Which Innovations Are Key for the Future of Work?
Staying on top of the competition has always heavily depended on closely following innovations and implementing them. Be it the domestication of animals, the transition from bronze to iron smithing, developing the technology to build ocean-traversing vessels, the use of gunpowder, or, in modern times, keeping up with the rapid development of information technologies – those who can predict trends and be at the forefront of innovation emerge as dominant.
The most important aspect of technological innovation for companies and organizations is not necessarily to be the one to lead to a scientific breakthrough but to be the one to apply it on a large scale.
This necessitates a strong, but also malleable infrastructure and the ability to quickly adapt to the shifting landscape. The current global pandemic is the impetus for both technological breakthroughs and innovations regarding employer-employee relationships.
New tools and methods are being developed monthly to allow workers to be more independent, while maintaining good collaboration, without productivity suffering. Here are six innovations, both technological and organizational, which will be key for the future of work.
1. WFH Technology
In the previous decade work-from-home has seen a slow, yet steady rise in popularity. With the global crisis, the evolution of employment, a process that otherwise may have taken decades, has shifted focus towards work-from-home at a dramatic pace.
More and more companies and organizations, be they major, multinational ones, or small and local, are scrambling to provide their employees with the opportunity to work from home while staying equally productive.
The technology needed to enable this initial shift exists, but as these positions become permanent, you may find yourself at awe at the rate of progress and innovation. Short-term solutions are available, but it is hard to predict how rapid and expansive the technological advance will be to permit large groups of people to effectively work together.
Collaboration and communication platforms, such as Slack, Asana, Monday, Trello, and more, are continually adding new features and improving their functionality. You may find it hard to keep up with the monthly innovations, but staying on top of the ever-shifting landscape is a must to remain productive.
Acquiring the latest software and hardware necessary to be competitive is a huge financial burden, even on the largest companies. An advantage of work-from-home is the possibility to cut office space, overhead, and travel expenses – funds which could be rerouted to provide the employees with the best equipment possible.
Major companies like Facebook and Twitter have already established permanent work-from-home positions, and are still working out the most effective methods for keeping their workers’ output maximized. A combination of third-party apps and internal development, with a focus on technological development, will most likely be key for the future of work.
2. VR Technology
One of the main downsides of the digitalization of our workspace is the lack of social contact. Without active communication, people may feel isolated and unimportant, which leads to a lack of motivation – negatively affecting their productivity.
VR Technology is barely out of its infancy, but it may provide the means for workers and employers to stay connected. It may seem to you that sitting through a meeting from your home, in your comfy clothes, without anyone seeing you, is desirable. After months of this way you will change your mind – a good professional environment can push you to be better at your job, while also being supportive through rough times.
A weekly office experience or group meeting simulated through VR could be the stimulation you need to keep your output at maximum. Innovations that make VR commonplace and readily available to the workforce will be invaluable to any company that can implement them.
3. Artificial Intelligence
No talk of future innovations can be had without the discussion of artificial intelligence and its proper implementation. While the concept of mechanical labor substituting human production is not new, the speedy advances made in artificial intelligence technology is already starting to cause upheaval in the global market, as well as the legislation that is designed to regulate its use.
It is becoming increasingly apparent that mechanization will no longer be used for the simpler manual tasks, but will be able to accomplish complicated tasks. As of yet, human input and oversight is a requirement for almost all of the tasks being done, but those roles are being slowly phased out as the technology advances.
Both employers and employees will have to find their specific niches, and balance the work being done by people and A.I. machines. People may be more expensive to keep, yet more productive for the more advanced tasks, while A.I. machines may be more expensive at the start, but more efficient in the long-term for more repetitive actions.
That is to say, technical innovation does not necessarily translate into automation of jobs. In the near future, all advanced workplace performances will need to be judged on a case-by-case basis, until a workable standard emerges. Workers and employers who are ahead of the curve may find themselves in advantageous positions, compared to their competition.
4. Digital Platforms
When taking a historical view of the connection between the global economy and labor, digital platforms such as UpWork, Fiverr, or even Uber seem like a minuscule part of the overarching narrative, but we can clearly see the significant impact they are having presently – the labor force is continually shifting towards self-employment, service and project-based work, and traditional institutions are struggling to keep up.
As with any large paradigm shift, new models provide many opportunities, but less security. When you think of the generations that came before, they generally had an easier time finding long-term employment, but the choices were much more limited. Opportunities for social mobility were finite, yet they could reliably know that they could work in one or two companies until retirement.
With the advance of digital platforms and a rise in project base employment, you will have more chances to find meaningful and well-paid, but short-term work. You will be hard-pressed to develop a skill set that will allow you to work continually, without the need for constant improvement and expansion of your field of expertise.
Digital platforms provide the opportunity for a global workforce to fill any and all niches that employers may require, and they are effectively still at their inception. Go to any digital platform and look up categories such as Other or Miscellaneous – you will be surprised at the types of jobs that you never imagined existed.
Staying employed in the global economy is a challenge – you will continually need to adapt, improve and develop new skills; at the same time, skill-based education is much easier to come by, without the need for formal training. You will find many places where you will be allowed to become a self-taught expert, although at the cost of much effort. With the rise of digital platforms and their perpetual innovation, the only limits are your drive and motivation.
5. Employee diversification
Besides the boom of the global labor market significantly expanding on the pool of qualified employees, many previously underrepresented, or outright ignored, groups will gain prominence. Permanent or part-time work-from-home employment enables workers with disabilities and those workers, usually older ones, who no longer wish to commute or spend their days in an office, to be fully productive and valuable assets to companies.
If companies desire to stay competitive and ahead of their rivals, they will need to find innovative ways to attract qualified workers, many of which will have specific requests. In a knowledge-based economy workers are a company’s biggest asset, and new methods will be required in order to entice new workers and retain the old ones.
The rapidly shifting labor landscape will induce the reallocation of funds from the standard company outings and leisure activities to more diversified boons that keep the workers satisfied. Employers may struggle to find the right balance of wages and benefits, but those organizations that are forward-thinking may quickly outstrip their competition, based solely on having the more qualified workforce.
6. Educational and Organizational Restructuring
It cannot be denied that the world, and the labor market, is becoming more digitized. The technology needed to enable this shift is rapidly developing, but the structures necessary to provide a stable base for this kind of work are having a hard time following at the required pace. This is not surprising, as structural changes are usually gradual and require time – but gradual change is a luxury that many may not afford.
Digitalization causes a shift in the skills required for workers to be productive, and workers’ positions are dependent on their ability to keep up with the changes. As more workers shift to working in this new model, there will be an increase in demand for appropriate education.
Established educational institutions will need to be innovative with their policies and the services they offer, no longer relying on their old models. Closely following technological advancements and offering short-term, skill-based education may become the norm.
Countries, national, multi-national, and regional organizations will face many hurdles trying to stay on top of the changes brought on by digitalization. While at its core digitalization is a technological process, it induces organizational change.
Digital collaboration and communication platforms allow for more fragmentation of work and outsourcing – this provides many opportunities, but also challenges. These, as of yet, alternative work arrangements will require many policy changes which will be the key to the future of stable work environments. Without an adequate response to the expeditious modifications happening to the labor market, these organizations may find themselves unnecessary and replaceable.
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