In media, so much can happen in a week, never mind a year and the highs and lows often hit you unexpectedly. A couple of the high notes this year for women in the workforce included the appointment of Mary Barra as the CEO of General Motors and the Ontario Securities Commission declaring it would take action on getting more women onto corporate boards. But then there were the low points, such as Toronto Mayor Rob Ford dropping the "P" word on live television. I'll leave it at that.
In my Globe and Mail columns over the last year I've explored how women navigate in a man's world, how men manage in a women's world and how older and younger workers manage a changing business climate.
So what can we expect in 2014? Here are five themes I touched on this year which will continue to receive greater attention in the New Year.
1. Women and Men Leaning In:
2013 was the year of Lean In, where Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg launched a movement to encourage women to be assertive in taking their rightful spot at the table. As the term "Lean In" becomes last year's motto, the discussion will need to evolve to focus on concrete objectives such as the dearth of women in top executive positions and the role men play at home and at the office. And Lean In didn't really get at the fact that the traditional family structure is officially a relic of the past. It's time companies -- and individuals -- start recognizing this and stop pandering to historic gender roles.
2. Goodbye 9 to 5:
As unemployment and freelance work becomes more prevalent, it's time to admit that the concept of working for one employer from 9 to 5, Monday to Friday, remains a rarity. A large number of functions in knowledge-based organizations will continue to be farmed out, according to Bill Waters, a Waterloo-based futurist and business strategist. He sees many companies encouraging employees to work from home, to reduce their overhead and believes that trend will evolve into contract roles so companies can avoid the cost that comes with full-time employment relationships. This is not all bad news. Marie Bountrogianni, interim dean of The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education at Ryerson University says the idea of 9 to 5 no longer appeals to many younger workers, who want flexible work schedules.
"It doesn't necessarily mean working more, or less -- just differently," she said.
3. I Tweet Therefore I am:
Every year, advances in technology keep changing how we work, live and communicate with one another and that will only continue. I alienated many people when I confessed to being addicted to my phone, but I see my device as a social outlet and productivity tool. As mobile devices overtake in PC in 2014, that trend will become more widespread.
From a company's perspective, employers will continue to try to use advances in technology to boost collaboration and productivity. Last year, Deloitte predicted that over 90 per cent of Fortune 500 companies would have an Enterprise Social Network. Duncan Stewart, the director of TMT Research at Deloitte Canada and the co-author of TMT Predictions said that he hasn't met one major company that doesn't use some sort of enterprise social network. While they often show a positive return on investment, he cautions that companies cannot expect the same adoption rates as public social networks.
Eventually, every worker will need to get on the social networking bandwagon, as it evolves from a specialized role to a core skill for every employee, according to Ms. Bountrogianni.
4. Adjusting To Millenials:
Generation Y or Millennials continued to baffle other generations in the workplace, who often dubbed them lazy and disloyal. Maybe an attitude adjustment is in order since by 2014, they are set to comprise 36 per cent of the U.S. workforce. While much more ink (and angst) will be spilled over how to engage, retain and motivate that cohort, it is high time to acknowledge that maybe older employers should conform and learn to embrace their inner Millennials, Kendra Reddy, founder of the firm It's a Big Life! describes Gen Y employees as "questioning, challenging and redefining how work gets done." Those sound like enviable traits to me.
5. Happiness Factor:
Which leads me to my last theme for 2014 -- happiness. As the term "success" becomes continually redefined, companies, employees and independent consultants alike will continue to look for ways to inject happiness into the workplace. In 2013, only 13 per cent of the global workers felt engaged at work, with the rest just sleep-walking through their day or worse, poisoning their workplace environment for the few happy colleagues.
Re-emphasizing the value of happiness in the workforce will become an important point of discussion in the coming year, since it makes for healthier and saner employees, and that boosts productivity and ultimately, the bottom line. And truth be told, who couldn't use just a little bit more happiness in their day-to-day work.
