Trends in the Future Workplace

What will the future office look like, asks Peter O’Donnell, Chief Executive Officer, Unum 

It doesn’t seem five minutes ago since I penned my first article of the year and now we are rapidly approaching the end of 2014. With 2015 looming on the horizon, it is not only a time to reflect on the events of the last year, but to look to the future.

This year, many more businesses have gone through the auto enrolment process and brokers are beginning to look towards the next big thing. I imagine most of you have already given some thought to your plans for next year. With that in mind, I’d like to take this opportunity to share with you some of the insights from Unum-sponsored research, ‘The Future Workplace’ 

‘The Future Workplace’ looks into what the workplace would look like in 2030 and how employers need to recognise the trends occurring in order to retain and attract the best employees. And although 15 years may seem a long way off, some of the actions are already starting to happen.

The report from The Future Laboratory, surveyed 1,000 British workers and leading experts from the Future Laboratory’s Futures 100. They identified four key trends in how the future workplace will develop by becoming ageless, mindful, intuitive and collaborative.

The future workplace will see more workers returning to work after the state pension age, not because they have to, but because they want to. It’s predicted that the 2030 office will see mental wellbeing embedded in the culture of a company as well as being more intuitive to the needs and feelings of workers’ moods. In particular, the final trend of collaboration highlights the erosion of traditional business structures as companies operate with more flexible environments such as ‘hot desking’ and regularly changing teams to help foster collaboration.

Mental wellbeing in the workplace was identified as a key issue in the business of 2030, with companies needing to be far more aware of mental health and how to help employees manage their work/life balance.

A highly-revealing statistic from the study revealed that 73%1 of British workers feel they are expected to always be available for work. Technology has blurred the lines between the home and office. Recognising the problem, Volkswagen rewired their employees’ Blackberrys to ensure work emails were blocked 30 minutes after the end of their shift. These types of initiatives will continue in the future as employees try to reduce stress in the workplace, which according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s (CIPD) Absence Management Report for 2013 is one of the major causes of long term sickness absence.

From a personal point of view, I am particularly interested in the growth in the idea of the workplace as being ‘ageless’. This is the idea that you can work forever regardless of age and dovetails with the notion of ‘returnment’, where employees return to work after retiring or work beyond their anticipated retirement age.

The ageing workforce has been a recurring theme for group risk providers, given that older workers are more likely to have medical problems leading to absence than their younger counterparts. The challenge providers face is how to help businesses recognise the benefits that sick pay insurance and income protection will provide, and be appreciated by, the ageing workforce.

But how do the findings from the report affect you and your clients? At face value, companies who adopt a holistic approach to employee wellbeing and benefits will be the norm as employees become ever more demanding. In turn, this means that companies will be looking at ever more ways to improve the working environment. And in that environment, employee benefits will be a key component and as broker identifying this trend early can help give you a  competitive edge.

1The Future Laboratory, 2014

Peter O’Donnell
Chief Executive Officer