What do Experts Mean by the Future of Work?
For years, innovators, business leaders, vendors, and developers have all been discussing the same topic: the future of work.
As the world as we know it has evolved, our concept of the “workplace” has changed, leading to new predictions on what the future might hold for the staff of tomorrow. The “future of work” is essentially how innovators refer to their projection of how work, workers, and the workplace, in general, might evolve in the years ahead.
So, what does the “future of work” look like for companies today? Are the predictions made about the future of work in years passed already changing how teams operate and function?
Let’s look closer at the reality of the “future of work”.
What is the Future of Work? An Introduction
The “Future of Work” is simply a way to refer to what the workplace and working landscape might look like in the years to come. The term is a relatively broad one, as it can refer not just to technology innovations and digital transformation initiatives powering new workflows but also how, when, and where work will be completed. The core components of the future of work define as follows:
- How work is done: How projects and tasks are completed in the future of work is one of the main talking points connected to this concept. In recent years, we’ve seen the rise of robotics, AI, automation, and similar tools to help streamline work processes. In the future of work, technology will make huge alterations to how work is done. The connection between man and machine will grow in order to improve productivity, creativity, and efficiency.
- Who does the work: The future of work opens the door to a huge variety of employee personas, different from the team members we knew a few years ago. Not only are AI systems taking over certain repetitive tasks, but different kinds of employees are entering the workforce in a non-traditional capacity. Part-time, crowdsourced, and gig workers are growing more common alongside remote consultants and professionals.
- Where work is done: The future of work calls into question where work should be completed. Standard office environments are rapidly disappearing in favour of more flexible spaces, which allow for common trends like remote and hybrid work. As team members become more distributed, there’s even the potential for the future workplace to be a “metaverse” style environment built entirely within the cloud.
The Trends Influencing the Future of Work Today
As mentioned above, the future of work is a complex concept influenced by a range of changing trends and patterns in the employment landscape. When technology enthusiasts discuss the future of work, they’re often drawn to concepts like the metaverse and extended reality. However, there are countless factors influencing what work might look like in the years to come.
Some of the major trends influencing the future of work today include:
- Transparency and empathy: Employers are under increasing pressure to demonstrate empathy and transparency in a skills-short environment. As employees continue to unlock new opportunities to work for businesses all over the world through remote and hybrid contracts, their priorities have changed. Companies are increasingly investing in tools and technologies built to enhance collaboration, synchronise teams, and build a more inclusive “company culture” for everyone.
- The power of data: The amount of data being generated by modern business is astronomical. Increasingly, business leaders are looking for ways to leverage this data for the creation of better processes, products, and service strategies. Data solutions are being used to create digital twins, which streamline production processes, empower better employee training, and even unlock valuable insights into the customer journey.
- Evolving workforces: As mentioned above, one of the major factors discussed in conversations about the future of work is “who” will be involved in any team. There’s no one-size-fits-all in today’s workforce environment. Recently, teams have become more distributed, self-sufficient, and flexible. Contractors and remote workers are more common, hybrid working has become a mainstay of the way most companies operate, and even the roles available to team members are changing. One report found 85% of the jobs available in 2030 may not be invented yet.
- Changing skillsets: As automated tools and robotic processes take over repetitive tasks, the skills companies require when hiring new employees are changing. As a result, business leaders are heavily investing in reskilling and upskilling opportunities to develop their teams. Training is being offered at a phenomenal scale, not just on-premises, but in a virtual environment too. Even XR solutions are being used for development today.
- Transforming communication and collaboration: As employees become more distributed, the way teams communicate and collaborate is changing too. Companies are investing in AI tools to bridge the gaps between geographical teams with real-time translation. XR environments are emerging as a way to bring staff members together within a new digital “work hub”. Even the environments teams use for ideation and creation is evolving, with many brands accessing video, VR, AR, mixed reality, and more to bring teams together.
- Ethical and compliance evolutions: As companies collect more data and interact with consumers and employees in new ways, workplace ethics are also beginning to change. We’re seeing changes in the way companies are required to protect their employees when they’re working in virtual and distributed environments. New compliance regulations and standards are emerging all the time for how data is collected and used. This will become particularly crucial in the age of the metaverse when personal data will evolve to match the demands of growing digital identities.
The Technology Influencing the Future of Work
There’s no one-size-fits-all definition of the future of work as it stands today. Part of the reason for this is that our perception of what the future might hold for employers and their employees is constantly changing. Only a few years ago, few companies would have imagined that the majority of their staff would one day be working in hybrid environments connected by collaboration tools.
While it’s difficult to define what the future of work might hold, we can see a number of technologies which are helping to influence the next generation of the workplace. Here are some of the most crucial technological innovations influencing the future of work:
Perhaps more than any other new technology, extended reality has already begun to make its mark on the future of work. Across every industry, companies are experimenting with augmented, virtual, and mixed reality to enable better collaboration and communication, deliver expansive training opportunities, and bring teams together.
Extended reality has the potential to change how employees are hired, onboarded, and introduced to teams, as well as how they’re developed and upskilled over the years. It can even influence how work is done by changing production and ideation processes.
The metaverse, while still in its early stages, could stand to become the new landscape for the future of work. Companies like Microsoft and Meta are already experimenting with metaverse technologies which would allow companies to build their own virtual environments for work productivity.
In the metaverse, the future of work would become a diverse, virtual landscape where everyone and anyone can collaborate in a shared space and access resources via the cloud. The metaverse will also change how companies complete tasks like evaluating new products, performing quality management checks, and even interacting with customers.
As the future of work becomes increasingly digital, innovation is occurring at a rapid pace within the networking landscape. Analysts believe around 70% of companies will be deploying multi-cloud and hybrid management tools, technologies, and processes in the years to come. 5G is likely to deliver better speed and reduced latency for those investing in new technologies too.
Concepts like cloud computing at the edge and quantum computing have become increasingly popular in recent years as our world becomes increasingly dependent on huge amounts of data. The future of networking will be defined by speed, flexibility, and scale.
AI, Machine Learning and Automation
Advances in AI, robotics, and machine learning have already begun to transform the workplace. By 2025, experts predict 50 billion devices will be connected to the internet of things, and 70% of manufacturers will be using digital twins to improve their processes. To manage an increasing number of processes, tools, and data-driven technologies, we’ll become increasingly dependent on AI.
Analysts like Gartner believe concepts like “hyper-automation” will become increasingly crucial in the years ahead as companies look for new ways to reduce costs and improve efficiencies. While AI might not take over for all human employees, the average team member will likely spend a lot more time working in conjunction with AI.
Flexible, Accessible Innovation
Perhaps one of the most valuable components of the future of work for many companies will be the ability to access more flexible environments for innovation. We’ve already seen an increase in the number of as-a-service offerings available on the marketplace for growing companies in search of scale. What’s more, no-code and low-code development tools are unlocking new opportunities too.
The decentralised landscape introduced by the metaverse, alongside ever-evolving tools for digital growth, should ensure companies can continue to rapidly evolve their workplace according to the unique needs of every user.
What is the Future of Work?
So, what is the future of work? It’s difficult to know for certain. We can’t predict accurately what tomorrow’s workplace might look like. But we can see evidence of a rapidly evolving landscape shaped by innovation, flexibility, intelligence, and new dimensions.
The future of work is a constantly evolving and dynamic concept, but it’s one virtually every business should be working on.