The Professional Pendulum: A Closer Look at 5 Workforce Trends

If you don't like your company's policies, hold on—they might soon switch.

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Hannah Morgan
Hannah Morgan
Corporate culture and societal norms and preferences sway like a pendulum. Take for instance the recent news from Yahoo to ban employees from working at home. Or do you remember dress-down Fridays, corporate training programs, play rooms, and the gold watch? If you don't like your company's policies, hold on—they may switch.

Is working remotely really inefficient? Yahoo's spokesperson Lauren Armstrong explained the company's policy change to by stating: "This isn't a broad industry view on working from home—this is about what is right for Yahoo!, right now."

Isn't working remotely a benefit high on the wish list of employees? Most likely this policy won't last long, but it puts in place a precedent other companies are sure to jump on. The pendulum swings back to the traditional command and control model of leadership, though Yahoo says its change is based on creating more collaboration and team work. With the tools and technology available today to enable virtual teams to work together, this policy change may have its roots in poor management versus lazy employees.

Do employees really perform better in a suit? The once-standard corporate uniform, a suit and tie for men and skirted-suits for women, is being replaced by less-stuffy attire. Was the logic behind these dress codes based on performance or perception? Some suggest a suit and tie created an impression of professionalism and power. However, we have seen this dress code, which once dominated conservative and customer facing businesses, slipping to favor a more relaxed professionalism. Might we see a swing back toward more traditional work attire in the future? We'll have to wait to see what the future workers want.

Who pays for your training today? Back in the day, companies invested in their employees by providing company-sponsored training and professional development opportunities. During leaner years, some companies cut training budgets and employees were left to pay for their own training to stay competitive. Today we hear about companies using paid training and tuition reimbursement as perks to entice employees to stay "engaged" or lure high performers from other companies.

Ping pong tables, video games, and slides, oh my. Creatives need creative space, or at least this is the practice adopted by companies such as Google. But is it true that creative teams perform better when surrounded by toys and games or is this just another ploy to retain and attract in-demand creative talent? Games aren't the only changes to office space. Some companies are totally restructuring their internal layout to replicate communities or zones to adapt to and foster their employees' varying work space needs. The game rooms of yesterday may give way to new preferences of tomorrow's desirable hires.

Will you retire at 65? The idea of exiting the workforce and not working again seems almost archaic if you consider the average life expectancy is almost 81 years old, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and it could possibly be older, given advancements in medicine and healthcare. Can you rely on your own savings and investments to carry you through retirement? And will your Social Security benefits be there when you're ready to claim them? Instead of viewing retirement as a hard stop to a career, consider it a phased process. Your personal exit strategy may include working less than 40 hours a week delivering consulting services, or some other type of work where the emphasis is on the fulfillment of the project. Will we see the pendulum swing to adopt an approach in which employees indulge in activities throughout their lives by taking sabbatical-like breaks? Given the uncertainties in life, why wait until retirement to do the things you want to do?

The bottom line: We will continue to see changes in work cultures and that is good news for employees who are dissatisfied with their current structure. As the saying goes, if you don't like the weather, hold on, it will change.

Hannah Morgan is a speaker and author providing no-nonsense career advice; she guides job seekers and helps them navigate today's treacherous job search terrain. Hannah shares information about the latest trends, such as reputation management, social networking strategies, and other effective search techniques on her blog, Career Sherpa.