The 10 Year Challenge: How Work Has Changed

It’s 2020! If any of you have followed along with the exciting 10-year challenge on social media, you’ll remember what little (or a lot) has changed since then. If you haven’t heard of it, the 10-year challenge is where you take a photo from ten years ago and compare it to a current photo to see how much has changed. It’s that simple! It’s a comical way to look back at how people have evolved, everything from hairstyles (colors & cuts) and clothing, to speaking in memes, etc. As we embark on this new decade, we thought it would be fun to do a 10-year challenge on how work has evolved over the past 10 years.

    • FMLA kicks the training wheels – FMLA went into effect in 1993 providing certain employees with job protection and unpaid leave for medical and family reasons. But in truth, at the start of the decade, only CA had protections in place. Since then the momentum has built and more states have joined in, but there is still a long way to go.
      1. In 2010, the National Defense Authorization Act expanded FMLA coverage significantly for service members and their families.
      2. In 2015, the definition of “spouse” was revised to include legal same-sex marriages.
      3. Paid family leave requirements have been put into law by California (2004), Connecticut (begins 2021), Washington, D.C. (2017), Massachusetts (begins 2021), New Jersey (2019), New York (2018), Oregon (begins January 2022), Rhode Island, and Washington (2020).
    • Bathrooms are no place for new moms at work – In 2010 the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act started mandating employers with 50 employees or more to provide a private space for nursing mothers…that’s not a bathroom.
    • Job-hopping is a real path to career growth – The trend of job-hopping–spending less than two years at a position before moving onto a new job–was cemented in America’s workplace culture by 2018. A full 64% of workers had either job-hopped or were considering it because they believed it would help their careers.
    • Remote work, work-from-home, telecommuting, dispersed teams are a force – whatever you classify it to be, 40% more U.S. employers offered telecommuting options than they did in 2010.
    • Robots are coming… Although robots have been working alongside—or in place of—human workers for decades, the last 10 years have witnessed an astonishing rise in workplace automation.
    • AI goes mainstream – Our methods for communicating have dramatically changed with the addition of meeting/intelligent assistants, chatbots (e.g., Alexa scheduling meetings, etc.), translation, meeting transcript/action item capture, facial recognition, and more.
    • The dreaded performance review gets a facelift – At the beginning of the decade, many companies were stuck in the end-of-the-year performance rut. Producing little to no benefit to employers and employees, while draining everyone’s free time. In 2011, Adobe was the first major company to shift from the old model to a more frequent and customized approach. Although this still hasn’t become the model among all companies, the buzz around how to make feedback and performance more fluid is a top priority among companies of all sizes. We hope to see new more employee-focused standards become the norm in the coming years.
    • Benefit programs continue to revamp – At the start of the ‘10’s employers benefit packages were all mundane, including the decade-old, copy and paste, healthcare and retirement packages (with maybe a gym membership discount thrown in to stay “innovative”). As the number of millennials in the workforce grew and the job market became more competitive, employers have shifted their full compensation packages to include a lot more than the traditional benefits. Some companies have even shifted to a-la-carte models where employees can choose which benefits are most important to them. For example, an employee may be able to choose to allocate employer compensation to a retirement, vacation, or student loan repayment fund.
    • A breathtaking increase in the number of US employers with transgender-inclusive healthcare coverage – Based on the HRC Foundation survey in 2009, only 49 major employers offer transgender-inclusive healthcare coverage. Over the past decade with the increase in employers focusing on creating and sustaining inclusive work environments where everyone- every sex, gender, and gender identity- feels valued, the number has surged to 849 major employers and counting!
    • The side gig becomes huge – In the last 10 years, huge chunks of the American workforce have traded traditional careers for collections of gigs—or at least picked up side hustles to supplement their incomes. Thanks to the rise of rideshare services and freelance-specific sites like Fiverr and Upwork, over 57 million people work as independent contractors, per the Gig Economy and Alternative Arrangements study. That’s more than one in three workers.
    • The rise of self-employment – The 2010s saw a dramatic shift in workers abandoning the traditional corporate structure to go into business for themselves. By 2020, FreshBooks predicts that 42 million Americans will be self-employed, with 27 million leaving full-time jobs between 2018 and 2020 alone.
    • A slow death of the Union– According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2010 just 11.9% of U.S. workers were union members. In 2018, the number had steadily dropped down to 10.5%.
    • Immersion in social media becomes complete – Over the last 10 years, the vast majority of the American population joined social media networks in one form or another. This mass connectivity forced employers to walk a tightrope between allowing and encouraging free speech and expression among their employees and protecting themselves from damage sustained by reckless employee social posts. A relatively new phenomenon, social media policies govern what employees can and can’t say publicly on their social networks. And when on social media channel wanes, another quickly takes its place (have you joined Tik Tok yet?), complete with jobs specifically for social media posting and influencing… Did your 2010 self ever think you’d see that?

Just for fun, here are a few companies/services who’ve come out of the past decade and have totally shifted the way we live:


We’ve highlighted just a few of the changes but would love your feedback as to what other changes you have seen or if one of these changes has had a big impact on you, please share!