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The Corporate Crystal Ball: Future Workplace Trends

The Corporate Crystal Ball: Future Workplace Trends

By Caroline M.L. Potter, Yahoo! HotJobs

The experts at Challenger, Gray and Christmas, an outplacement consulting organization, have looked into the future to forecast what you can expect from the corporate world in the years to come. Curious? Read on to find out how and where you work today may be different tomorrow.

Four-Day Workweeks (and Three-Day Weekends)

The rising costs of fuel are driving some employers to allow workers to make their four-day workweek fantasy a reality. While not all professions provide all employees the opportunity to perform all their tasks in a fewer days, Challenger, Gray & Christmas reports, "Twenty-three percent of companies are now offering a condensed workweek, typically consisting of four 10-hour days."

Not everyone has to put in a full, 40-hour week to be effective. "With the latest productivity-enhancing tools, some workers are able to get their work done in a four-day, 32-hour week," says CEO John Challenger.

Shape Up or Pay Up

Health insurance continues to take a big bite of everyone's bottom line. Expect employers to take a more personal interest in your well-being through mandatory corporate wellness programs. Challenger, Gray & Christmas predict, "Office equipment such as Steelcase's WalkStations, which allow workers to walk on treadmills while at their computers, will catch on nationwide." You can also look forward to your employer taking an interest in unhealthy behaviors you may engage in outside the office.

More companies will follow the lead of one Indiana company, which announced that workers who allow health risks such as tobacco use, obesity or high cholesterol to go unchecked will pay more for their company health insurance, says Challenger.

Why Your Degree May Be Company-Sponsored

College, or even graduate school, doesn't necessarily leave you prepared for the particular practices of a certain company. So workers can hit the ground running, work more efficiently and advance more quickly, Challenger, Gray & Christmas believe that large corporations will begin to create their own degree programs.

"Companies will initiate entire programs with precise coursework centered around their company culture and goals, eliminating the need for extensive on-the-job training, and saving both the company and the workers thousands of dollars," Challenger says.

Recruitment Goes Global

If you ever dreamed of working in another country, the possibility is drawing ever closer. "The expansion of the global economy will likely lead to a global talent pool where companies will aggressively pursue the best available workers, regardless of where they reside," Challenger explains. The firm's research reveals that corporations in Europe and Asia have already increased their efforts to recruit foreign talent -- yet another reason to keep your passport current.

Kiss Your Cube Goodbye

Are you tired of the solitude of your cubicle? If so, John Challenger's got some good news for you. "In order to maximize employee interaction and teamwork, many companies will eliminate the isolating cube and redesign their workspace to feature common areas, conference rooms and tables, as opposed to individual desks." Look for greater access to wireless so you can work in different locations with your laptop -- and increased opportunities for telecommuting.

HQs Get 86'd

The image of a hulking headquarters building will fade as fast as newspapers in the years to come. Instead, says Challenger, "In an effort to cut real estate costs, become more eco-friendly and attract the growing number of workers who want increased work-life balance, more and more companies will adopt a 'work wherever you want, whenever you want' policy."

If professionals require a traditional office, they will "work in leased office space close to their homes." Some companies are already embracing this forward-thinking notion, including AT&T, Best Buy and Sun Microsystems, the latter of which estimates that it saved $400 million in real estate costs over a six-year period, according to Challenger's research.

Athletes Aren't the Only Free Agents

Baseball and basketball players, among others, aren't the only talented people who can be free agents. Expect more white-collar workers to follow their example. "The move to hiring temporary and contract employees, freelancers and consultants is beneficial for both companies and workers," Challenger says.

Companies will save money and can add support on an as-needed basis while free agents enjoy flexibility in terms of when they work and types of projects they accept while also increasing their earning potential, Challenger explains. And this prediction is already taking root; more than one-third of the US workforce will be comprised of free agents by 2012, according to market research firm EPIC-MRA.

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