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5 Trends Driving The Future Of Better Work And Employee Wellbeing

Mykella Auld, M.Ed., is a pioneering thought leader in organizational culture and leadership. As the Founder and Executive Coach of Culture and leadership at The Work Well Studio, she propels organizations toward psychologically safe, equitable cultures prioritizing well-being and belonging.

 
Executive Contributor Mykella Auld

Does anyone else stay up at night thinking about the future of work? The future of work has received a lot of attention over the last four years. There are a lot of ideas that have been shared in these conversations, and we continue to see companies moving in multiple, sometimes competing directions. It makes sense with this current lack of clarity around the future of work to keep us up thinking about what lies ahead.

 

5 Trends Driving the Future of Better Work and Employee Wellbeing

What we do know is innovation in business and shifting cultural dynamics will continue to reshape the future of work in profound ways. A future of work will include a number of changes, among them includes; embracing flexibility, diversity of experience, and a return to purpose driven work.

 

Here are some trends that I think we may experience based off current business innovation and how they could positively impact work cultures and overall well-being:

 

1. The four-day work week

The notion of a four-day work week is gaining traction in the U.S. and is already seeing implementation in other countries. Driven by studies showing it can boost productivity and employee satisfaction. The 4-day work week has shown that reducing the number of working days can actually boost productivity. For instance, a trial by Microsoft Japan in 2019 saw a 40% increase in productivity when employees worked four days a week instead of five. Additionally, companies can save on operational costs, such as utilities and office maintenance, with one less day of work each week. Offering a four-day workweek can be a powerful tool for attracting and retaining top talent, particularly among younger workers who value flexibility and work-life balance. As well as the environmental impact of fewer commutes and reduced office usage can lead to lower carbon emissions, contributing to a company’s sustainability goals.

 

It also impacts well-being and balance. With an extra day off, employees have more time to rest, pursue personal interests, and spend time with family, leading to reduced stress and burnout. This improvement in mental and physical health can result in a more motivated and engaged workforce. A shorter work week allows employees to better balance their professional and personal lives, leading to higher job satisfaction and retention rates.

 

Countries like Iceland and New Zealand have piloted four-day weeks with remarkable success, reporting improved work-life balance and maintained or even increased productivity. This trend is likely to become more normalized in the following decade, as it offers proven ways to achieve strategic priorities for most organizations around productivity and attraction and retention of talent.

 

2. The millennial manager

Millennials, now the largest generation in the workforce, are stepping into management roles, bringing with them new perspectives on leadership. Millennials are increasingly taking on leadership roles, as of 2024, millennials, are now the largest demographic cohort in the U.S. workforce, surpassing Baby Boomers. Over three in five millennial employees currently manage direct reports. This demographic shift is reshaping workplace dynamics and management styles.

 

By 2034, millennials will hold much of the workforce leadership positions. This generational transition is expected to bring about a profound change in corporate leadership. As with any generation these are generalizations but with an increased millennial leadership we are likely to see a greeted focus on collaborative leadership, focus on employee wellbeing, inclusive decision-making practices, and purpose-driven approaches to organizational development.

 

Millennial managers prioritize flexibility, inclusivity, and a purpose-driven approach to work. They are more likely to advocate for mental health resources, remote work options, and continuous learning opportunities. This shift in management style is expected to create more dynamic, empathetic, and adaptable work environments. Millennial managers bring a fresh perspective to leadership, challenging traditional hierarchies and fostering a more collaborative and transparent culture.

 

3. Rise of small businesses and entrepreneurship

The entrepreneurial spirit is thriving, with an increasing number of individuals opting to start their own businesses. This trend is fueled by accessible technology, digital marketing platforms, and a growing preference for personalized customer experiences. The COVID-19 pandemic also accelerated the shift towards small businesses and entrepreneurship. With widespread job losses and the rise of remote work, many individuals sought new income sources by starting their own ventures.


The last four years has seen a surge in small businesses and entrepreneurship and this will only continue.

