What are today’s top challenges in the workplace?
Today’s workplaces look very little like your parents’ work environments. Cubicles have given way to flexible office layouts and work pods are on their way in. The 9-to-5 has swollen to always-on connectivity with mobile technology, and is making a further adjustment to remote work and flexible scheduling. Automation continues to disrupt processes, industries, and sectors. Some challenges workers face have shifted over the same period, while others have simply taken on a different aspect.
While our incredible access to mobile and remote technologies would seem to indicate otherwise, communication continues to be a challenge in the workplace. There are a few dimensions to consider. Smartphones and other mobile technology mean that employees can be connected and available at all times. However, this causes stress, burnout, and poor work-life balance. Setting and maintaining healthy boundaries on both sides is crucial to a good employee experience and quality work output.
Another type of communication challenge involves remote and flexible working. Employees value flexible hours and the ability to work from home or from any location around the world. But while fast wireless internet speeds mean it’s possible to stream video and have live videoconferences and screen sharing nearly anywhere, it’s still hard to collaborate effectively from a distance.
Changing perspectives on what a healthy and appropriate workplace looks like are also a challenge today. Different generations, regional, and ethnic expectations and attitudes tend to cause misunderstandings and conflict. Younger employees are more likely to push back against traditional workplace behavior and management styles but are also less likely to moderate their own behavior at work. In some cases, workplaces, leaders, and managers need to adjust expectations and styles, while in other cases, employees have to work on their behavior.
Another challenge relates to lifestyle expectations. Substance misuse and other activities or behaviors at home can have an effect on work quality. While employers aren’t responsible for regulating all of their employees’ lives, they can and do have expectations around how work is completed. As an employee, you might be expected to submit samples to a drug-testing laboratory, either as a regular part of employment, or in response to reasonable suspicion.
Turnover and employee engagement are another problem. Many employers aren’t effective at connecting with and keeping great employees, so understanding the value of providing what employees want and need is going to differentiate successful workplaces from those that are constantly looking for staff. Supporting the staff they have by correctly identifying challenges and responding with practical, effective ways to improve the experience or performance is essential.
Workload and efficiency are another challenge. American workplaces tend to have excessive expectations around time spent on work that exceed what is healthy or productive for most people. Employees can feel pressured to put in too much time at work or risk being judged negatively by coworkers or management. This creates resentment, exhaustion, and a whole range of undesirable outcomes. Setting clear and appropriate expectations as a workplace, and boundaries as an employee, can help improve this problem.
Knowing the top challenges can help you choose better workplaces and have a better experience at work. Shape your job search by looking for companies that show they understand and have solutions for these challenges, and consider which challenges you might contribute to at work and how you can reduce their impact.