You’ve heard that the only constant is change. And, as much as we all hate to rely on a tired cliché, that sentiment rings true — particularly when you look at the future of work.

A peek inside a company just a few decades ago would have revealed endless rows of cubicles and desks. Today, we have distributed workforces collaborating from across the globe.

Roles that are in high demand right now — like social media managers, cloud architects, mobile app developers, and more — are positions that didn’t even exist a mere 15 or 20 years back.

Is your head spinning? We get it. The working world is constantly evolving, and unless you have a crystal ball collecting dust in your bottom desk drawer, keeping up with the times feels all the more challenging.

Here’s the bad news: We don’t have a crystal ball handy either. But, here’s the good news: We’ve collected some insights about what you can expect from the world of work in the coming year.

The Top Workplace Trends for 2019 Include:

Prediction #1: Communication Will Become Even More Centralized

Overflowing inboxes are a problem for all of us, and only a few years ago, we were all convinced that instant messaging would swoop in and save the day.

Instant messaging definitely has its advantages and conveniences. But it also means that many workers are struggling with communication overload and increased stress during an average workday.

In a ReportLinker survey, respondents who use an instant messaging tool at work say that they feel pressure to respond immediately. They also experience other drawbacks like difficulty concentrating on their work and getting caught up in time-consuming conversations.

Chat applications and instant messages definitely won’t disappear, but we predict that we will see the way they’re utilized on work teams start to shift.

Consider these statistics: The average worker spends as much as 20% of the workweek looking for the internal information they need, and 87% of employees think their leaders communicate ineffectively.

For reasons just like those, many enterprises are already realizing the importance of finding a single platform that unifies different systems, consolidates projects and relevant communications, ties activities to company goals, and empowers employees to work effectively — without important conversations siloed in private instant messages.

Needless to say, more centralized and streamlined communication is one of those modern workplace trends that we’ll see gaining steam in 2019.

Prediction #2: There Will Be Even Greater Emphasis on Work-Life Balance

With all these digital tools that enable employees to work whenever and wherever, the push for adequate work-life balance will continue to be a dominant focus for many workers — and one of the recruitment and job trends to keep an eye on.

In order to stay competitive, companies will need to prove to employees that this is a shared value.

According to the Randstad Employer Brand Research Report, good work-life balance is one of the most important considerations job candidates make when evaluating an organization. It’s outranked only by an attractive salary and long-term job security.

An emphasis on this balance isn’t only important for recruitment, it matters for retention as well. In our own Stress and Productivity Survey, over half of respondents admit to looking for a new job when they think the stress of their role is too much, and 25% have actually quit a job due to stress in the workplace.

Where does this leave employers? They’ll need to navigate ways to give employees the flexibility they require, while still ensuring productive work gets done.

This added breathing room means great things for both sides, but it also presents some challenges for employers. They’ll need to be clear with their boundaries and expectations to ensure that team members are getting tasks accomplished, without expecting them to be signed on, clocked in, and readily available at any time.

Because of these increasingly murky waters that accompany increased flexibility, we imagine that we’ll see more formal policies cropping up around disconnecting during non-work hours — such as the labor law that was passed in France in 2017, which requires companies with 50 or more employees to negotiate out-of-office email guidelines with their staff.

Prediction #3: The Pace of Work Will Continue to Increase

Make no mistake — improved work-life balance doesn’t mean that less work gets done. If anything, the speed at which we’re expected to work will only keep increasing.

With the introduction of tools like collaborative work management platforms, automations, templates, and other resources, it’s never been easier to work at a breakneck pace. Improving technology means that things are able to get done efficiently, without such a heavy burden placed on employees.

Work is accelerating, businesses are moving faster than ever before, and contributors are expected to do more in less time. According to anonymized data that we were able to pull from our Wrike user base, the median completion time for a project in our system has decreased by approximately 50% since 2014.

Much of the work efficiency conversation has centered on artificial intelligence (gasp, the robots are coming!), but it’s actually automations that are more likely to change the name of the game in 2019. Don’t worry — it’s not about how these automations can replace current employees, but more about how these advancements can help real people do their own work better and faster.

According to McKinsey, about 60% of occupations could have at least 30% or more of their activities totally automated.

“If we look at the ROI of AI and automation initiatives in 2019, I predict that at least three quarters of it will not require sophisticated AI techniques and will rely on simpler automations — including templatization of SOPs, statistics around repeatable work, and heuristics,” explains Andrew Filev, Founder and CEO of Wrike.

If this is one of those future workforce trends that holds true (and we really think it will!), companies will be challenged to find ways to appropriately manage that acceleration, while avoiding burnout and still giving employees the suitable work-life balance that they demand.

Prediction #4: The Importance of Mentorship Will Become Even More Apparent

Of course, the future of the workplace isn’t all about technology. Some of the more human aspects will continue to garner more focus as well.

Younger workers crave career advancement. Research shows that 91% of millennials consider rapid career progress a top priority. Further, according to a Willis Towers Watson study, more than 70% of high-retention-risk employees say they would leave their current jobs in order to grow their careers.

With those things in mind, 2018 seemed to be the rebirth of mentoring in the workplace. Employers are focused on establishing more structured programs and initiatives to support employees in their learning and career development. Pairing up younger employees with more experienced workers is a fairly easy-to-implement win in terms of boosting morale and retention, so we’re bound to see it continue.

The 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey found that employees who are intending on staying with their organization for more than 5 years are twice as likely to have a mentor (68%) than not (32%).

Of all of the leadership trends that seem to come and go, mentorship is one that we’ll see gain even more traction across workplaces in 2019.

Prediction #5: The Focus Will Remain on Gender Equality

This definitely isn’t a new conversation, and it will continue to be a core topic heading into 2019 — and or good reason.

Steps have been taken and progress has already been made, but we imagine that we’ll see talk turn into more action in the coming year, particularly when it comes to ensuring that more women get a seat at the table.

Aside from it being the moral thing to do, it quite literally pays off for companies. A 2016 study from Ernst and Young showed that increasing the percentage of women in top leadership spots from 0 to 30% is associated with a 15% increase in profitability.

What sort of action can you anticipate as a result? More and more companies continue to introduce employee resource groups and diversity and inclusion efforts that help to take steps in the right direction.

However, we assume that we’ll see more formal and lasting action to close the gender gap. For example, California recently implemented a rule that applies to boards of public companies. By the end of 2019, those companies must have at least 1 female director on their board.

With equality at the top of everyone’s mind, more stringent requirements and mandates in 2019 will keep progress on track.

Future Workplace Trends: Moving Into the New Year (No Crystal Ball Required)

The world of work is constantly evolving. Tomorrow is sure to look a lot different than yesterday.

That very notion might send you scrambling toward your desk drawers in search of some long-forgotten crystal ball. But, rest assured, you definitely don’t need a little bit of magic to figure out what the future holds.

Instead, keep these five workplace trends for 2019 in mind, and you’re sure to be on top of whatever comes next.

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