 

The increase in e-commerce, online marketing, and remote work tools and software has reduced traditional barriers to entry, making entrepreneurship more accessible to a broader demographic. Additionally, freelance work has expanded, enabling more people to pursue entrepreneurial endeavors alongside or instead of traditional employment.


The rise of entrepreneurship and small businesses will positively impact the future of work by driving job creation, fostering innovation, promoting diverse and flexible work environments, and emphasizing sustainability and ethical practices, creating a more dynamic, inclusive, and resilient workforce. Small businesses are not only contributing to economic growth but also fostering innovation and community engagement. The rise of entrepreneurship offers employees the chance to work in more agile and creative settings, often with greater autonomy and purpose.

 

4. Focus on business ethics and impact

Corporate social responsibility is no longer a mere buzzword; it's a business imperative. Consumers and employees alike are demanding transparency and ethical practices from the companies they support and work for. Some businesses are starting to respond by integrating sustainable practices, prioritizing diversity and inclusion, and committing to social and environmental causes. This trend will only continue. The heightened focus on ethics is not only beneficial for society but also enhances company reputations, attracts top talent, and fosters loyalty among customers and employees.

 

The focus on business ethics and impact is reshaping corporate practices due to increased consumer awareness, regulatory changes, and a growing emphasis on sustainability. Key developments include enhanced transparency and accountability, with companies disclosing their environmental, social, and governance (ESG) practices, and integrating sustainable business strategies like reducing carbon footprints and adopting circular economy principles. Additionally, businesses are addressing ethical considerations in technology use and engaging in corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities, driven by both regulatory pressures and market preferences for ethical practices.

 

5. An Increase in alternate pathways to employment

The value of traditional education is being redefined. Increasingly, employers are prioritizing skills and experience over formal qualifications. This shift means more opportunities for those who haven’t pursued a four-year degree. The trend of increasing alternative pathways to employment, such as reducing the emphasis on four-year degrees, is reshaping the job market.

 

Many companies are now valuing experience and practical skills over formal education, with 55% of employers eliminating bachelor's degree requirements for some roles in 2023, and this trend is expected to continue in 2024. Companies like Google and Apple have already eliminated degree requirements for many positions, recognizing that diverse educational backgrounds can drive innovation and


creativity. These companies offer certifications and training programs that prepare individuals for specific roles, enabling them to enter high-demand fields without a four-year degree. Additionally, states like New Jersey have implemented policies to prioritize skills and experience for state employment, opening up high-paying job opportunities to a broader pool of candidates.

 

This trend positively impacts the future of work by broadening access to job opportunities, fostering diversity, and encourages continuous learning and adaptation, as workers can gain relevant skills through alternative educational pathways and on-the-job experience.

 

The future of work is set to be more inclusive, flexible, and purpose-driven. As these trends continue to unfold, they promise to create work cultures that are not only more productive but also more supportive of employee wellbeing. By embracing these changes, businesses can build a more resilient, innovative, and ethical future. So, while you may still find yourself pondering the future of work, rest assured that the trends on the horizon are poised to bring about positive and transformative change.

 

Ready to take the next step? Help drive organizational innovation with a customized leadership and culture strategy for your organization using our research backed models. Available leadership coaching, culture audits, culture strategy development, and equity and belong framework design to contribute to the overall thriving of individuals and communities. Mykella invites readers to join her in making 2024 the year of personal and professional well-being.

 

Follow me on Instagram, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!

 

Mykella Auld, Leadership and Culture Coach

Mykella Auld, M.Ed., is a pioneering thought leader in organizational culture and leadership. As the Founder and Executive Coach of Culture and leadership at The Work Well Studio, she propels organizations toward psychologically safe, equitable cultures prioritizing well-being and belonging. A culture strategist and equity advocate, Mykella, empowers organizations through critical thinking and relationship-building. Rooted in her experience as a lead researcher and author, on best practices in practical applications for Trauma-Informed and Anti-Racist social emotional development. She is committed to sparking transformative change.

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