

Second, they will be responding to the views being expressed by employees to work in an environment that enhances productivity.

“There will be a reconfiguration of the traditional office space to serve multiple functions and accommodate a diverse, mobile workforce. Nearly half of employees would like more attention paid to office design, and as the physical workspace needs to accommodate an increasingly diverse, mobile workforce, a reconfiguration of the physical office will become a need, not just a want,” Staples predicts.

See also: 4 more ways to create a culture of success

Selling sustainability

2016 will mark the migration of the sustainable brand from marketing to recruitment, Staples says. It’s such a powerful branding element that smart employers will integrate it into their talent acquisition and retention programs.

“Employers will begin to leverage sustainability as a recruitment tool, rather than just a CSR and reputation management initiative. While CSR and reputation are the biggest drivers of sustainability efforts today, it’s likely they will be front and center in recruitment strategies as 68 percent of employees acknowledge sustainability is an important factor when making an employment decision,” Staples says.

See also: How to retain and engage millennials with the right company culture

Tech for telecommuters

Telecommuting has crossed the threshold from a privilege bestowed upon the few to a workplace expectation. Managers have found it does not, in most cases, undermine productivity, but actually leads to greater productivity overall.

However, effective telecommuting systems require office technology that allows workers to access what they need from anywhere, at any time. Companies in the know will happily make those investments in 2016.

“The majority of telecommuters say that telecommuting improves work-life balance, work productivity, and their overall happiness. As more and more employees work outside the physical office, and nearly two-third of employees attribute poorly performing technology to decreased productivity, employers will need to ensure they have the right technology in place to maximize ROI of their technology investments and enable a more flexible work model,” Staples says.

See also:

Does your culture eat your strategy for breakfast?

12 cool an unusual company benefits

Why work-life balance is the wrong idea

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