Predictions for the changing workplace in 2018

by Roy Pereira

The new year is just around the corner. As we say goodbye to 2017, we’re reflecting on the year and the trends reshaping the nature of our work and workplaces.

The primary catalyst for these shifts continues to be technological – the increasing use and scale of tech solutions to traditional and modern workplace challenges. We are beginning to advance beyond the connected work apps and online platforms of the last five years. At this point, we’re moving past not only the workplace of the last century but that of even the past 10 or 20 years, as we rapidly shift into new organizational norms.

I believe that 2018 heralds an interesting shift for the enterprise; both workers and their relationship with the workplace will change, and there are some key things to be aware of.

Here’s what I anticipate impacting the workplace in the year to come.

  1. The focus on employee engagement will skyrocket

Building a notable experience for employees is something that has been championed for the last few years, and it won’t be stopping anytime soon. Employees who feel more connected, engaged and happy at work drive greater results, and facilitating this has become a top priority. In the last year, we’ve seen a lot of enterprise firms getting flexible with their approach to employee work-life balance. They’ve taken a page out of the startup playbook and have adopted some of the more casual approaches to work and workplace rules.

In 2018, efforts to engage staff will be given a major boost by smart digital tools. For example, via machine learning, companies are now parsing language used on workplace chat platforms and even within employee emails to analyze sentiment for temperament, and doing so at an office-wide level. Such tools allow HR to better monitor and react to office culture and engagement, with the ultimate goal of facilitating a greater work-life balance. I expect this to become the norm as new tools can read more telltale signals. In 2018, it will be up to the organization to research whether such engagement tech is right for your HR challenges.

  1. More human spaces, more collaboration

How can smart tools using AI make work better? Although we don’t have an definitive answer yet, we are seeing movement with the application of AI software to areas with a direct impact on our workplace mood and empathy levels. This extends to the physical design of our offices, to ensure they are more collaborative and human-centric. It can also include assistants that can engage with our chat and emails as we write them and notify us if we’re coming off as unprofessional.

Meanwhile, the emphasis and importance of collaboration is rising as the micro-jobs that eat up our workday are increasingly automated. When simple, everyday tasks like booking meetings, transcribing calls and drafting routine documents no longer take up so much time, we free up more time for creative, deep-level work. This means more value is being placed on employee empathy and collaboration, which is becoming a key factor in performance. Both these trends are going to take a bigger piece of the pie in 2018, and workplaces that employ these will find success, not only with their business goals, but with employee satisfaction.

  1. App overload and fatigue  

Once heralded as a workplace time-saver, apps and SaaS online platforms have become as standard in our jobs as Microsoft Office. While they’ve saved time and added some great new tools to our toolbox, they are also increasingly making work more challenging by giving us more programs to juggle, windows to click through, passwords remember and making vital information scattered and difficult to retrieve.

This overload will be difficult to stop in 2018. But we’re seeing the rise of an exciting new solution: the use of AI-powered assistants that can quickly plug into the various apps and platforms we already use, and retrieve the information we need on demand. With developments in natural language processing (NLP), we can now chat through text with a helper bot, ask questions about our information sources and retrieve it, all in plain English.

  1. Inclusion takes centre stage

2017 saw many corporate scandals around diversity and inclusivity, expanding the need for more awareness and calls for change. As the discussion and expectation around diversity and inclusivity grow, we’re seeing executive teams make some major reforms to modernize their workplace culture. This will be a significant priority next year, not only in response to the public scandals but also because more inclusive, diverse organizations have a record of higher productivity. These workplaces are now recognized as better for innovation and new ideas (and more attractive to Millennial and Gen Z hires).

A good place to start building a company culture that lasts is with HR. A company’s HR department should be acutely aware of the new tech available that helps not only eliminate unconscious bias in recruiting practices, but helps reinvent the HR department. You can now have your job posting analyzed by AI, which might suggest more inclusive language, and another that can help screen candidates more equitably.  This trend is only beginning, and every HR department should be evaluated for fit.

  1. Remote working is the norm

In the past, the idea of having an employee work from home once elicited raised eyebrows and quiet skepticism, but those days are long gone as leading workplaces now treat remote work as a standard feature. Working from home, or working remotely will not only let employees find more productivity, but it also allows for a truly global workforce that provides a deep bench of talent.

Thanks to digital tools and widespread internet, remote working has slowly become the poster child of the future of work. 2018 will see remote work become the standard and we expect a majority of enterprises to have a constant chunk of their staff permanently off-site. Workplace tech stacks will adapt to this new reality (thanks, Slack!), and as more software migrates to the cloud, with files accessible 24/7, we’ll see remote working grow by leaps and bounds.

This trend will be accelerated by the new smart tools giving remote workers abilities that would previously have required an employee’s presence in the office. The range of remote applications will continue its exponential growth and is something the modern enterprise must be aware of and willing to adapt to.

  1. Deeper insights

In 2018, knowledge workers will be equipped with tools that allow them to access more profound data insights, better analyze business intelligence, and increase collaboration with their peers.

The last two years brought AI to everyone’s to-do lists, and 2018 will see it move up to ‘priority’ status as third-party apps and integrations, rooted in AI, increasingly prove their value. There will be an increased value placed on tools that allow employees to quickly and easily parse through data and fit into the data-driven world. 2018 will usher in the era of business intelligence beyond the usual, helping employees rapidly analyze and assemble success metrics with a click of a button.

As technology has grown by leaps and bounds, so has the employee experience. The interconnectivity of the digital workplace is facilitating a shift towards a more equitable, connected and data-driven workplace. 2018 will further drive the change and be another monumental year for employers, workers and their relationship with the workplace. Our advice for 2018: enterprises and HR teams should stay aware of upcoming shifts to really understand how to use data, insights and emerging tech properly.


Image credit: Photo courtesy of Women of Color in Tech Chat.