Fight to guard data might come to of­fice

Ex­perts pre­dict work­place trends on the rise in 2019

San Antonio Express-News - - BUSINESS - By Jena Mc­Gre­gor

Some pre­dic­tions about life at work in 2019 are hard to know: whether the econ­omy will slow down, and if so, when. Oth­ers seem like sure bets: The #MeToo move­ment will con­tinue, with more women com­ing for­ward with tales of mis­con­duct on the job, while is­sues such as di­ver­sity, flex­i­bil­ity and gen­der equity will re­main at the fore.

Oth­ers fall some­where in be­tween. We asked sev­eral ex­perts on work­place tech­nol­ogy, data, com­pen­sa­tion and other is­sues to make pre­dic­tions on the rest — their bets on the likely but not ob­vi­ous trends they be­lieve will take hold, the chal­lenges man­agers will face and the new perks em­ploy­ees could see. Some are quirky while oth­ers will re­mind us of the risks that ex­ist for our per­sonal data at work. Here are five trends you may see in the of­fice this year.

BEN­E­FITS: Fam­ily leave for non­par­ents will be­come more com­mon.

In re­cent years, ex­tended parental leave has be­come all the rage for new moth­ers and even fa­thers as com­pa­nies try to re­cruit and re­tain mil­len­nial work­ers. But Carol Sladek, who leads Aon He­witt’s work-life con­sult­ing pro­gram, be­lieves more com­pa­nies in 2019 will start to ex­tend “fam­ily leave” to non­par­ents who want time off to care for an ag­ing par­ent, grieve for a lost fam­ily mem­ber or help with a sick spouse.

“It’s come up in al­most ev­ery con­ver­sa­tion I’ve had in the last six months,” she says of her dis­cus­sions with clients. More com­pa­nies may decide to broaden fam­ily leave cov­er­age out of a sense of equity, as em­ploy­ees sense that “‘I’m sit­ting here try­ing to care for my 83-year-old fa­ther, and Jane, sit­ting next to me, gets 18 weeks of paid maternity leave. That doesn’t feel right,’” she said.

While the Fam­ily and Med­i­cal Leave Act al­lows em­ploy­ees to take up to 12 weeks to care for an ail­ing fam­ily mem­ber, many em­ploy­ees don’t know about it, and it guar­an­tees un­paid time off only. A ben­e­fit of paid leave for fam­ily care may not “ex­plode” in 2019, Sladek said, but she ex­pects enough growth that Aon He­witt plans to in­clude it in its an­nual ben­e­fits sur­veys. COM­PEN­SA­TION: A wage gap be­tween old and new work­ers will cre­ate new headaches.

As the la­bor mar­ket re­mains tight and peo­ple switch jobs more of­ten, there’s a dif­fer­ent kind of wage gap form­ing, said Brian Kropp, the group vice pres­i­dent for Gart­ner’s hu­man re­sources prac­tice. Com­pa­nies have to dan­gle more to lure in new work­ers, mak­ing pay dis­par­ity grow be­tween work­ers who’ve been in a job with a com­pany for years and those who’ve been newly re­cruited.

“In to­day’s la­bor mar­ket, the best way to get a raise is to go find a job at an­other com­pany,” Kropp said. Em­ploy­ers are “not as will­ing to pay more for the peo­ple they’ve got. It’s a re­ally in­ter­est­ing dy­namic.”

Yet as pay trans­parency be­comes more com­mon — with more em­ploy­ees open­ing up about what they are paid or web­sites such as Glass­door mak­ing such data more avail­able — the prob­lem could lead to morale is­sues be­tween work­ers and headaches for man­agers. Com­pa­nies, Kropp said, will need to make more-fre­quent ad­just­ments. Too many com­pa­nies don’t do that, he said.

“They haven’t done the fol­lowthrough,” he said. “In some places, it could get worse.”

But Laura Se­jen, a man­ag­ing di­rec­tor with Wil­lis Tow­ers Wat­son, says the in­creased fo­cus on the gen­der pay gap and pay equity should help ad­dress gaps that oc­cur be­tween in­com­ing and ex­ist­ing work­ers.

“If not all, a large ma­jor­ity of or­ga­ni­za­tions, as part of their an­nual pay re­view cy­cle, are now in­clud­ing a gen­der pay equity anal­y­sis,” she said. “Whether they did the ini­tial anal­y­sis two years ago or five months ago, they’ve been mov­ing fairly sys­tem­at­i­cally.”

PRI­VACY: Work­ers will de­mand that em­ploy­ers do more to in­sure their per­sonal data.

A “global awak­en­ing” about threats to the pri­vacy of our data as con­sumers will spill over into con­cerns about the per­sonal data we give our em­ploy­ers, pre­dicts Kristina Bergman, the CEO of In­te­gris Soft­ware, which helps or­ga­ni­za­tions man­age the per­sonal in­for­ma­tion they store and meet com­pli­ance man­dates.

