Cindy Krischer Goodman

Work/Life Balancing Act: In 2016, reclaiming boundaries will be a big trend

Cindy Goodman
Cindy Goodman .

One night, I was typing away on my laptop when I realized I easily could have finished what I was working on during the day if I hadn’t gotten distracted by social media. So when I welcomed 2016, I resolved to become more productive during the workday and spend more quality evening time with my family. Many of you started the new year with similar intentions to reclaim boundaries and improve your work/life balance. Fortunately, a number of work/life trends are taking hold to help us with our resolutions.

Rethinking around flexibility. If you want a flexible work schedule, this could be your year. With the rise of new technology tools, workers are demanding flexibility. In 2016, look for an increased acceptance of flexible schedules and organizations that support flexible work options. Businesses such Altegra Health in Miami Lakes and Citrix in Fort Lauderdale are advertising full-time telecommuting jobs in a variety of professional positions. Paul D’Arcy, senior vice president of marketing at Indeed.com, a job search site, says job seekers increasingly are asking for, and choosing, employers that provide flexibility. “Searches for flexible work is one of the fastest-growing areas of searches,” he says. “For the highly skilled worker, in particular, there have never been more options.”

Pushback on overwork. If you feel swept up in the cult of overwork, you may get a reprieve. A backlash is growing against the expectation that work hours never really end. Look for this conversation to get louder in 2016, for workers to push back against constant connectivity and for companies to be forced to grapple with their own role in preventing burnout. “Employees are feeling put-upon,” says Robert Preziosi, professor of management at the H. Wayne Huizenga College of Business at Nova Southeastern University in Davie. Preziosi believes workers will turn to their managers for help with setting priorities: “If you know your priorities, you know who and what you need to respond to quickly.” With that knowledge, workers will better manage their time and hold themselves accountable, taking oversight off their manager’s back and reducing stress for all, he said.

Raises more likely. If you’ve been putting in long hours without much reward, a raise could be on the horizon. Mark Zandi, chief economist at research firm Moody’s Analytics, has forecasted 2016 will be a breakout year for wage growth, particularly as the economy heads toward full employment. In 2015, Florida’s job market saw strong employment growth in all major private economic sectors (and the unemployment rate dropped to 4.8 percent), according to Florida TaxWatch’s annual review. A new CareerBuilder nationwide study found that 68 percent of employers plan to increase current employee compensation levels and 46 percent plan to increase starting salaries for new employees. Additionally, it’s possible the new overtime regulation could go into effect in 2016, boosting income for more than five million employees by raising the salary limit for who is eligible for overtime pay from $23,660 per year to $50,400.

Paid leave gaining momentum. If you need time off to care for a newborn, you may have a better chance of getting paid for it in 2016. Currently, only 13 percent of people in the U.S. have access to paid family leave, but that percentage is getting bigger with municipalities and corporations introducing new paid leave policies. Last year, the percentage of large corporations offering paid parental leave jumped to 21 percent from 12 percent the previous year, and we saw companies like Netflix announce unlimited maternity leave policies. That momentum continues. For the first time in a presidential race, candidates publicly debate a national policy for paid maternity, paternity and family leave. At the same time, advocates press on, and various states are passing their own laws.

Renewed interest in engagement. If you’ve lost interest in your job, this could be the year when you find more fulfillment. Gallup surveys show 68 percent of U.S. employees are not engaged in their jobs, and with this awareness, more organizations are launching engagement initiatives. David Hassell, CEO of 15Five, a San Francisco company that builds software to improve employee engagement, said companies must move faster in the global economy by giving more autonomy to employees at all levels. “Organizations realize that means those employees must care about their work.” To foster engagement, Hassell says more employers will eliminate the annual performance review in favor of ongoing feedback.

More self-employment. If you think your work/life balance would benefit from going out on your own, there is no better time. As of May 2015, 15.5 million people in the U.S. were self-employed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics — an increase of roughly 1 million from a year prior. In 2016, that number will keep growing as more people become independent workers — freelancers, contractors and temporary employees. Several factors contribute to the trend: There are more ways to work remotely, new co-working spaces are opening in most urban centers including Miami, and employers now see the benefit of using experienced contractors rather than full-time employees. Forbes cited Miami as the second-best city for freelancers in the U.S., with 9.8 percent of its population being self-employed. “Different people have different priorities,” D’Arcy notes. “It’s all about how each of us want to live our lives.”

Cindy Krischer Goodman writes regularly on workplace and work life issues. Connect with her @balancegal, balancegal@gmail.com or visit worklifebalancingact.com.

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