5 Workplace Trends That Are Making Your Job Harder

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ShutterstockDespite their lack of popularity with workers, open office plans are becoming more and more of a common sight.
By Alison Green

Some recent workplace trends are good ones, such as the increase in telecommuting, a growing call for paid sick leave and the gradually closing pay gap between men and women. But not everything is moving in a worker-friendly direction. With many other work trends, employees are getting the short end of the stick.

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Here are five workplace trends that you making your job harder and your work life less pleasant:1. The decline in support positions. The percentage of the labor force that works in support positions, like administrative assistants, has been declining over the last few decades. And since the economy went south in 2008, U.S. companies have eliminated about one million office support positions. That means workers are increasingly doing tasks that used to be handled by assistants, from booking their own travel to managing meetings, to ordering supplies. There are simply fewer people at work whose job is to make your job easier – and workers are increasingly handling administrative tasks on top of their regular workloads.

2. Fewer amenities. In addition to big things like support positions, many companies are also cutting lots of little things that made life at work a bit more pleasant, such as disposable utensils in the office kitchen or complimentary soda in the refrigerator. Those things might not sound like a big deal, but their absence can make your day a bit more harried and leave many workers feeling less cared for by employers than they used to. It's not just the small things, either. Many companies are putting greater restrictions on business meals, travel and professional development.

3. Open office spaces. Even though most workers hate them, workplaces that consist of wide open space – no private offices or even cubicles – continue to gain popularity. Companies with open office floor plans frequently claim the layout helps collaboration and teamwork, but worker complaints of loss of privacy and distractions abound.

Distractions are especially a problem when it comes to productivity. It can be tough to focus on projects that require deep thought when there's no barrier between you and the conversations of dozens of other people. In fact, studies have found that any collaboration benefits from open office layouts are outweighed by workers' dissatisfaction with noise and privacy issues.

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4. Hot-desking. Think an open office plan with no privacy sounds bad? Try hot-desking, the latest trend in office design that eliminates assigned spaces altogether. Offices that hot-desk don't have designated desks or offices. Rather, people find a new workspace each day, depending on where they want to sit (or sometimes, more realistically, where there's room). The system is sometimes used in offices where people are frequently out of the office, where the alternative would be many offices often sitting vacant. Other companies believe it increases teamwork, since you can locate yourself next to the person you need to work with on one project today and next to someone else for a different project tomorrow.

Of course, in practice, hot-desking means you can't store things at your desk for longer than that day, whether they're work files or personal items, like snacks. Plus, you can't personalize your workspace in any meaningful way, which can make you feel like you don't have an actual "home" at your workplace. And brace yourself for upcoming studies showing that it increases the spread of germs and workplace sickness, which are surely coming at some point.

5. The pressure to never unplug. Being able to fully disconnect from work is important to recharge and refresh your brain, but American workers are increasingly feeling pressured to stay plugged in on evenings and weekends – interrupting personal time to respond to emails that aren't even urgent and being generally available for work in their off-time.

While the goal of all this work is supposed to be increased productivity, in the long-term, it tends to lower productivity as people become burned out and unhappy. Researchers have even coined the term "telepressure" to describe the urge to respond to emails, texts and voicemails as fast as you can, so that you appear connected and responsive.

Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog, where she dispenses advice on career, job search and management issues. She's the author of "How to Get a Job: Secrets of a Hiring Manager," co-author of "Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager's Guide to Getting Results" and the former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management.
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