Productivity is influenced by internal and external factors. If you didn’t get a good night’s sleep and devoured a bacon cheeseburger for lunch, you’re probably going to feel sluggish throughout the day. If you have a cluttered desk and need to block out distractions like background noise, it’s also difficult to focus on your work.
One element of productivity that doesn’t get as much attention? Emerging trends. Everything from automation to economic changes and globalization can transform both the workplace and the way we work.
In order to remain productive and relevant for the foreseeable future, you need to understand how these trends are affecting our productivity:
1. There won’t be a return to a pre-Covid-19 “normal.”
I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the elephant in the room: the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s already upended the world we live in—both personally and professionally. The result is an increase in mental health issues, business closures and unemployment, among other effects. Even if a vaccine arrives in the near future, don’t expect things to go back to how they were.
Not that it’s all doom and gloom. As Tim Harford points out in a Financial Times article, crises have historically been followed by booms in creativity and innovation. But in order for you to take advantage of this, you need to rethink how people work and business gets done.
Gartner has identified nine workplace trends that you should address going forward. The most obvious is shifting to remote work. Even after the crisis passes, three in five U.S. workers told Gallup that they want to continue working remotely as much as possible. Consequently, you’re going to have to evaluate how to communicate and collaborate digitally. Be prepared to adjust performance goal setting and employee evaluations.
The latter will entail increased data collection in order to monitor the performance of remote employees, so you’ll need to learn how to gather and analyze this data. You’re also likely to play a larger role in ensuring your team’s financial, physical andmental well-being—especially if you have team members who are homeschooling their children.
2. Generation-Z is emerging in the workplace.
Born between 1996 and 2010, Gen-Z is the latest demographic to join the workforce. At around 61 million strong, Gen-Zers are poised to completely change the workplace because of their distinctive traits.
For one thing, they’re digital natives: 46% report that they’re connected online 10 or more hours a day. However, they still demand face-to-face interactions at work. While that may mean video calls at the moment, as a leader, you’ll have to prioritize individual time with them in order to solicit feedback and get to know them better.
Moreover, Gen-Z employees demand a healthy work-life balance. On your end, that might mean offering flexible schedules and helping them address common time management problems. Expect to help them learn how to establish boundaries, identify when they’re most productive and encourage them to unplug during off-hours.
While these efforts may alter the routine you’ve become accustomed to, they’re essential. If you want to get the most out of these new team members, then you need to spend time with them to understand their unique needs, priorities and values.
3. AI adoption is a must.
Just like Gen-Z, artificial intelligence is changing the landscape of work. AI has the power to create more intelligent products, offer more intelligent services and improve internal processes. This, in turn, can boost productivity.
AI can also automate tedious and repetitive work. In fact, it’s predicted that over the next decade or so, nearly half of all U.S. jobs will be “susceptible” to computerization and thus replaced by automation. That means that you and your team will no longer have to be concerned with these kinds of low-value tasks. You’ll be able to focus on activities that add value to your business, which increases productivity and job satisfaction.
4. Remote meeting fatigue is real.
According to the Work Trend Index from Microsoft 365, there is such a thing as remote meeting fatigue. By studying brainwaves, researchers from Microsoft’s Human Factor Labs found that virtual meetings, which have skyrocketed during the pandemic, can lead to fatigue because of the sustained concentration they require.
To counter this, you should take regular breaks every two hours. Hold meetings to under 30 minutes when you can, and break them up when you can’t.
I’d also suggest that you avoid scheduling back-to-back meetings, decline unnecessary meeting requests and use alternatives like email, instant messaging or phone calls. If a meeting must take place, make sure to keep the meeting productive by sticking to the agenda, limiting the number of attendees and not multitasking (e.g., checking your email) during the event.
5. Even now, employees are open to new opportunities.
Back in 2017, 51% of employed adults in the U.S. told Gallup that they were either actively searching for new jobs or keeping an eye out for new opportunities. In 2020, Emplify found that approximately 73% of employees were similarly ready to move on.
While a number of factors contribute to this increase, employee turnover has mainly been the result of burnout, insufficient professional development and poor manager behavior. Not only does employee turnover cost you money in recruiting and training, but it also harms productivity.
What’s interesting is that more than three in four employees who quit could have been retained if their companies had taken the right steps. To avoid productivity-sapping turnover in your company, ask team members what you can do to improve the employee experience. They might want more flexible scheduling or particular professional development opportunities. And it never hurts to bolster your own leadership skills by working on your empathy and communication.
If 2020 has proven anything, it’s that the world is constantly and rapidly changing—and that impacts the productivity of your workplace. If you stay on top of emerging trends and adapt to these changes, you’ll have a happier, healthier, more loyal and more productive team.