New year, new trends. According to Elle magazine, we can expect to see a multitude of suede skirts, plaid blouses and denim ensembles in women’s fashion in 2016. Vogue tells us that 2016 will bring trench coats, leather and a neo-70s feel to men’s fashion. But what about the workplace? How will workplaces change in the new year? We think we have some pretty good predictions. Of course, there is no magic switch that will automatically transform workplaces on January 1—many of these trends have already laid their roots. Here are five trends that we’re willing to bet will sweep workplaces across the United States in 2016.

  1. Changing of generations

Get ready for the great generational shift of 2016. As the majority of one generation makes its way out of the workforce, a new generation will make its grand entrance. Generation Z, which is comprised of those born between 1994 and 2010, will officially enter the workforce in 2016 upon their graduation from college. Millennials will continue to reign as the majority generation in the workforce, and many Millennials are expected to rise into leadership roles as 3.6 million Baby Boomers are expected to retire in 2016.

Millennials’ assumption of leadership roles is likely to change a number of things about the workplace.  It’s expected that over the course of 2016, traditional top-down hierarchies will be flattened, there will be an increased focus on corporate social responsibility and leadership styles will transform. “Leaders are finding that they have to be more inspirational, they have to be more collaborative,” said Bersin by Deloitte Founder Josh Bersin. “The traditional approach to performance management and performance appraisals is being revolutionized—they’re throwing away ratings [and] they’re putting in systems to provide feedback.”

Oh the times, they are a-changin’.

  1. Introduction of more robots

As automation technology and artificial intelligence continue advancing, it’s very likely that more and more robots will enter the workforce in 2016. Don’t worry—this doesn’t mean you need to fear for your job and your livelihood.

According to a study done by Julie Shah, assistant professor of aeronautics and astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, productivity is at its highest in the workplace when robots and humans are working together, rather than isolating the two from each other. For this to be successful, you must cross-train your robotic employees. In other words, you have to teach your robots to cooperate and work as a team with their human counterparts.

It’s true that some jobs may be eliminated—but as always, when old jobs are lost, new ones are created. Read our blog on robot-human teamwork for more information about this trend.

  1. Creation of workplace flexibility policies

Workplace flexibility was an extremely hot topic in 2015, and we think that the new year will compel the majority of companies to create concrete policies. Let’s recap why workplace flexibility policies are on high on HR department’s to-do lists:

With numerous technological advances—laptops, smart phones, video conferencing and more—the need to be in a physical office space to effectively communicate and do one’s job has decreased significantly. The rise of technology also drastically blurred the boundaries between employees’ work lives and personal lives. Americans are working longer hours than ever and never fully disconnecting from their work—in fact, 64 percent of managers expect their employees to be reachable 24/7. The problem? More than half of American workers report feeling burnt out. The majority of Americans also said that their decision to stay with a company or leave for a new company is heavily influenced by the amount of workplace flexibility they have. In addition to the droves of overworked employees, the next baby boom is also on the horizon: approximately 80 million Millennials are expected to have babies in the next few years. Combine all of these factors, and what do you get? A serious need for the creation of concrete policies on both workplace flexibility and maternity and paternity leave. We expect this trend won’t take long to spread.

  1. Growth of the freelancing revolution

In addition to more employees working remotely, the rise of independent consultants in 2016 will diminish the need for companies to have large physical office spaces. About 34 percent of our current workforce is comprised of freelancers, and it’s estimated that this percentage will increase to 50 percent by 2020. What does the freelancing revolution mean for the workplace? Physical office spaces will continue to dwindle and the use of online project management tools will continue to rise. Freelancers give employers the opportunity to hire the best talent for a specific project and only for the duration of that project, which also means that salaries will become a thing of the past. With freelancing, employers pay for the result, not the employee.

  1. Increase of wearable technology

Brace yourselves for a deluge of Fitbits, Apple watches, Bluetooth headsets, and Google Glass in your office. With younger Millennials and Generation Z entering the workforce, the presence of wearable technology is expected to skyrocket.  In 2014, 71 percent of 16-to-24-year-olds reported wanting wearable tech for themselves, a percentage that has since grown and spread to older people. The rise of wearable technology will perpetuate the blurring of boundaries between work and personal lives, but it’s also likely that the disruptive nature of these products will distract your employees at times throughout the work day. Just one more way that our workplaces are being transformed.

Have you begun to experience any of these trends already? Which trend do you think will affect your workplace first? Let us know in the comments. As you continue to make plans for the upcoming year, be sure to keep these trends in mind so you can be prepared if and when they enter your workplace. Cheers to 2016!

Author Christina Boodée

More posts by Christina Boodée
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