8 workplace predictions for 2018

The end of a year and the promising start of another lap around the sun can often feel like an opportunity to make exciting changes, both personally and professionally. From considering a bold move across industries to the allure of obtaining your MBA or finally taking the plunge and asking for the raise you deserve, January 1 might feel like a catalyst to creating more fulfillment in your career.

Before you take that leap of faith into job boards, job alerts, graduate school applications, or cover letter writing courses, career experts suggest a careful study into what the next 12 months are predicted to present to the workforce.

Not sure where to start your deep dive? Here, industry pros share their insight for 2018:

The number of new startups will continue to decline

It may be tempting to steer your direction onto the path of startups. Ripe with innovation and typically more lenient on traditional definitions of work, the culture of up-and-coming small businesses is often creative and open. But organizational and cultural design expert Jessica Higgins notes the unfavorable climate conditions for new market entrants makes it that much more difficult to become an entrepreneur. In fact, the United States Census Bureau found a decline in the first year for tech-focused businesses in 2016, with an expected continuation throughout 2018.

“Given the continued political uncertainty and reforms that support the ultra-wealthy, barriers to new business creation will continue to increase. New businesses will continue to decline,” Higgins says.

Does this mean you should be disenchanted by the prospect of a job offer from a budding organization? Definitely not — Higgins just suggests cultivating as much information about past funding and asking pointed questions about the future of the company before signing the employment contract.

Companies will offer more remote work options and flexibility

Similar to — and likely a result of — the uptick of freelancers, research director and work/life expert at Captivate, Heather Chigas says more companies will offer their employees the option to work remotely. In fact, a study conducted by Captivate earlier this year found that a whopping 44 percent of employees at various companies quoted the ability to log hours wherever as their top perk. In the coming year, Chigas says organizations will capitalize on flexibility as a way to retain their workers.

“They will add more perks and amenities to keep their employees happy. This might include anything from giving their employees summer Fridays and cutting out of work a little bit earlier on slow days or the ability to work from home more often,” she says.

Employers will focus on employee engagement

It’s becoming more and more documented that employee happiness is one of the key contributors to loyalty, productivity and effectiveness. That’s why industrial-organizational psychology practitioner and workplace expert, Amy Cooper Hakim, Ph.D, says 2018 will bring a continued and renewed focus on engagement within offices.

“Over the past few years, there has been a growing awareness and understanding of the need to recognize the employee as a human being with needs and feelings outside of work. Top organizations have set the bar with work-life balance initiatives and programs,” she says.

There will be fewer full-time, non-tech jobs

On average, how many moments during your 9-t0-5 job do you daydream about being your own boss? Thanks to the flexibility and freedom that freelance opportunities provide — especially to younger generations who haven’t prescribed to the button-up mandate of their parents or grandparents — more and more workers are eschewing staff jobs in favor of a freelance lifestyle. This also means companies are taking note, according to Higgins, who says contractor work is expected to account for 43 percent of workplace opportunities by 2020. What does this translate to? Less and less full-time job opportunities — unless you’re a tech superstar.

“The only business growth we see domestically is in tech, which staffs at around 10 percent of the manufacturing economy,” she explains. “Facebook houses around 20,000 U.S. employees whereas General Motors used to staff well over 200,000. With our business growth largely in non-labor intensive sectors, we not only have to rely on our creativity AT work, we have to get pretty creative to even find work.”

There will be an increase in ‘intrepreneurship’

Never heard of this breed of impresario? Higgins predicts you’ve probably rubbed elbows with a handful of “intrepreneurs” without realizing it. She calls this type of entrepreneurism a hope for the future, as the middleman between older ways of working and more modern approaches.

“These are the people who left large businesses to use their creative capacities to innovate, as a way remain competitive as the workforce largely disappears with automation,” she says. “Like Seth Godin said in his book Linchpin, don’t be the best in the world at what you do, be the only one in the world who does what you do. I’m going out on a limb with this prediction, but my hope is in the linchpin workforce.”

Employers will focus more on cultural awareness and diversity

Especially during times of tension that challenge employers to take stances and provide all-encompassing support for their employees, no matter their racial background or sexual orientation, Hakim predicts companies will have a heightened awareness of diversity and acceptance.

“More companies will hold training classes (both virtually and in-person) to ensure that all members of an organization treat others with respect. This respect is vital for interactions with employees, employers, stakeholders, and clients,” she explains.

Employees will be expected to evolve with technologies

Not completely up to speed on the latest-and-greatest technological tools and trends in your industry? Time to break open Google in search of training programs, as Hakim says technology will continue to define success and workflow in coming years. In other words: technology is the name of nearly every game.

“Companies will continue to work to improve communication flow through the use of technology. Employees with a technological skill set will be seen as a special asset to organizations,” she explains. “‘New’ collar jobs will become more popular and relevant in the workplace. For instance, an employee who can apply basic technology prowess to help with various functions across departments will be invaluable for organizations.”

Employers will focus on health and wellness

In addition to being allowed to check email from a co-working space in Bali or Croatia or being able to spend Fridays with your toddler, investing in employee health is a trend that will continue to skyrocket, according to entrepreneur and personal development coach Meiyoko Taylor. Not only is this a way to illustrate dedication to the overall well-being of direct reports, but Taylor says it can also be a smart way to attract talent.

“People are becoming more concerned about their health, so it’s only natural for companies to start providing on the job resources to accommodate employees,” he says. “Some of the benefits of emphasizing this program is the reduction in healthcare costs and an increased level of job attendance. Workplace stress is a huge issue that employees deal with every day, so companies have started to make it a priority to invest in creating a more peaceful, healthy, and relaxing work environment.”