As we celebrate another Labor Day, we appreciate the past and examine future trends to understand how the concept of work has changed over time, and where we're all headed.

Labor Day started as protection, not celebration.

In the late 1800s, Labor Day was created to stop a strike. A group of workers from a railway company were laid off, others had their wages reduced, and many were angry with their conditions and treatment. In the 1890’s, manufacturing laborers were working upwards of 70-hour weeks in degenerative conditions. Aside from halting the strike, the Labor Day holiday was created with two goals in mind: to connect and unify union workers and to reduce work time. The perception today is that these goals have been met. While there is no mistake that some conditions have improved, the conversation around labor, work, and work environments continues.


Moving beyond degenerative to regenerative work environments.

Personal connection to work is top of mind for employees and employers.

While there are still many grueling work conditions here in the U.S. and globally, Gallop polled U.S. professionals to gauge emerging preferences in ideal work environments. The findings indicated that employees value personal connections with their coworkers and finding meaning in their work. Our demands for contributing positively to the world are shifting as well. Currently, 41% feel they have little or absolutely no impact on their company’s mission. This often makes them look outside the company for opportunities to make a difference. A majority of employees say a role that allows them to have greater work-life balance and better personal well-being is “very important” to them. And most say they would switch to a job that allows them flextime.

The concept of work as a 'desk' is shifting, and as a result, we are reshaping community infrastructure.

With the continued momentum of the digital revolution, professional workforces are finding themselves 'untethered' from their desks, making virtual connectivity a priority as they become more mobile. In 2016, video was the most used communication tool, with email as a close second. And a majority of companies are providing more flex arrangements to support this growing trend. 

In addition, when employees do gather, they seek community with one another. Modern offices are being redesigned as regenerative work spaces supporting collaboration and well-being. Exposure to greenery and sunlight yields a 15% increase in well-being and creativity and a 6% increase in productivity. Air quality matters too. Employers are seeing up to an 11% increase in productivity with better air quality. And employees with access to windows get 46 minutes more sleep per night. Sustainable design and communal spaces are not just trendy fads, but emerging as strategies to improve health and productivity. 

Workforces are becoming more diverse, an asset to companies.

Workplaces are becoming more diverse each day. With approximately 10,000 Americans turning 65 years old every day, there can be as many as five generations working together in some companies. 

This diversity of gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation and religion, are creating diversity of thought - a distinct value to companies. Deloitte explains the frontier of diversity, and how it is reshaping companies and metrics of success.