“There are an in­creas­ing num­ber of pro­tec­tions in place for con­sumers — things like the abil­ity to opt in and opt out, or need­ing con­sent to use their data,” she said. “Em­ploy­ees, how­ever, have less con­trol over how their em­ploy­ers use their data.” Yet plenty of data are at risk. Be­yond So­cial Se­cu­rity num­bers and bank ac­count in­for­ma­tion from di­rect de­posits, data like what movies you watched in a ho­tel room on a busi­ness trip (charged to a cor­po­rate credit card) or what va­ca­tion days you took could re­veal other per­sonal tastes or even re­li­gious in­for­ma­tion to out­side par­ties.

Bergman pre­dicts more pres­sure for em­ploy­ers to pro­vide some of the same op­tions to their work­ers that cus­tomers have, such as be­ing able to re­quest ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion that com­pa­nies have about them.

“I think what they’ll start to de­mand is that em­ploy­ers spec­ify a cer­tain duty of care when it comes to deal­ing with their data,” Bergman said. “I think it will be­come part of their mar­ket­ing pitch, in the same way ben­e­fits pack­ages are, as em­ploy­ers start to dis­close how they treat em­ploy­ers’ data, too, and use that as an indi­ca­tor of the moral and eth­i­cal fab­ric of the com­pany.”

OF­FICE DESIGN: The of­fice phone booth will be­come a work­place sta­ple.

Peo­ple may hate the open of­fice design, but it’s prob­a­bly here to stay, al­beit with design tweaks around the edges: more small con­fer­ence rooms and col­lab­o­ra­tion ar­eas for peo­ple to find some pri­vacy or host a meet­ing, fur­ni­ture de­signs that al­low peo­ple to put up bar­ri­ers around their desk.

And in­creas­ingly, says Jonathan Webb, vice pres­i­dent of work­place strat­egy at the design firm KI, of­fice “phone booths” or “pri­vacy pods” for peo­ple to have pri­vate con­ver­sa­tions with­out tak­ing up an en­tire meet­ing room de­signed for a larger group.

While they’ve al­ready be­gun show­ing up in some work­places, such booths are poised to be­come com­mon­place in 2019, Webb says.

“Peo­ple are go­ing to start to fig­ure out how to make these things more ef­fi­ciently” — low­er­ing the high price for com­pa­nies to pur­chase them — “and make them a lit­tle more flex­i­ble in their design,” he said. (KI is work­ing on its own ver­sion, he said.) The Wall Street Jour­nal re­ported in Novem­ber that in 2015, only one booth-maker was part of the com­mer­cial-design in­dus­try’s trade show in Chicago. In 2018, there were more than a dozen.

“As the cost of real es­tate con­tin­ues to in­crease and the sizes of in­di­vid­ual workspaces con­tin­ues to de­crease, we have this is­sue of let­ting em­ploy­ees have dif­fer­ent work styles to al­low them to con­duct all kinds of dif­fer­ent busi­ness,” he said — in­clud­ing the lost art of the pri­vate phone call at work.

WORK­PLACE TECH: Email will move past its peak and con­tinue its demise.

Com­pa­nies have been mov­ing to­ward mes­sag­ing and away from email for in­ter­nal com­mu­ni­ca­tions for years, but 2019 will be the year email moves past its peak — at least at work, pre­dicts Josh Bersin, an in­dus­try an­a­lyst who stud­ies work­place tech­nol­ogy.

“If you’re work­ing with less than 200 peo­ple at a time, you re­ally don’t need email — it’s a waste,” he said.

The pop­u­lar­ity of mes­sag­ing tools such as Slack will con­tinue, he said, but he also be­lieves greater adop­tion of Mi­crosoft’s Teams — its take on the group mes­sag­ing app that’s in­te­grated into Of­fice 365 — will be a game-changer. Al­though Teams was re­leased in 2017, it’s still be­ing adopted or turned on by many cor­po­rate IT de­part­ments, and Bersin be­lieves 2019 will be the year it takes off be­cause of how closely it’s em­bed­ded with other Mi­crosoft soft­ware or fea­tures.

Both Bersin and Kropp also see greater adop­tion of work­place tech tools that “nudge” man­agers or em­ploy­ees via texts or other alerts that could di­vert users, too, from traditional emails (though the nudges are likely to come through email ini­tially, too). From re­mind­ing man­agers with a phone alert that an em­ployee in a com­pet­i­tive field hasn’t had a raise to nudg­ing peo­ple within an HR soft­ware sys­tem about us­ing their re­main­ing days of paid time off, ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence is likely to do more and more to urge be­hav­iors among man­agers and em­ploy­ees.

“I think it’s a new com­mu­ni­ca­tions par­a­digm” at work — “a par­a­digm of nudges, texts and alerts,” Bersin said. “That is, un­til we over­load that chan­nel, too.”

Christo­pher T. Fong / The Chron­i­cle

A “global awak­en­ing” about threats to data pri­vacy as con­sumers will spill over into con­cerns about the per­sonal data we give our em­ploy­ers, said Kristina Bergman, the CEO of In­te­gris Soft­ware.

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