Predictions For 2015: Flexible Work Arrangements Top List

By Cindy Krischer Goodman Miami Herald.

At a New Year's party, I had a conversation that enlightened me. I spoke with a 2014 college graduate working at an accounting firm, who is assigned to the firm's Miami office. She told me she often works from other Florida offices, too, or from home. She explained that her supervisors know when she is working because the company system shows her logged in, but they don't know her exact location, which makes it easy to work from home. "I love that about this job," she told me.

In 2015, with the continued improvement of technology, using flexibility without formal structure is one of the workplace trends I foresee gaining ground. I see some other workplace trends, too. While there are challenges for employers and workers, there also are opportunities in 2015 for those who stay relevant, nimble and plugged into their networks.

Here are my predictions:

-Employees will quietly use flexibility. While many companies are setting policies on flexible work arrangements, their workers are quietly working from outside the office whenever possible. Working where you want or when you want and is a perk employees will put a premium on in 2015. Those workers who can work from home on occasion tell me they plan to stay in their jobs as long as possible, because not having that flexibility would cost them in commute time, babysitter fees or missed parenting opportunities. Most workers say they are more productive on the days they work from home.

Alex Funkhouser, CEO of a Florida staffing firm for technology and marketing talent, says seven out of every 10 job candidates he encounters would make a move if he or she could work remotely at least two days a week. "They even would take a pay cut just so they wouldn't have to commute into an office," Funkhouser says. Smart employers will recognize and embrace that trend to attract and retain loyal employees, particularly now that their upgraded systems make it easier.

-Job-hopping will pick up. According to a survey by career management experts Right Management, 86 percent of workers in North America say they plan to explore opportunities and actively look for a new job this year. That's a big increase from just 60 percent at the peak of the recession in 2009. At the same time, employers are expressing new interest to fill positions. "Companies are working their networks to find applicants," said Paul McDonald, senior executive director for Robert Half, which specializes in the placement of professionals. McDonald notes that some companies will reach out to recruit former employees who have gained key skills after they left and lure them back with higher positions and bigger paychecks.

With the job market more active in 2015, companies will invest in more training, culture building, and benefits to keep employees from leaving, McDonald says. "The savvy employers will focus on their retention strategies because they realize it's easier and less expensive to retain talent than find someone new and train him."

-Bullying will emerge as a top workplace complaint. Just as cyberbullying has become a hot topic, so too has workplace bullying. With less leadership training for managers, employees are complaining that team leaders lack social skills and have turned to abusive conduct to get the job done. A poll by CareerBuilder found that 28 percent of workers feel that they have been bullied at work and 19 percent of those workers have left their jobs because of the bullying. Laws specifically designed to prohibit workplace bullying have been introduced in at least 26 states. However, employers will need to design and implement policies to stay one-step ahead of this trend. "They will have to take it seriously," says Tom Loffredo, a law firm managing shareholder. Even though workplace bullying may not be considered unlawful, it can poison a workplace and can taint a company's reputation as a desirable place to work, Loffredo says. With the job market opening up, employees will be less likely to put up with workplace bullies in 2015.

-People will want to be paid for hours they work. The author of a new litigation trends report calls wage and hour lawsuits the No.1 headache for employers in 2015. The report warns that employers can expect to see more off-the-clock litigation brought by non-salaried (non-exempt) employees who seek pay for work while off duty, particularly work-related use of mobile electronic devices. Because of so many gray areas within the wage and hour laws, and an active plaintiff's bar, this area will continue to be a big source of litigation, says Loffredo, a labor and employment lawyer. Loffredo says employers will need to continuously review and update employee classifications to make sure that employees are properly compensated. Employees will need to monitor and ensure that they are being paid accurately for their time worked, and comply with time keeping procedures. Expect to see discussions in 2015 around proposed changes to federal wage and hour regulations, and a review of the Fair Standard Labor Act. "All interested parties will likely give input," Loffredo says.

-Businesses will invest in social media training and strategy. As companies start to realize the benefits of social media, more employees will use social media skills for marketing, customer service, social selling and recruitment. Experts say this will take social media management out of the hands of the marketing teams and disperse it throughout organizations. "We will see them using social media as a communication tool more than a marketing tool," said Carlos Gil, a digital media strategist. At the same time, companies will need sensible Internet marketing strategies to stay competitive. Look for companies to value employees who can make business decisions and steer marketing direction by analyzing customer data from social media sites. "Lot of jobs going forward in some way or another will use social media," Gil says.

-Employees will struggle even more for work/life balance. Google marketing experts are telling us our smartphones are the new remote control for our lives. They are where we go for finding movie times, answering work emails, playing games, communicating with our teens. The more data our smartphone has, the smarter it will be, and the more it will simplify our life, or tether us to the office. In 2015 more of us must decide if we use mobile technology, even wearable mobile technology, as a new powerful tool to work and communicate, or if we let it dictate our lives.

"We have to define what's important for us at which time of the day, the week and the year, and act consistently," says Geoffroy de Lestrange, a marketing professional at Cornerstone, a talent management solutions provider.

-Technology will transform the workplace. In 2015, workplace experts believe new technology will bring changes to every industry, affecting how employees perform assignments and interact with others.

"We are all going to have to make sure our future leaders are trained and educated relative to these new dynamics," said Bruce Kern, founder and CEO of Logix3, which sells data collection software for the food industry.

Employees who don't get on-the-job training will need to understand where their industries are headed and independently keep up their skills. "We all need to expand on what we know," said Christopher Cabezas, an industrial engineer. Cabezas has enrolled in an MBA program to gain new skills.

-Companies and managers will confront the challenges of a multigenerational workforce. For years now, we see issues arise when four generations of employees work side by side. In 2015, workplace experts believe businesses will have to work harder to meld differing perspectives, assumptions and skills. At the same time, big changes are underway in office demographics. The Workforce Institute at Kronos notes that this year baby boomers, the largest generation to ever hit the workforce, will begin retiring in droves. As they do, Generation Xers could get their long-awaited pay raises and promotions and millennials could take on management positions for the first time. In 2015, companies will need to train new managers while holding onto the knowledge of a retiring workforce. ___ ABOUT THE WRITER Cindy Krischer Goodman is CEO of BalanceGal LLC, a provider of news and advice on how to balance work and life.

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