Is your office becoming a downright miserable place to work?
You may love your job, your co-workers and your boss, but subtler issues can make for an unpleasant work environment. These five workplace trends could be making your workday harder, reports US News & World Report.
If these trends are taking over your office, you may not have the authority to change them. But you don’t have to let them ruin your day.
Try our tips, tricks and tools to help you counter the negative effects of these changes in your workplace and keep them from putting a damper on your love for your job.
1. Fewer Support Positions
With our economy declining and technology improving, many US companies are removing corporate support positions, like administrative assistants, from offices.
This means employees are responsible for more administrative tasks, like scheduling, booking travel and ordering supplies — on top of their existing job duties.
Fortunately a lot of tools have popped up to assist with this work. To save yourself time trying to do two jobs, use these apps and tools to curb the burden of administrative tasks:
- Refer customers or clients to an online appointment scheduler to avoid email or phone back and forth for one-on-one meetings.
- Use a meeting scheduler within your staff to coordinate the best times for internal group meetings.
- Schedule travel and keep all the info in one place using a travel planning app for your phone or tablet.
- Use the store apps for Office Depot, OfficeMax and Staples to keep track of your office supply needs and get the best deals.
- Take the time to organize your inbox! Use these Gmail hacks and take advantage of Labs to keep your head from exploding.
Want to make money on the side of your day job? Take advantage of the growing need and offer your services as a virtual assistant.
Some employees might be willing to foot the bill themselves for the added convenience. Or they could convince their companies to cover the expense of outsourcing the position, which will be significantly lower than hiring in-house.
2. Disappearing Benefits and Perks
While tech startups follow the lead of giants like Google in amping up the amenities, some traditional companies are cutting costs by eliminating perks that don’t directly support productivity.
In some cases, it’s big things like HMOs and pensions. In others, it’s the little things like Casual Friday, season tickets and free snacks and utensils in the break room — those things that make you feel comfortable and appreciated at work.
While the little things are certainly luxuries, their absence can leave you distracted and less productive. You don’t want to spend half your morning worrying about where to find a fork for the salad you proudly packed for lunch.
Instead of leaving each employee to fend for herself, try coordinating with your co-workers to cover missing amenities. Assign one product to each person, and pool your money to buy drinks, snacks, utensils and toiletries in bulk to save money.
Take the social events and celebrations into your own hands in the same way. Split duties and costs for a weekend picnic or an in-office birthday party among (willing) employees.
3. Open Floor Plans
For years now, we’ve been concerned about the impact of cubicles on workers. Now that companies have responded with open work spaces, employees are complaining about loss of privacy and distractions.
How can you find the right balance?
Here in The Penny Hoarder office, we share an open work space, and I love it.
Yes, phone calls, video conferences and conversations at adjacent desks can be distracting. But the space facilitates a natural collaboration you miss out on when you have to knock at a co-worker’s door to start a conversation.
In our small shared space, headphones go a long way! I can pop in my earbuds, turn on iTunes and escape into my own world for a couple of hours to write.
Headphones and a mic cut the distraction of a video conference in half, as well. They keep the outside party’s voice from adding to the noise.
You can also work with your boss, co-workers or office manager to designate some quiet spaces around the office. We have plenty of side rooms and quiet corners to step into to take a phone call or just get peace of mind when we need it.
Hot-desking is also a system we employ at The Penny Hoarder HQ, and it works well for us.
The trend, which eliminates assigned workspaces altogether, makes sense for companies whose employees frequently work from home, leave the office for tasks or meetings or work on different projects with different people from day to day.
But hot-desking means you don’t get to “own” any space in the office.
You can’t leave behind snacks or photos of your dog to make you feel at home while you’re at work. (Though I’d suggest in the right company, you won’t need these creature comforts to get through your day.)
So bring your desk with you!
Keep a backpack or briefcase organized with your laptop, a binder or folder of important files, your lunchbox, a water bottle and a coffee thermos. Add the sentimental photos to your computer’s desktop, and personalize your day with your quirky wardrobe or office supplies.
And if working in a new place each day sounds like it would scatter your brain, remember we are creatures of habit. Most days, everyone will migrate to the same desks, anyway.
I sit at the same desk every day, and my neighbors rarely change. But it’s good to know I can take my laptop to another room if I just feel like sitting on a couch or being alone for a while.
Hot-desking also supports collaboration. I can plop into an open desk to work with a coworker for a day without feeling like I’ve displaced someone else.
5. Pressure to Never Unplug
A friend recently complained to me that her company would be increasing their mobile reimbursements… because she’d be expected to answer calls, texts or emails during nights and weekends. Yikes.
Even if it isn’t explicit, this expectation — known as telepressure — is becoming the norm in workplaces. Trends like remote workers across time zones, work-from-home days and virtual communication tools for every need make the work day seem boundless.
And for some reason, you feel guilty when you want to claim those night and weekend hours for yourself!
Clear boundaries are important to a respectful work environment. Disconnecting and decompressing are vital to ensure happy, healthy and effective employees.
What if your company simply requires your after-hours availability?
Turn off notifications on your phone for email and other communication or task management tools (like Slack, Asana or Flow).
Instead, check in with them on a regular schedule — once per hour, every two hours, twice per day, etc., depending on your company’s volume.
Let your co-workers and the powers-that-be know your schedule and that any urgent (and only urgent) communication should be sent via text or a phone call.
Take Control of Your Workspace
Whether it’s dwindling amenities or chatty office-mates, your office environment shouldn’t make you miserable.
Collaborate with your boss or co-workers when you can and get creative when you have to, and you can make an efficient and inspiring space out of any office.
Your Turn: Have you experienced any of these trends at your office? How do you and your co-workers handle them?
Disclosure: We have a serious Taco Bell addiction around here. The affiliate links in this post help us order off the dollar menu. Thanks for your support!
Dana Sitar is a Staff Writer at The Penny Hoarder. She also writes about writing, work, life and love for blogs and books and sometimes things people care about, like Huffington Post and that one time she had an article published in the Onion. Follow along on Twitter @danasitar.