Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash
These workplace trends will shape the Future of Work in the near future. Are you ready to make the most out of them?
We cannot predict the future with any accuracy, but we can try to understand the form it will take by studying the drivers and trends shaping it.
There are macro or megatrends shaping the world, such as technological disruption, climate change, demographic shifts or geopolitics, but there are also more specific ones at play.
Today we will focus on workplace trends.
We will look at the six main trends moulding the world of work in this decade and beyond:
- AI and automation
- Flexible working: working from anywhere any time
- New working models: the gig economy and more
- In search of purpose
- Lifelong Learning
- Employee Well-being
AI and automation
In this blog, we have treated the subject of AI and automation extensively (for example, see Automation: the Endgame, Conscious Artificial Intelligence, My dear AI friend, or Love in the Age of Machines), and there is a reason for this.
Artificial Intelligence will be THE TREND this decade.
It will have the most significant impact on the way we conduct our work.
2021 and 2022 have brought us plenty of advances in the field, advances that have taken unawares even the most seasoned watchers of the space. We now have generative AI that can produce great-quality text and images, and the coming years promise to bring many more breakthroughs.
The question now is, will these breakthroughs benefit society as a whole, or will they do enormous harm?
Will AI enhance or eliminate your job?
It isn’t easy to give a conclusive answer to this question, but we’ll do our best.
If we look at the past, we can conclude that AI and robots will automate and displace plenty of jobs but will also create new ones. The net result would probably be net positive, as it has been in previous automation drives (for example, ATMs were supposed to displace bank tellers, but their job just changed, and their numbers actually grew as banks could afford to open more branches). If this were to repeat, AI would create new jobs and enhance current ones.
The problem is that history might not repeat itself; this time it might finally be different.
Why is that?
Because Artificial Intelligence, as its name says, is a new type of intelligence, and it will affect all sectors and all positions.
AI and robots will displace low-qualification jobs with repetitive tasks, which is already happening, but they will also replace high-skilled and creative jobs. This hasn’t happened yet, but it will probably start this year and accelerate throughout the rest of the decade.
The thing is that AI will only get better; it won’t be as bad as it is today. This means that as it learns, improves and replicates itself, it will branch out to displace more and more jobs.
Will it displace all jobs, or will the best teams be made by humans and machines, like the centaurs in chess?
Time will tell, but we won’t have to wait much to find out. I suspect we’ll have a clearer idea in the next few years.
Read more: The AI Threat – How to Thrive in a World Dominated by Machines
Flexible working: working from anywhere any time
Flexible working is here to stay.
It is not going anywhere, even if many bosses would want it to.
We will be working more and more from anywhere and at any time. Hybrid working or entirely distributed or remote working arrangements are widespread and will only grow with time.
Remote working has its advantages and disadvantages for both employees and organisations, but the truth is that many employees see it as a benefit or perk they have earned. When that happens, it is difficult to return and put the genie back in the bottle. Some data shows that most people enjoy remote work at least some of the time and don’t want to go back to working full-time from an office.
Some companies, like Apple, Tesla or Twitter recently, are trying to bring most employees back to the offices full-time. Still, they will reconsider their position and become hybrid or fully remote when they start losing their talent to other companies.
Managing remote or hybrid teams brings challenges and difficulties, so this will be a new skill the future leader will have to master.
New working models: the gig economy and more
Until the 2010s, the working models were more or less straightforward. No longer.
Some people were entrepreneurs and founded companies, small, medium and big, while some others worked for these companies as employees, freelancers or consultants.
Now we have entirely new categories on how work can be organised, with some mixed models for people who aren’t employees but aren’t entrepreneurs either, and the arrival of the figure of the solopreneur.
The gig economy
The creation of digital platforms that bring together consumers and service providers has given birth to the gig economy.
As I predicted might happen by 2050, there will be two categories of gig employees in the future, with some megastar teachers, speakers, coaches, you name it, getting most of the market share in their areas, while others, like drivers, cleaners and other low-qualified workers will have to toil incessantly to make their ends meet.
Some markets, like private transport services (Uber), are being regularised in many cities and states, but there are still many grey areas around the legal status of some of these gig workers.
