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The Future of Work: 7 Things to Know About the Future of Work

Workplace of the future is no longer a pipe dream. COVID-19 has expedited — and in many ways changed — how we work now and in the future. As a result of the pandemic, up to half of all Americans now work from home, a pattern that experts expect to continue.

Robots are being used in grocery stores, recycling facilities, warehouses, and other places. While scrambling to secure their business, several companies have taken a more worker-centric approach, raising hourly salaries, expanding benefits, and improving sick leave. While these more worker-centric decisions may have been made in a panic, they will most likely continue to influence the workplace's “new normal.”

But amidst all the paradigm shifts, new trends are emerging. Some of these trends are worrisome for businesses and they must act. If businesses remain blind to the facts, they will lose.

From the jobseekers’ point of view, new trends set in motion by the pandemic are quite disturbing, too! As the world economy is swiftly embracing digitalization, there is a sharp rise in inequality in skills demand. So, upskilling and continued learning will be vital for jobseekers.

Keeping in mind the rapidly evolving landscape of work and employment, here are the 7 things that everyone should know about the future of work:

#1. Remote Hiring & Remote Working during COVID-19

The coronavirus crisis led many companies to switch to a remote work model and they took assistance from technology. The ones that led the trend were the computer programmers. However, many companies in the education and entertainment industries were found resorting to layoffs and wage cuts. Many in the design and arts industry shut down their companies. Healthcare industry, however, decided to diversify.

What came out from this is that employees reported increased job opportunities in different geographic areas. Also, the employers reported increased willingness to employ workers from different areas.

In a report by Milken Institute, it was found that 88% of the firms saw a wider hiring pool while 84% of the workers reported increased job opportunities. However, the study also found out that the employees with low income reported less job opportunities. However, smaller firms reported a wider hiring pool.

#2. Productivity, Working Hours, & Surveillance

This segment is a mix of good and disturbing data. In the same report by Milken Institute, the respondents to a survey reported that most of them feel far more productive while working remotely despite the fact that their workloads increased.

However, a significant portion of the employees with low income say that they feel more productive in an office setup. Contrary to that, employees without children and employees with higher salaries felt that they were more productive while working from home.

As far as working hours are concerned, remote work has completely eliminated the boundaries between office and home. This led to an increase in the working hours. One of the major reasons being the increased competition brought in by remote hiring. Other reasons include the need for accommodating colleagues working from different time zones and the knowledge or awareness that managers are scrutinizing the time spent by the employees very closely.

Employers responding to the survey agreed that they closely monitor employees adopting the remote working model because they are worried about the morale, effectiveness, and collaboration.

On the other hand, to keep up with the surveillance, and to show their commitment to the work, employees use various demonstration methods like being the first to scheduled meeting, sending work emails after the work hours are over, keeping videos on, etc.

#3. Work-Life Balance

In the study, Milken Institute found that there is a net increase in remote work preference and a net increase in work-life flexibility. That’s great, but the study also reveals that many people miss the in-person collaboration and ad hoc conversations they enjoyed in the office. Some, on the other hand, stated that they could focus better in an office environment and even the helpful hints their co-workers gave from time to time.

But remote working has definitely helped people in spending more time in household chores, but still, women spend 5 extra hours a week for household work compared to men. If these aspects are to be considered, remote work is not the complete solution to the work-life balance.

#4. Increase in Remote & Hybrid Workers & IT Equipment Usage

According to Gartner, by the time 2021 comes to an end, 32% of the workforce globally will be remote workers. Additionally, as offices keep opening throughout 2021, 51% of the workers will be involved in a hybrid working experience with a minimum of 1 day of work from home.

Gartner also found that remote work will depend significantly on how different countries are adopting IT equipment. It will also depend on culture and industries. Gartner estimates that the US will be leading the world in remote work with 53% of US workforce working remotely by 2022. Europe will have 52% remote workers by 2022, while India and China will have 30% and 28% remote workers respectively.

The rise in remote work is also determining how IT equipment is procured and used. Gartner estimates that by 2024, remote workers will be working with an average of 4 different types of devices to increase their productivity as opposed to 3 devices per remote worker in 2019.

But on the other hand, 10% of all remote workers worldwide will try tricking AI-powered tracking systems by the end of 2023. This will pose a serious challenge for the employers to keep a tab on their remote employees.

#5. Upskilling & Reskilling is Important

According to McKinsey Global Institute, 375 million workers had to acquire new skills or change careers by 2030. This was in tune with the World Economic Forum’s report that by 2022, the world would witness new emerging job roles including Data Analysts and Scientists, Specialists in AI and Machine Learning, Big Data Analysts, New Technology Analysts, and so on. WEF also stated that the demand for certain existing job roles would decline by 2022 including Accountants & Auditors, Data Entry Clerks, Assembly & Factory Workers, Administrative & Executive Secretaries, and so on.

Then the pandemic happened!

What was expected to happen over a decade, happened rapidly. The landscape saw a monumental switch to remote working, which required acquaintance with new technologies and software to not only communicate with remote team members, but also for performing important tasks. While it is important for workers to upskill to deal with the ever-evolving technology to stay competitive and relevant, it is equally important for employers to reskill their existing workforce or those that have been laid off due to the pandemic.

A Gartner study states that since 2017, the number of skills required for acquiring a job only increased by 10% year-over-year, and the coronavirus pandemic only accelerated the requirement for upskilling.

#6. Relationship Management Will Be Vital

Remote teams are prone to a sense of isolation and a sense of disconnect from the happenings in the organization. In-office employees may fail to connect with their remote colleagues frequently. This leads to a lack of support and dissipation of knowledge.

So, with the rise in remote work, relationship management will become an important pillar of organizational success. Team building activities will become necessary, and emphasis should be on interaction via various channels including video conferences, social learning, instant messaging, telephonic conversations, etc., to build trust, share knowledge, and foster collaboration. This will instill a sense of purpose, thereby accelerating team development and success rate.

#7. Flexible Work Hours Will Become a Norm

This circles back to points #2 & #3. Imagine being able to work during the hours when you are most productive. You can achieve more in less time. You may be a morning person, or perhaps an evening person.

With a shift to remote work culture and hybrid work culture, employers across the world are looking into this as more and more people (precisely 55% of the respondents of a survey by Gartner) report that their decision to stick with a company will depend on whether or not they are allowed to work flexibly.

Freedom to work flexibly reduces the need for constant surveillance and develops a sense of trust. It also ensures that employees are highly productive while still maintaining their work-life balance. The choice of deciding on the working hours barring the essentials like attending the key meetings or checking emails at regular intervals, helped 55% of the workforce to become high performers, according to 2020 Reimagine HR Employee Survey of Gartner.

Key Takeaway

We don’t know what the new normal will be in the post-pandemic world. We know for sure that some of the changes that happened because of it will stay for long. One of those is the monumental shift in the work landscape. Borders have vanished and the line separating office from home is gradually being wiped out. You need to adapt, upskill, reskill, and continue learning to stay relevant while still focusing on your personal wellbeing.