5 Trends that Will Shape the Future of Work
The structures which have dominated the way work operates are currently seeing a massive shift. All of the changes which were progressively taking shape have quickened due to uncontrollable circumstances.
Companies and workers are struggling to create a new and stable system, which will provide a productive environment in turbulent times. Many of these changes will become permanent, either in their current state or with slight adjustments.
Keeping track of the current trends that are the most likely to shape the future of work is necessary for all forward-thinking people. Here are 5 trends that are likely to continue and influence the way work is done in the future.
Telecommuting is the biggest working trend currently, and all indicators show that it will continue to be the dominant model in the future. While the current trend of telecommuting has been exacerbated by the pandemic, it has already been popular for some time.
In large numbers, both people and companies are learning that telecommuting has significant benefits, even disregarding the need for social distancing. Workers report increased levels of job satisfaction, while companies state that productivity is increasing.
Telecommuting allows companies to hire from a more diverse pool of candidates – they do not have to hire locally, and can also hire people who would have trouble being in an office for prolonged periods, which helps raise the quality of the workforce.
Employees often need time to adjust to their new settings, and management should strive to make the transition as easy as possible, either by providing the technical tools necessary to remain productive, or additional counseling on how to manage working from home. However, once the transition is made, both sides stand to benefit.
Workers can cut commuting altogether, which is a significant time-saver. They can spend more quality time with their friends and families, or doing the activities they enjoy. They can also cut costs – many of the small things that you spend money on while at work add up.
When a significant part of their workers telecommute, employers can save on office space and travel expenses – a substantial portion of their budget. Employees are also happier with their jobs, making long-term retention easier, and saving money on hiring and training new staff in the process.
In general, telecommuting has shown to be a beneficial situation for both employees and employers, so there is no reason why the trend would not continue; quite the opposite, it will probably be the major change that shapes the future of work.
Project and Team-Based Work
A lot of the work being done within companies is project-based, and that trend will continue and become more dominant. Different collaboration platforms and tools allow for better team management, enabling project-based work.
Hierarchies within organizations will become more leveled, allowing smaller groups of people to work on separate, but complementary projects. As management styles evolve into more collaborative ones, rather than simply issuing orders, managers will be more akin to team leaders, permitting disparate groups to work together more easily.
Already, many companies hire external experts and specialists to work on both short-term and long-term projects in order to fill in the expertise gaps in their workforce. Over time, these specialists will become regular contributors, more like part-time workers, than a short-term, outside hire.
Both workers and managers will need to learn how to set milestones and deadlines, and follow through with them; when these skills are acquired, project-based work within teams will prove to be more effective than previous styles, further cementing it as the future of work.
Hiring from a Diverse Labor Pool
The global labor pool is, obviously, a much larger source of talent than what can be found locally. Major companies are already focusing on acquiring the best talent, regardless of where the persons are located.
As technology advances, telecommuting becomes more common, and travel even cheaper and easier, companies that wish to stay competitive will need to change their hiring practices in order to get the best workers.
Hiring globally comes with certain challenges – better organization is required, good communication is key, flexible arrangements are a must, and additional training is needed; yet, these are all worthwhile investments if the goal is to raise productivity and remain profitable.
Many people already work remotely and companies have branches in different locations, so the basis for a global workforce is already in existence, and this trend will only continue.
As jobs become more specialized and technical, it will get progressively harder to hire and maintain a qualified workforce, and companies will be forced to search globally, whether they wish to or not.
Countries that are currently developing will become a newfound pool of skill and expertise, and the companies which get a foothold in the new markets will have an overwhelming advantage over those that wait too long to diversify.
As a lot of jobs become automated, and specialized positions increase in demand, companies will struggle to compete for the most qualified workers. Flexible work hours may become a benefit key to attracting high-skilled workers.
Even now, flexible hours are not that uncommon, yet they are not standard. The pandemic and the shifting work conditions it has caused, has exposed many unnecessary features of the strict 9-to-5 model of a workday.
Allowing flexible work hours has not shown to be a detriment to worker productivity; quite the opposite, many companies report that giving their workers the ability to manage their schedule increases their overall job satisfaction, leading to better results both in terms of quality and quantity.
Balancing home and work life takes effort and time management skills, and workers will need time to adjust when given more freedom on how to spend their time, instead of having a fixed schedule, but these are all skills that can be developed.
There are many tools and educational courses that can help you learn how to better manage your time. Would you rather be forced to spend 8 consecutive hours in an office or at your workstation, or would you like to be given the opportunity to organize your day?
Being allowed to adjust your schedule does not mean that all structured work will cease to exist. Meetings will still need to be held, people will consult each other in-person, and group projects will be done.
All of this will still require certain times when all employees will need to be at the same place, online or in-person; but this does not mean that you are constantly in the office at regular work hours – you just adjust your schedule.
Good communication, management, and organization are needed in order to make flexible hours work – an employee cannot be expected to constantly be available to answer work calls, but the employer must know when and how their employees can be reached.
Previously, flexible work hours were reserved for the most valued employees, but the current trend is that they are becoming standard practice, where possible. The change may not happen in the immediate future, but once workers start demanding it, companies will have to acquiesce or risk losing valuable employees.
Automation and Low-skill Worker Displacement
One of the predictions which has been common for some time, and is now an undeniable trend, is the automation of work, especially low-skilled work. Service jobs will likely be the most affected, as this industry has already started going down that route.
Think of self-checkouts and online shopping – while not necessarily automation in the traditional sense, these are all jobs which were previously done by humans, and are now done by, or via machines.
It is true that designing, building, and maintaining these machines will open up new positions, but these will be both specialized and high-skill jobs, and fewer in number than jobs previously provided by the service industry; all of this will lead to a loss of potential positions for low-skill workers.
Machines like self-driving cars and trucks are also on the horizon, leading to yet more worker displacement. The technology needed for these advances is already in development and it will not be long before it becomes an everyday occurrence.
Also, machine learning will have a huge effect on the more complex jobs; while it may not make them obsolete altogether, it will severely impact the number of people needed to do them. More than likely, you are already using programs based on machine learning without realizing it.
How many times have you used Google Translate without thinking about how it operates? The programming of Google Translate is based on the principle of machine learning – it uses an ever-expanding corpus of lexical and syntactical units to optimize itself in order to provide the most likely translations.
We all know that for every time Translate gives the right solution, it makes three more mistakes. Yet, it is constantly improving and will become much more accurate over time. While it is unlikely to be able to understand the nuances of human language in the near future, it will probably be able to perform basic translation correctly.
Translators will still be needed for more complex tasks, but while machine learning will make their jobs easier, it will also lessen the number of translators needed worldwide. This is a perfect example of how automation and machine learning will displace many workers – it will not be an immediate shift, but a gradual process where humans are slowly phased out.
Trends change and we cannot be sure what the future will bring, but we can make educated guesses based on the current situation and likely outcomes. One thing is for sure, though – the future of work will change dramatically, and a smart person will try to stay ahead of the curve.
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