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Three new trends impacting today’s workplace

Michael Norris

- Corporate

- Feb 13 2015

Michael Norris

President and COO for Corporate Services, USA, Sodexo

Sodexo’s 2015 Workplace Trends Report identifies several topics that address various aspects of the concept of work. Michael Norris, President and COO for Corporate Services, guides us through the highlights.

What went into choosing these specific trends to be highlighted?
Michael Norris: Sodexo’s I2S (Innovations to Solutions) team used a variety of research methods to uncover the trends that are affecting today’s workplace and its consumers. This approach included traditional quantitative measures, observations and interviews from multiple client sites, as well as a robust bibliographic review of academic and trade journals within Human Resources, Organizational Psychology, Information Technology, Facilities, Real Estate and Hospitality. In addition, Sodexo collected interviews and reports from academic institutions and trade organizations alike, including the International Facilities Management Association (IFMA), Sodexo’s Institute for Quality of Life, the Institute for the Future (IFTF), the World Future Society (WFS) and others.

The “Aerotropolis” trend was highlighted in the report. Can you explain what this means and how it impacts Quality of Life?

M.N.: Dr. John Kasarda, the leading developer of the Aerotropolis concept and author of this piece, notes that the Aerotropolis is the physical manifestation of globalization made concrete in the form of aviation-oriented, airport-centric urban development. As the world’s service economy shifts into fast-forward, these airports are becoming magnets for regional corporate headquarters, trade representative offices, and professional associations that require executives and staff to undertake frequent long-distance travel.

The ambition of the aerotropolis is to create a “frictionless” business environment, maximizing the efficiency of people and the flow of goods and communication. In many aerotropolises the full-range of office services and business support staff of a traditional corporate complex are available – including meeting rooms, computers and advanced telecom, secretarial and tech assistance. The ability to work with ease and efficiency while traveling is a key component of Quality of Life for today’s employees. In addition, it is important to note that the modern aerotropolis is designed with comfort in mind, and a wide variety of amenities and services are available for today’s travelers. This contributes to a better, more enjoyable travel experience for employees – one that enhances, rather than detracts from, Quality of Life.

The section on "Redefining the family-friendly workplace" has quite a strong tie-in with Quality of Life. How can companies ensure that employees maintain a work-life balance?

M.N.: Many employers offer formal family-friendly provisions such as dependent care and flexible work arrangements. However, the mere availability of formal family-friendly provisions alone cannot change underlying organizational norms and values that may subvert employee efforts to make use of those benefits. To facilitate these efforts, an organization’s norms and values must reflect the appropriate interaction between work and family life through family-supportive supervisor behaviors and a positive work-family culture.

A family-supportive supervisor offers emotional and instrumental support to employees, role models family-friendly behaviors, and has the ability to strategically schedule to accommodate an employee’s work-family needs. Supportive work-family cultures generate norms that respect employees’ personal time, encourage use of family-friendly provisions, and ensure that supervisors are sensitive to family needs. Employees who report supportive supervision and a positive work-family culture also report less work-family conflict and intent to leave the organization, higher levels of job, family, and life satisfaction, and better physical and mental well-being. Overall then, organizations need to consider both formal and informal family-friendly provisions.

In terms of the Quality of Life of employees, is there a topic within the report that has the potential to make the biggest impact? 

M.N.: Arguably, the use of mindfulness techniques in the workplace has the most potential to achieve significantly improved Quality of Life for employees. More than 2,000 research studies on mindfulness have been conducted in the last three decades, demonstrating that mindfulness can reduce stress and improve immunological functioning, alertness, brain function, sleep, glycemic control in diabetes, and productivity. Mindfulness training can also help individuals improve their self-awareness and self-insight, which in turn allows them to achieve growth and personal development in all areas of life.

Is there anything additional you would like to add regarding the importance of your findings or the impact on Quality of Life? 

M.N.: One of the essential qualities in any strong leader is the ability to continually look forward and ask the question: What’s next? The truth of the matter is that building a successful business is so much more than business strategy and operational savvy; it’s also about cultivating an environment where employees can thrive. An employee’s level of fulfillment or satisfaction has continuously proven to be a key indicator of their performance, engagement and commitment. Employees are looking beyond money and title to something less tangible but far more powerful: Quality of Life.

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