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New year, new ideas: Workplace trends for 2020

We’re about to embark not just on a new year, but on a whole new decade. The way people work is changing along with employees’ expectations around workplace technology, operations, and employee experience. Is your workplace ready for 2020? 

This is the ideal time to take stock of your workplace and make any necessary changes to keep your company competitive and help drive employee retention. In this article, we’ll explore workplace trends for 2020 and identify positive changes you can make in the coming year to help improve your employees’ working lives. One of the most exciting trends is the presence of AI (Artificial Intelligence) in workplace technology, which will help streamline operations and allow employees to focus on the parts of their job that only humans can do.

The evolving role of AI to shape workplace experience

The growing availability of affordable, AI SaaS software means AI is no longer just for enterprise companies. Increasingly, companies of all sizes are utilizing this important workplace technology. A Vistage report found 29.5% of CEOs from small and medium-sized businesses, identified AI as the new technology they believe will have the largest impact on their business in the next year. 

Practical applications of AI to streamline operations 

As AI continues to advance, more companies are harnessing it for administrative tasks and to streamline operations. This saves companies money, helping them do more in less time and be more effective, ultimately improving their bottom line. For example, AI can be used to power chatbots for faster customer service and identify social media content that’s likely to perform well. 

AI is especially helpful with workplace operations, such as:

  • Meeting operations, such as to schedule and cancel meetings, transcribe meeting minutes and help better utilize space to avoid “ghost meetings”. A “ghost meeting” is when a meeting is scheduled on a company calendar and no one shows up. This is a waste of resources since no one can book the room. AI technology can improve this by automatically canceling a meeting when no one checks-in within the first few minutes. This frees up the room for another meeting, and without an IT manager or office coordinator having to manually manage the process.
  • Making the recruiting process more equitable and efficient with AI pre-screening. Because AI can quickly analyze huge amounts of data to make informed decisions, it can be used to review hundreds of resumes without human bias. This is a significant time-saver for recruiters who would otherwise have to manually scan through resumes. Additionally, because AI can help remove unconscious bias from resume screening, like bias around sex, race, and age, companies are able to interview a more diverse applicant pool. While AI can learn biases from your past hiring practices—such as favoring applicants from a few prestigious colleges—it can also be taught to remove this bias. 
  • Improve employee retention through regular AI-assisted employee surveys. Instead of conducting an annual employee engagement survey, conducting more frequent, targeted surveys on a regular cadence can help identify areas of employee dissatisfaction such as feeling they’re not playing to their strengths, aren’t growing professionally, think they can make more money at a different company, or have experienced a personal life change. Through regular employee engagement surveys, AI tools will be able to help spot trends in employees’ dissatisfaction so companies can proactively address concerns and encourage employees to stay. 

AI will continue to enhance employee experience

The beauty of AI is that it can improve or take care of some of the most common administrative tasks, such as scheduling meetings or managing a calendar. This frees up human employees’ time so they can focus on more rewarding parts of their job, elevating their employee experience.

Rather than be concerned about AI replacing peoples’ jobs, workplaces should consider the benefits that AI can have on their employees’ human abilities, creativity, emotional intelligence, critical thinking, and problem solving will be even more valued. After all, these very human abilities can’t be replicated by a computer. With this in mind, experts like author Dan Schawbel, predict companies will hire more people with liberal arts degrees in 2020, to bring these much-needed skills to the workplace. 

Continued investment in automated visitor management for better workplace security

There’s a growing trend among companies of all sizes in using workplace technology to streamline and improve visitor management. While your front desk staff will always be needed to greet visitors, increasingly using paper logbooks to manage guests is seen as outdated, less secure, and more time-consuming. Modern sign-in apps are being embraced as a more efficient system for visitor management. Visitors simply sign in on the iPad kiosk, signing any paperwork like an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) that are necessary for workplace security. Visitors get their photo taken through the app which automatically notifies their host and prints out a name badge.

This all saves valuable time for the receptionist who no longer needs to print or file forms, decipher names from the logbook, or call guests’ hosts. Hosts are sent their visitor’s photo so they always know who to greet at reception, helping visitors feel welcome and making your employees feel more comfortable. 

Quality sign-in apps have other workplace security features such as pre-screening visitors, protecting sensitive spaces by connecting to your access control system, and issuing guest Wi-Fi access which expires once visitors leave. 

Workplace design will better support different work styles

In 2020, companies will continue to reexamine and reshape their physical office spaces to best meet employees’ needs. Open-plan offices have been touted as more modern and egalitarian, with C-suite execs sitting alongside rank and file employees instead of sequestered away in corner offices.

However, mounting research shows that people don’t actually like open-plan office and that they’re worse for employees’ physical and mental health. Open-plan offices are often noisy, visually over-stimulating, and distracting, especially for more introverted employees. Rather than fostering greater collaboration, a study by Harvard Business School found that face-to-face interactions are 70% less in open-plan offices while communication by email and messaging increases by around 50%. 

Create quiet spaces

Alternatively, workplace trends advocate creating office spaces which facilitate collaboration and socializing, as well as offering spaces for quiet, independent work. For example, many offices are installing pods or phone booths as quiet, focus spaces or so employees can make phone calls without distracting their coworkers. This approach is not only helpful for Generation Z workers, who are just starting to enter the workforce and value opportunities for social interaction as well as solitary focus, but for employees of all ages. 

Consider the physical building

If your company is thinking about moving to a different office in 2020—because you’re growing and need more space, or need less space because you’ve encouraged more employees to work from home—there a number of things to consider when looking for the ideal office building. Workplace trends show that increasingly employees care about environmental sustainability and will appreciate being in a greener building. Having access to showers, for example, will make it easier for people to bike to work or get in a midday workout. Look for a building with strong workplace security to help keep your office and employees safe. Gender-neutral bathrooms will help everyone feel comfortable, regardless of their gender expression or identity.

Increased work schedule flexibility

Because employees have different needs, employers are offering greater flexibility in terms of work hours. Offering employees more flexible hours can support improved work/life balance, allowing people to visit the doctor without taking sick leave or enabling parents to pick their kids up from school. Additionally, some people simply work better in the evening or even late at night, so the traditional 9-5 doesn’t suit everyone. Perhaps not surprisingly, having flexible hours has actually shown to increase productivity and engagement.  

Continuous training and educational opportunities

A SurveyMonkey study found that 86% of employees say job training is important to them and 74% are even willing to learn outside of work hours in order to improve their job performance. Workplace trends for 2020 show this desire for professional growth is especially strong among younger workers. A different study found that “sufficient training” is the number one thing that Millennials consider when starting a new job. In fact, about 80% of Millennials view prioritizing personal growth as the most important value in a company’s culture. Sixty-nine percent of employees in this generation want to become leaders in the next five years with 60% desiring training to cultivate their leadership skills. 

Learning at work is also hugely important to Generation Z employees. A recent Deloitte study found that 44% of Gen Z workers view on-the-job training as more valuable than workplace skills they learned in college. 


Raise awareness about available training

Offering your employees continued educational opportunities for upskilling and staying current with new technologies helps keep your company compete and helps drive employee retention. Unfortunately, many employees aren’t aware of the educational opportunities their companies already offer. There’s a real need for companies to let their employees know about the learning opportunities and training available to them. Once they know what’s on offer, more workers will be able to take advantage of these programs, furthering their career development and resulting in a more skilled, educated, and engaged workforce. 

What does the future of workplace experience hold? Find out in our ebook, “The workplace of the future: Human happiness and high-tech spaces.”