Kelly is a former Google Tech Entrepreneur and Apple Developer who has counseled businesses of all sizes and growth stages. You can find her expertise across Fit Small Business in marketing, business website, and business trend content.
Remember when we all gathered at our desks at 9 a.m., uncaffeinated and cranky, then checked the clock every five minutes until our glorious 5 p.m. release?
Turns out that the traditional nine-to-five rigamarole is going the way of unlimited PTO, onsite daycare — heck, even drug screenings. They’re all old news for companies trying to appeal to younger generations that want more flexibility and freedom. More people enjoy watching a video rather than reading, it would be a good contxent idea to post it on visual platforms such as Youtube. Don’t waste time trying to get noticed, instead buy youtube subscribers.
And what’s new? Well, that’s part of what we uncovered in our study of the top workplace trends of 2019. Our full list of what’s in and what’s out is below, but suffice it to say the newest trends are grounded in the younger generations’ love of wellness and technology. Is anyone surprised?
a graphic showing old and new trends in the workplace.
Workplace Trends: What’s In & What’s Out in 2019
5 Old & Tired Workplace Trends
Here are five old and tired workplace trends fading in 2019:
- Unlimited PTO
a photo of a woman in a sunhat lounging in a pool
Old workplace trend: Unlimited PTO
Unlimited paid time off sounds like a dream come true — but it turns out it’s a false positive. There are many anecdotal examples of unlimited PTO going awry, but The Washington Post gets to the heart of the real issue: With an infinite number of days off, workers are inclined to take less PTO. They’re not clear on company expectations and to ensure they don’t jeopardize their jobs by taking too much time off, they simply don’t take enough time off. The resulting burnout rate has been enough to push companies to reconsider unlimited PTO policy.
Employers have also faced unforeseen legal issues that arise with unlimited PTO. When an employee leaves a company, they are typically entitled to a payout of accrued, unused PTO — but how does that work if you have unlimited PTO? The legal and financial ambiguities here are even more reason why infinite time off is not as appealing as it once was.
- Pre-Employment Drug Testing
a photo of pre-employment drug test urine sample
Old workplace trend: Pre-employment drug testing
No more peeing in a cup after your interview; the practice of pre-employment drug testing is becoming a thing of the past, according to Bloomberg. This is in large part due to the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana across the country, but it’s also the result of a tight job market wherein companies are struggling to find and attract top talent.
Plus, there’s been a larger concern about how drug testing affects company morale — arguably a bigger con than finding someone on staff who smokes a joint now and again. To avoid the distrust of employees or job candidates that drug testing conveys, non-safety-work employees are increasingly being judged only on the merits of their work. It should be noted, however, that drug testing is still in full force for positions related to safety and security; there are laws around these companies that simply can’t skirt.
- Onsite Childcare
A photo of a child playing with oversized blocks
Dying workplace trend: On-site childcare
Big company campuses may resemble playgrounds these days — what with multi-story yoga studios, climbing walls, and fitness centers — but they’re only for adults. It turns out that onsite child daycare facilities at companies across all industries have been in decline since the mid-’90s, when, according to the 2019 SHRM Benefits Report, 9% of companies offered on-site childcare, compared to just 2% by 2016.
So who’s dropping daycare? Tech giant Apple for one; in fact, many employees were disappointed when Apple’s $5 billion campus opened with just about everything but onsite childcare, according to Slate. More recently, Nike announced that it would close down its onsite daycare facility in Beaverton, Oregon, and instead, offer offsite childcare, according to The Oregonian.
- The 9-to-5 Schedule
a man working at a traditional office setting
Old workplace trend: The 9 to 5 schedule
Once upon a time, we set our internal clocks (and coffee runs) by the nine-to-five work routine. It was a given. Well, that is, until it wasn’t. According to The World Economic Forum, flexible work schedules will be one of the biggest factors of workplace change as we slide into 2020. The nine-to-five, meanwhile, will likely become far less of a norm. That’s good news for non-morning people who are eager to drop the traditional workday, but the reasoning has more to do with tech development and the cost of living increases than our sleep habits.
Significant increases in the cost of living in major urban areas, matched with stagnating wages, means a lot of employees are moving further away from cities and into more affordable areas. This makes maintaining a typical work commute and, therefore, a typical workday, more difficult. Add to this the concomitant development of remote work tech, and you have a marked shift from set in-office hours to flexible schedules.
