The year has been full of interesting workplace stories, trends and innovations. As the year comes to a close, it's the perfect opportunity to reflect on those stories and learn from them. Whether its focusing more on company security, discovering new ways to efficiently complete work projects, or bringing more of a healthy balance to the work day, there's no shortage of areas to improve. Here are some of the top employee lessons from last year that could help you make next year the best one yet.
Show you care about security
Employees play a vital role in company security. Human error still accounts for too many data breaches, and organizations are placing more pressure on employees to be security conscious. Over 52 percent of cyber attacks are caused by human error, according to a new study by CompTIA. Big security breaches like the Sony Entertainment hack highlight the security negligence in some organizations.
More organizations need to revamp their security training efforts, but valuable employees will take the initiative to protect company data with best practices. This is especially true when using work email, because email-based attacks like phishing have surged in the past year.
The workplace is evolving. It is now composed of several different generations, and technology is changing the way even the simplest of tasks are completed. One of the buzz words we began to hear more and more of this year was intrapreneurship, which describes how some big companies are looking to their employees for new, innovative ideas.
Instead of resisting the changes that are happening in the workplace, employees should embrace them. Look for ways that you can complete your work more efficiently, and in doing so, you'll become an even more valuable member of the team.
Revamp your work break routine
Studies have shown that taking even a five-minute break from work-related tasks can help improve an individual's productivity and well-being. However, many workers don't really take breaks at all.
A new study this year revealed that how we think about work breaks has changed. The study by Baylor University found that it is more important to take shorter, more frequent breaks than previously thought. Also, what one does on the break doesn't matter as long as it is something that they enjoy doing. It's never been more apparent that workers can improve their efficiency and happiness by stepping away from their desks for a few minutes each day.
Take advantage of benefits
Employee benefits have become one of the main selling points in the war for employee talent. However, recent studies have shown that employees often aren't taking advantage of them. One 2015 survey by Aflac found that employees spend eight times longer on selecting a computer and 10 times longer on vacation planning than they do on choosing benefits.
Some employees are even neglecting their vacation time. In September this year, Kickstarter announced it would end its unlimited vacation time, because employees weren't using it. The lines between work time and personal time are merging. I know several people who quit working for a company and began working for themselves because it allowed them to "work on their own time."
Benefits are pointless if workers don't take advantage of them. Some simply aren't aware of the benefits that are available to them. Next year, employees should strive to learn more about their benefits and make it a priority to use them. Employers should also make sure workers know about their benefits. It may just keep them on board longer.
Company culture matters
Company culture has become more important than ever. Startups and tech companies have helped pioneer a movement towards more transparent and employee-centered company cultures. However, their successes in recruiting top talent have motivated even more traditional businesses like Aetna to revamp their culture. Aetna's CEO Mark Bertolini introduced programs like free yoga and mindfulness training while also improving health and other benefits. Bertolini attributes the initiative for decreasing their huge turnover problem and increasing their revenue by 3 to 4 percent.
What does this mean for employees? It means that employees should care about company culture even more. As employers focus on shaping their organization's culture, it is important for workers to feel like they fit into it. If they don't, it could be a major drain on workplace happiness. Above all, consider moving to a new job, or again, striking out on your own, if the culture isn't right for you.