Still, this workplace trend will continue growing in the next few years, and more people will move from regular employment with a company to being part of the gig economy.
The Internet and the tools now available to create a blog or a podcast, build a following and get paid online for advertising or selling services and products have enabled the creation of the content creator economy.
People have created content for others to consume since Antiquity, especially after the creation of the print by Gutenberg a few centuries ago. Still, the process has intensified, and the entry barriers have tumbled in the last few years.
Now there are almost 600 million blogs and 5 million podcasts in the world, with new ones coming to life every day. Most of these are run by amateurs like me as a hobby, but many people are fully dedicated to them, with a few making a lot of money.
Gen Z and the younger generations love making videos on Tik Tok and YouTube, and more and more of them see this as a possible career and way to earn a nice income, so watch this space.
Social media and the Internet have enabled a new class of workers that didn’t previously exist: the influencers.
Influencers publicise their often glamorous lives on social media such as Instagram or Facebook or are experts who write about their areas of expertise on Twitter, LinkedIn, Medium or Quora. They make money by promoting products and services, which can be their own or someone else’s, to their gazillions of followers.
Being an influencer is becoming a career aspiration for many young people. Some of them will get there, but many others won’t, so many disappointments are bound to happen.
By its very nature, this is a small niche market, but it’s growing and will continue growing more throughout this decade and beyond, becoming a viable career path for those with the right talents (or looks).
These are not clear-cut categories. For example, a content creator can also be an influencer, thanks to the quality of their content, and megastar influencers can be part of the gig economy.
In search of purpose
Human beings need a purpose as much as they need food and water.
Management gurus and leadership experts finally realised this maxim a few years ago, so now everybody talks about how critical having a meaningful purpose is. It is all the rage to have leaders with values that go beyond maximising shareholder value.
It has become one of the most important workplace trends shaping the future of work. It is a welcome one.
Contrary to what many thinkers thought during the last decades, companies do not exist only to make money for their shareholders. They have other responsibilities towards all their stakeholders and the communities where they operate. Sustainability, different sorts of activisms, and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion have gained increasing relevance in the last few years, and this will only continue in the rest of this decade and beyond.
Organisations are made of people and they are led by leaders.
This means leaders with an inspiring purpose will have an edge.
Read more: How to find your career purpose in four simple steps and The Purposeful Leader: 5 Essential Characteristics to Be One
In an increasingly complex and chaotic world, where more and more skills will be automated, employees who want to remain relevant will have to continue learning throughout their entire lives.
Lifelong learning is another crucial workplace trend.
Gone are the days when people studied when they were young to get ready to work in adulthood, and that was more or less it for the rest of their lives, save a few corporate training sessions here and there. Now people need to keep learning all their lives, even after they retire, as it is likely that retirees will have to work on and off in the future, remaining in a state of permanent semi-retirement.
People won’t only learn in academic settings. They will profit from the diverse array of learning methods available to them today: learning on the job, watching tutorials online, virtual reality immersion, mentoring and coaching, gaming, and a long et cetera.
There is no excuse not to learn new skills and competencies, and you better do, as those who don’t will be left behind.
For a decade starting with a major health crisis like the 2020s, an expected trend is an increased concern from organisations for the health and well-being of their employees.
During the pandemic, many companies made herculean efforts to take care of their employees’ well-being, both physical and mental. Since then, the efforts have continued, focusing more on mental health. Believe it or not, there is a war for talent raging on, and companies that don’t take care of their employees will be on the losing side.
Mental health used to be a taboo topic, but it shouldn’t be.
HR departments and leaders in today’s organisations don’t want to be responsible for the stress, burnout and other mental health issues afflicting their employees. So they are taking action. Organisations are taking care of their employees’ well-being because it is the right thing to do, but also because it is good for business, as it attracts talent, improves engagement and increases productivity.
Considering all these benefits, this is a workplace trend we will see more of in the coming years.
Be ready for these workplace trends
These are the most important trends that will shape the workplace from now to 2030 and beyond. They will cause the main changes occurring in the workplace.
The workers and leaders who aren’t ready for the world these trends are shaping will suffer; those who understand them and can leverage them will thrive.
How do you feel about these trends? Are you prepared to make the most out of them?