- Open Floorplan Offices
an example of an open floor plan office space
Old workplace trend: The open-plan office
Offices have been flip-flopping between open-plan offices and cubicles for the last 50 years — at least. Sure, bright and airy, communal-style office spaces looked friendly — compared to isolating cubicles — but breaking down walls between staff has actually hampered productivity, according to The Washington Post. So what’s happening instead? Offices are creating pods — unadorned, small spaces that nonetheless give workers privacy and the ability to concentrate.
There is some bad news here, though. While studies and first-person accounts continually show that open floor plans offer more distractions and hamper interaction, companies are actually considering a frightening new design: the deskless office. Let’s just hope the pods work out.
5 New & Hot Workplace Trends
Here are five new and hot workplace trends in 2019:
- Gender-Neutral Bathrooms
the door to a gender-neutral restroom
New workplace trend: Gender-neutral bathrooms
Antiquated gender-segregated bathrooms born in the 1800s are becoming a thing of the past; more cities and establishments are trading in the gender-based bathrooms for gender-neutral bathrooms. Heck, there’s an app available that can help you find gender-neutral bathrooms in your location.
Non-binary bathrooms come packed with perks that have nothing to do with gender, from single toilet rooms that better accommodate those with physical disabilities to added privacy on the toilet that anyone would prefer. All in all, as the focus on transgender equality in the workplace grows, the emphasis on all-inclusive bathrooms is likely to grow.
- Emotional Support Animals in the Workplace
a photo of an emotional support animal in an office
New workplace trend: More emotional support animals in the office
A happier workplace starts with happier employees, and animals tend to make employees happy. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, mental illness affects tens of millions of people in the U.S., and to help, more people are turning to furry friends as emotional support animals. In fact, since 2011, the National Service Animal Registry reported an 8,000% increase in service and emotional support animals on its registry, according to the New York Times — and people are taking them everywhere, including work.
As The New York Times notes, there has been some pushback on the proliferation of emotional support animals, but the ADA requires employers to provide “reasonable accommodation” to employees, which may include allowing them to bring a service or emotional support animal to work with them. With legal protections in place, you can bet we’ll see more Fluffies in the break room.
- Offices Put AI to Work
two office employees interacting with an AI powered robotic assistant
New workplace trend: Artificial Intelligence gets to work in the office
The idea of AI in the office may induce visions of [heartless] robotic colleagues, but there’s more to it than that. AI tools make our lives easier and our jobs more fulfilling — by streamlining mundane tasks and taking rote jobs off our plate so we can focus on more important things. A Robert Half study predicted that AI will be the focus of the next 10 years or so, with a large focus on increasing productivity and decreasing job error.
Artificial intelligence is real and it’s likely to be coming to an office near you—if it hasn’t already. Nearly 40% of companies already use AI in the office and in just the past four years, the adoption rate of AI within enterprises grew 270%, according to Gartner. No question: AI is quickly becoming an essential tool of modern life and business.
- Wearable Technology For Safety & Wellness
a photo of a user interacting with a smartwatch
New workplace trend: Wearable technology
Workplace safety is hardly a trend, but what is trending in 2019 is the use of wearable technology in the workplace for safety purposes, such as monitoring radio frequency levels between staff and machines. Not only is the use of wearable devices estimated to increase by over 25% from 2018 to 2019, according to a report from Gartner Inc., a leading research and advisory company, but part of that is the application of wearable safety technology.
By 2020, PwC estimates that there will be over 75 million wearables in the workplace worldwide. Advances continue to be made in the field of wearable technology with new sensor systems and devices designed to help employees stay safe in the workplace — particularly for those working in dangerous fields such as manufacturing, construction, oil, and mining.
- Onsite Electric Vehicle Charging Stations
a photo of parking spaces with electric charging stations
New workplace trend: On-site electric vehicle charging stations
The demand for electric cars is growing quickly, according to NPR, and with that, so is demand for electric vehicle (EV) charging stations. The limited range on a single charge used to be a leading cause of concern for auto buyers, but the number of public EV charging stations rose to over 27,000 across the U.S, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. To boot, there are almost twice the number of electric vehicle charging stations offered by organizations and businesses in 2019 compared to 2015, according to the 2019 SHRM Employee Benefits Report.
So where are these EV stations showing up? Anywhere there’s space to park — including garages, parking lots, and side streets. The cost is, in the grand scheme of things, not all that high for big businesses, either; installation of a charging station can be as little as $500.
As younger generations enter the workforce and their needs change, so do workplace trends. What once seemed to serve the average employee — including a nine-to-five schedule, open floor plans, and unlimited PTO — has been replaced by a new set of trends that lean heavily on developing technology and a generational focus on wellness. The question is: Will these trends continue into 2020?