5 Key Trends Shaping The Future of Work

5 Key Trends Shaping The Future of Work

Gone are the days of the cubicle and the 9-to-5. With technological advancements, shifts in attitude, and the arrival of a new generation of workers, the world of work is changing… dramatically. Here are 5 key trends shaping the future:

1.   The Millennials Are Coming

By 2020, Millennials – people born between 1980 and 2000 – will account for over 50% of the global workforce. By 2025, this will increase to 75%. Millennials will be the largest generation to ever enter the workforce, bringing with them new values, ideas and expectations about work. Whilst Millennials are commonly accused of not wanting to work, it’s more the case that they place great importance on doing work that matters; they are a generation who don’t mind taking the time to find a company or job that suits them. For employers, this means creating a workplace where people want to work.

Millennials place greater importance on personal development and work/life balance than on financial reward; they are uncomfortable with rigid corporate structures, and expect a varied and interesting career with rapid progression and international assignments (source). With Millennials taking over the workforce by storm, employers are going to have to adapt to their expectations, changing the face of the 21st Century workplace.

2.   New Workplace Structures

The defining characteristic of the traditional workplace was the corporate ladder, climbed by hardworking employees who progressed higher up the company one promotion at a time. Cathy Benko, co-author of The Corporate Lattice, has shed light upon a new demand for collaboration and flexibility in the workplace, leading to more fluid career paths where people can move sideways as well as up. In these new structures, she argues, “you can find growth by doing different roles, so you have new experiences, you acquire new skills, you tap into new networks. The world is less predictable than it was in the industrial age, so you stay relevant by acquiring a portfolio of transferable skills.” (source)

3.   Robotic Takeover

Frustrating though they can be, the automated self-checkouts at your local supermarket have far from heralded an AI-led apocalypse. At the same time, if predictions are to be believed, automation in the workplace is set to explode. A 2013 study has estimated that 47% of US jobs are at risk of computerisation over the next two decades; by 2025 it’s possible that robots could threaten 70-75 millions jobs worldwide (source).

4.   Location Independence

To the uninformed, a digital nomad sounds like it might be something out of Star Trek, but these travelling remote workers and freelancers are firmly fixed in the real world… and their numbers are growing.

If the office-bound 9-to-5 isn’t selling itself to you, the good news is that rigid working hours and location are starting to matter less and less when it comes to doing your job. So long as you can catch an internet signal, you’re more likely than not to be able to do the same work you’d be able to in a traditional office. In our technological, hyperconnected world, it’s now possible to work from anywhere, paving the way for a new paradigm of location independence regarding work. And this isn’t something limited to the self-employed: Unilever is just one company that’s made a big push for location independence among its workforce. Figures vary, but it’s estimated that around 40% of US workers now work from home (source).

5.   Rise of The Gig Economy

The notion of the ‘job for life’ is becoming more and more out of place in the new world of work. A more exploratory and experimental approach to life, coupled with economic realities, has given rise instead to the ‘gig economy’. People are moving away from full-time, long-term jobs towards ad-hoc ‘gigs’, short term employment opportunities that provide variety and mobility: "To the optimists, it promises a future of empowered entrepreneurs and boundless innovation. To the naysayers, it portends a dystopian future of disenfranchised workers hunting for their next wedge of piecework" (source). It’s up for debate, but the gig economy is here… and it’s growing: a study by Intuit has predicted that 43% of American workers will be independent contractors by 2020.


Written by Grace Waters

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