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6 Trends Shaping Today’s Workplace

Michelle Delcambre and Armen Vartanian

We’ve heard it all before. Headlines have long heralded “a workplace revolution.” But today, that buzz is finally taking form. Grey cubicles, rigid work hours, and clunky on-premises frameworks are being usurped by more flexible policies.

This ethos of liberation extends to technology too — the cloud, identity-driven security, and user-centric apps are ushering in a new era of working anywhere, anytime.

So if that’s what today’s workplace looks like, then what about tomorrow’s? As organizations compete to attract (and retain) talent, expect plenty of movement within these six important areas.

Even greater flexibility for a new generation

Millennials already account for the majority of the modern workforce, and 47% of them freelance. They seek diversified working experiences and fuel the gig economy. Organizations must not only provide sustainable and rewarding in-office environments, they should also provide the freedom to work anywhere.

With over four million Americans already doing most of their work remotely, companies are shifting to accommodate this highly distributed workforce. Employees can communicate on best-of-breed apps like Slack to streamline collaboration, and embrace work-from-anywhere policies enabled by identity providers like Okta. And while organizations like IBM (and Yahoo! before them) made waves when scaling back on remote working, the majority — like Okta and Automattic — are embracing it.

Additionally, SaaS apps will enable continued growth for workplace flexibility as a new generation of employees come to demand it. Okta’s 2018 Businesses @ Work report found that flexibility-enhancing apps like Zoom, Cisco Spark, and Workplace by Facebook are all growing rapidly — with all three appearing in the top five growing apps list.

Always-on security

With the rise of flexible, remote working comes an array of new of security challenges, something  Jamf CEO Dean Hager knows: “Back in the day, securing the enterprise meant keeping people out of your network. Today, users want to use the devices they want. They want data to be available on all those devices. They want choice, flexibility, access, mobility, and privacy.”

Furthermore, the implementation of Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) holds organizations increasingly accountable for the privacy of users’ data. To address both privacy and security concerns in a borderless work environment, companies are investing heavily in security tools like Okta, Cloudflare, DigiCert, Mimecast, and Sophos.

They’re also putting greater investment into utilizing identity as a security factor, strengthening outdated password policies with adaptive multi-factor authentication. This helps organizations meet regulatory requirements without having to compromise the user experience.

Wellness first

In recent years, a more holistic approach to employee well-being has emerged; focusing not only on physical vitality, but also on mental health.

Reports show that one in six adults in the US live with mental illness, and the annual cost to the global economy runs into the trillions. Accordingly, companies are moving to encourage employees to practice self-care in all its forms.

Take Johnson & Johnson’s approach to wellness and prevention. Their ethos is that all employees should have access to programs that support healthy living, offering health assessments, preventative care, digital health tools, fitness classes, and assistance for major life issues as standard. This broad-ranging approach to health has resulted in lower spending and a stronger ROI — improving workers’ productivity while saving millions.

But employee wellness isn’t only informed by the approach of an office, it’s informed by its design as well. Aside from fostering a supportive, team-driven environment, embracing the role the physical office plays in mental wellness is key. Think biophilic designs, swathes of natural light, and ample green-space to echo nature — and all its benefits.

A tipping point for equality

As Iceland becomes the first country to make gender pay inequality illegal, the subject will become top-of-agenda for organizations dedicated to offering a fair workplace based on trust.

But it has to go further than that. While women make up 47% of the entry-level workforce, they still only account for one in five C-Suite leaders. Women of color? Only one in 30. When it comes to a widespread change, scale and sector lose meaning, and only action holds value in the eyes of employees and investors.

Some may already model an exemplary approach, offering equality in both pay and policy. But every organization will take pause in the current paradigm shift to evaluate and clarify their dedication to an indiscriminate working environment: performing audits on workplace practices, revisiting their recruitment process, and communicating their stance across the board to show employees their universal value.

Remote career development

According to Gallup, millennials rank development opportunities above all other considerations when it comes to their jobs, and companies that fail to recognize this are footing the bill. This generation’s high turnover alone is estimated to cost the US economy in excess of $30 billion each year. But as expectations for flexibility remain front-and-center, how can you develop and upskill a remote workforce?

“E-learning will be big as teams grow, and we recognize we can’t (hold) physical classes everywhere,” says Jen Ryan, Okta’s learning and development partner. And it’s true: companies are investing in video conferencing as an enabler of collaboration and multi-platform training.  Online learning leaders like Lynda.com or Coursera fill the wider gap, arming the workforce with the increasingly niche skill-sets required to remain competitive without impacting organizations with the high costs of in-person training.

More thoughtful perks

According to a survey conducted by Glassdoor, almost 80 percent of employees would prefer new or additional benefits over a raise, with over half of all job seekers naming benefits and perks among their top considerations in accepting a job.

Work-from-home Fridays, unlimited time off, and foosball tables all sweeten the deal, but leading employers are offering increasingly customized perks. Airbnb has a travel stipend; Genentech’s onsite services include car washes, haircuts, and spa treatments; Netflix offers unlimited parental leave, and Spotify offers free concerts and fertility assistance.

Seem excessive? Not so for companies fighting to attract top talent. After all, a better employee experience fosters a sense of loyalty, increases engagement, and boosts productivity. Indeed, today’s employees are not simply looking for added perks — they are weighing every aspect of the workplace experience: what work they’ll be doing, how they’ll be doing it, where — and with whom.

From small businesses through to large enterprises, meaningful change is achievable at any scale when people form the heart of it. At Okta, we believe that unique identity is everything, and that’s why we’re committed to making sure our working world is as vibrant and innovative as our people. Dive deeper into how working habits are changing with our 2018 Businesses @ Work report.