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Masooma Memon

What is the Future of Work? (+ 7 Tips to Help You Prepare)

You've heard that we're heading for it...but what is the future of work? Learn more about it, and get our top tips for preparing to maximize the benefits.

The great resignation, pandemic-fueled growth of remote work, and employees’ rising demand for work flexibility are some of the leading factors transforming the landscape of work.

To add, technology is advancing at breakneck speed - faster, it seems, than we can even form questions about how it will alter our professional futures. The aspirational roles of tomorrow probably don't even exist today.

So what is the future of work? And how can you be prepared to handle it? We answer all this and more in this guide that reviews five leading future of work trends and leaves you with seven effective tips to be prepared for the future success of your organization.

Read on:

What is meant by "the future of work"?

The future of work is a term referring to how work, workplaces, and the workforce will evolve in the coming future.

Note that there are three components to it:

  • Work reflecting how AI and cognitive tech will change the way organizations work.
  • Workplace addressing how organizations will collaborate — the technology they’ll use and so on.
  • Workforce or employees covering how businesses can retain full-time employees and leverage gig workers, freelancers, and so on.

Why is it important to understand how the future of work is evolving?

Understanding the evolution in the future of work is critical for:

  • Surviving and thriving as organizations that hire and retain the best talent.
  • Foreseeing, understanding, and handling workforce and workplace challenges.
  • Staying at the top of your game as an organization on the whole.

In short, keeping abreast of these trends and making organizational changes (as needed) is critical for your future success.

Future of work: top 5 trends and predictions

Now for emerging and expected future work trends that you need to stay on top of:

1. Artificial intelligence will change the way teams work

2. Hybrid and remote work will continue growing

3. There will be a rise in the fractional workforce

4. More people will pay attention to employee wellness

5. Flexible workweeks and work schedules will emerge

Here are the details: 

1. Artificial intelligence will change the way teams work

Most assume AI can potentially replace employees. For instance, marketers are debating how AI writing tools will replace humans.

 The reality? AI is only as useful as you harness it. Meaning: it can successfully augment your workforce’s efforts rather than replace them.

Take it from Disney’s CEO, Robert Iger. In his book, The Ride of A Lifetime, Robert shared that Disney could’ve lost in the face of technological advancements such as the rise of streaming services like Netflix. 

However, from the moment Robert took on the CEO’s seat at Disney, he was determined to leverage technology — not be afraid of it.

In contrast, world-renowned and well-loved businesses like Kodak and Nokia didn’t survive because they didn’t embrace the tech-led change in time.

So instead of focusing on replacing workers, think about how you can harness the power of AI, machine learning, and natural language processing.

2. Hybrid and remote work will continue growing

You’d think it’s time to bid farewell to remote working in a post-pandemic world. The truth? Research after research shows employees love a remote or hybrid work setting.

In fact, the majority, 54% of employees, say they favor a hybrid work arrangement according to a Gallup survey. 37% also admit they prefer working exclusively from home with only 9% saying they want to exclusively work from the office.

It’s not just about the flexibility and perks that remote work offers employees alone. Instead, by hiring talent from around the globe, employers can reap extensive benefits as well. The Runn team and our remote set-up is just one example of this!

Doist’s Head of Remote, Chase Warrington adds working remotely comes with its positive impact on the society too. Chase notes:

“Remote work has been shown to decrease gender pay gaps and positively impact DEIB, assist elderly and disabled people in finding meaningful employment, break down wealth gaps by providing employment to people in emerging economies and impoverished areas, improve work-life balance, and provide more time for people to spend with their families and friends, and positively impact the environment by reducing CO2 emissions.”

Essentially, the change to adopting remote and hybrid work is already in motion with a McKinsey analysis concluding that 20-25% of workforces in advanced economies could work from home for between three to five days a week. This is four to five times more remote work than in the pre-COVID-19 era. 

The infrastructure around remote work (from the standpoint of hiring, taxes, insurance, benefits, and more) is also changing. Chase explains:

“At one time it was seen as a huge hurdle to overcome to hire from abroad in a fully legal and compliant way ­— for the employee and employer — and this is changing very quickly.
Employers of Record are stepping in to solve this, and governments are taking it seriously now that such a large percentage of the global workforce can access employment from anywhere in the world. EORs and the surrounding ecosystem enabling global hiring and mobility will evolve quite a bit over the next few years.
Similarly, employees will also start to demand access to health insurance, benefits, and other perks that previously would have been sacrificed in favor of workplace flexibility. As that flexibility becomes commoditized, those expectations will change and employers will need to provide the solutions to meet that demand. Fortunately, like EORs, companies are stepping up to solve these problems.”

3. There will be a rise in the fractional workforce

With employees moving in and out of organizations — even taking on self-employment, you’ll note a rise in the fractional workforce.

With it, organizations will work around how to best encompass and leverage traditional full- and part-time workers, gig workers, and leased employees.

Stephanie Bowker, Co-founder of Ourspace points out: 

“I expect to see a continued increase in a fractional workforce, meaning self-employed people who work for a variety of companies on a long-term basis. Leaders and teams should take advantage of this trend by filling roles faster and creating a dedicated hiring strategy to attract top-tiered contractors.”

Again, the wheels are in motion for this future of work trend too with Nestle leading it. Their U-work initiative releases employees from fixed roles and gives them the freedom to choose whichever projects they want to work on — allowing them to enjoy some of their permanent roles’ pay, security, and benefits.

This is a brilliant example of a flexible work approach that lets organizations leverage talent and skills while letting workers enjoy work-life balance.

4. More people will pay attention to employee wellness 

90% of employees share that how they feel at work matters to them. And yet, only 49%, about half say their company is focused on improving their well-being.