ALSO ON HUFFPOST:
Choose one of your favorite vacation memories and relive it -- all while skipping the airfare! "Every single one of us has memories from our favorite places. You can relive the best moment of your life to feel like you did when you were there," Wortmann says. Why it works: It helps you recognize you have a choice in how you feel in a stressful moment.
It might seem counterintuitive to find solace on your screen (<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/28/national-day-of-unplugging-2013_n_2760114.html">because unplugging <em>is</em> important)</a>, but you can do exactly that with the many centering sites out there. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/30/positive-thinking-the-10-_n_2582102.html">Here are 10 of our favorite URLs that inspire us</a>.
Your smartphone might be partly to blame for the stress you're feeling (hello, non-stop emails and phantom vibes), but it's also a great resource for de-stressing tools. Try a couple of <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/02/de-stressing-apps-10-ipho_n_2397200.html">our favorite de-stressing apps</a>, and <a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/gps-for-the-soul/id586099254?ls=1&mt=8">download the GPS for the Soul app here</a>.
Essential oils will do more than mimic an escape to the spa: A whiff or two could actually help you relax. Aromatherapy has been <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19571632">shown to decrease stress levels</a>, so shop around for a scent you fancy and get sniffing.
Since stress is <a href="http://www.livestrong.com/article/182980-what-can-make-you-feel-extremely-tired-sleepy-all-of-the-time/"> physically exhausting,</a> you might benefit from a little movement for an instant energy lift. An action as small as swiveling in your chair with a couple of deep breaths can help you get back to business, <a href="http://www.glamour.com/health-fitness/2008/10/how-to-destress-at-your-desk-instantly#slide=3">Glamour reports</a>.
If your employer allows it, you might consider swapping your desk chair for something a little more fun. While there is <a href="http://www.livestrong.com/article/290341-the-benefits-of-using-a-stability-ball-as-a-chair/">yet to be conclusive research </a>that a stability ball improves posture, the ball <em>does</em> allow more room for fidgeting -- which can wake you up and help get you back into the zone.
Think of your handwritten to-do list as a sacred document, kept away from distractions of the inter-webs. You'll know exactly where to find it when you need to refer back to it since it won't be lost among the many open tabs of your browser. Plus, the act of physically writing down your tasks<a href="http://lifehacker.com/5738093/why-you-learn-more-effectively-by-writing-than-typing"> may help you organize your thoughts and remember them more clearly,</a> which, in turn, will help you to be more focused and less stressed. Fear you'll forget your to-dos on your desk one rushed night? Make a point to snap a photo with your phone at the end of each day.
Your co-workers will think you're just craving a juicy mid-day snack, but besides satisfying tummy grumbles, you'll be reaping the benefits of the stress-relieving powers of citrus. <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11862365">A 2002 study</a> found that a dose of vitamin C helped people bounce back more easily from a stressful situation.
You'll have to get up for this one, but it will be worth your while: Just a five-minute break from your desk will have <a href="http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110208131529.htm">you returning refocused</a> and a little less anxious. Plus, <a href="http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/eyestrain/DS01084">your eyes</a> will appreciate the rest.
<a href="http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/stress-management-breathing-exercises-for-relaxation">WebMD cites deep breathing</a> as one of the best ways to lower stress in the body. That's good news, since it's an exercise you can perform anywhere, sans candles or gongs. Try out a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/19/dan-goleman-gps-guide-relaxation-techniques_n_2712260.html">few of</a> <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/johnroger/breathing-exercise-_b_2247713.html">these</a> <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-magone/stress-meditation-_b_1671435.html">techniques</a> to see which you like best.
According to <a href="http://www.samfak.gu.se/Faculty+of+Social+science/News/News/News_Detail//everyday-music-listening-reduces-stress.cid1066914">a 2012 study</a>, listening to music every day can help keep your stress in check. The (not-so-hard-to-fulfill) catch: You have to listen to music that you actually like. Check out our <a href="http://open.spotify.com/user/mindfulliving/playlist/3IGicJWDNRy8aNe2TZEmvE">mood-boosting playlist here</a> for some inspiration.
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