With burnout and stress at an all-time high, it's important organizations take employee wellness seriously.

Thankfully, business leaders are paying attention to employee well-being as 58% of organizations invested in improving their employee experience in 2021.

One such example is Hootsuite’s employee mental health initiative where the entire company took a Wellness Week off — unplugging from work together. The company has also introduced half-day Fridays during summer months where everyone logs off for half of their Friday.

Tara Ataya, Hootsuite’s Chief People and Diversity Officer, notes:

“The resilience of our organization is rooted in the psychological safety of our people. When employees are given the tools, resources, and time to look after their mental health and wellness, organizations are more agile, resilient, and successful.” 

5. Flexible workweeks and work schedules will emerge 

The last trend that will pick up more pace than it already is: flexible work hours or four-day work weeks.

Again, rising stress levels and burnout are leading reasons contributing to this trend’s growth. Supporting employees who are parents is another reason as flexibility like this lets them have more control over their schedule, therefore, be more committed to their work.

One example of an organization successfully executing this trend is Buffer. They launched their 4-day work week or five shorter days initiative back in 2020 with their CEO, Joel Gascoigne, writing:

“This 4-day workweek period is about well-being, mental health, and placing us as humans and our families first. It’s about being able to pick a good time to go and do the groceries, now that it’s a significantly larger task. It’s about parents having more time with kids now that they’re having to take on their education. This isn’t about us trying to get the same productivity in fewer days.” 

Since then, they’ve successfully made it a part of their culture.

7 tips to prepare for the future of work

Now that you know what is the future of work, let’s walk you through our seven best recommendations for keeping up with the future of work:

1. Stay informed of emerging technology and provide training

2. Train leadership to be more human

3. Leverage VR and other tools to promote team connectedness

4. Analyze skill gaps in your workforce and offer reskilling and upskilling

5. Hire for skills, not role

6. Introduce employee wellness and flexibility-encouraging initiatives

7. Foster self-managed teams with outcome-based management

1. Stay informed of emerging technology and provide training

Instead of closing your eyes to emerging tech, embrace it. 

Ask yourself what Disney’s CEO, Robert shared in this book: “How can we deploy technology as a powerful new tool for growth instead of falling victim to its disruption and destruction? 

However, don’t limit yourself to giving employees access to tools that could help them work better. Instead, enroll them in training workshops that teach exactly how they can leverage AI-powered and other cognitive tools. 

2. Train leadership to be more human

90% of HR leaders say that to succeed in the future, leaders need to evolve leadership in a more human way.

This ensures leadership is more accessible to teams, empathetic toward their workforce’s concerns and struggles, and leans on creating a people-first work environment where employees have a sense of purpose and meaningful work. 

In turn, these are all keys contributing to a happy, well-committed workforce — improving employee retention.

3. Leverage VR and other tools to promote team connectedness

According to Gartner, human resources workers say adjusting their culture in a hybrid work setting is the biggest challenge in adopting this work model. 

Erika Khanna, Culture & People XP at thirdweb shares a solution to this, noting feeling connected to the team’s mission and to teammates is definitely a challenge for both remote and hybrid working organizations.

As a solution, Erika points out the usefulness of tools like VR and ChatGPT here.

“Leveraging VR for global teams to interact creates a space where people can feel less siloed and still leave room for them to work remotely and make space for immersive hobbies outside of work,” Erika advises.
“ChatGPT is helping us with menial tasks to make room for the things we need to spend more time on. It’s remarkable how efficient we can be embracing these tools and creating more time for ourselves as a result of it.
“For those who have embraced the remote work model, using these tools feels like an asset because their time can be allocated to things they’re passionate about,” adds Erika.

4. Analyze skill gaps in your workforce and offer reskilling and upskilling

Conduct a skill gap analysis to identify which skills are lacking or needed for the future. From there on, train and reskill your workforce.

But make sure you offer reskilling based on employees’ interests — using resource management software to track your workforce’s current skills and interests helps with this.

5. Hire for skills, not role

Yet another way to close your skills gap is hiring people based on their skills given lots of skills such as data analysis are applicable to different roles. 

To this end, embracing the gig economy or working with freelancers is also a good idea for meeting skill requirements — especially if hiring full-time isn’t in the books. 

You can also retain employees who are retiring by offering them perks in lieu of mentorship or other services.

6. Introduce employee wellness and flexibility-promoting initiatives

This includes taking mental wellness initiatives such as making mental health more affordable which half of employees say would be highly or extremely valuable to them.

It’s also important to address at-work stressors such as back-to-back meetings and employee overload.

Consider dedicating a meeting-free day to allow for deep work or reduce the overall number of meetings to combat the issue. Also, create a resource plan to ensure everyone’s working to their optimal capacity (this saves from employee underutilization too).

7. Foster self-managed teams with outcome-based management

This is particularly helpful for managing small cross-functional teams. Not only is it more human (read: people-first) but also more effective in producing better results as you put more trust in employees.

In fact, Harvard Business Review shares that in comparison with folks working at low-trust companies, folks working in high-trust companies report 50% higher productivity, 74% less stress, and 76% more engagement among other benefits.

Key takeaways

To sum it up, here are the key takeaways you need to remember:

  • (Cliché but) remote and hybrid work are here to stay.
  • Trust your team, give them authority and flexibility rather than controlling them.
  • The future of work is employee-centered and people-first. Open up to providing flexible work terms and welcoming fractional employees.
  • Embrace technological changes. Use these tools to encourage employees to work and coordinate better and promote team connectedness.
  • Manage your workforce’s interests, workload, and commit to their career development to retain them and close your skills gap.

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