“What would the future of work be like?”

Wondered humanity, as machinery took over manual labour.

People logged out of fields and logged into factories, where they started churning out hopes of prosperity, in a continuous, assembly line. Work, as humans knew, revolutionised forever. That was the paradigm shift, that the Industrial Revolution brought about.

Three centuries down the line, a virus did the same.

Once again, humanity adapted and continues to do so. Except that, it made humans think really hard about, what actually mattered to them. So, if the Great Resignation, put power in the hands of the employee, the Great Layoff, showed who’s boss. Now amidst talks of the Great Return and ChatGPT like AI, taking over, work continues to change forms and ideologies. If remote and hybrid work is here to stay, a gig economy is here to expand.

According to a Niti Aayog study on ‘India’s booming Gig and Platform Economy’, the 7.7 million gig workforce in 2021, is expected to boom into a whopping 23.5 million by 2029-30! Globally too, the number of gig workers, are expected to grow to 78 million in 2023. With such intense dynamics at work, where does traditional work go? As a freelancer, you’ll probably get to revel in an oasis of work-life balance. What if you’re an employee? How will changing workplace dynamics, shape your future? Let’s take a look at some expected trends.

Hiring for skills

Not very proud of your grades in school or college? Worry not. For soon, employers will give your skills more preference than your education or even your previous place of employment. That’s right! Increasing digitisation, has also increased gaps between what workers can offer and what their organisation expect them to do.

Therefore, bringing your skills up to speed, with regards to your areas of interest, is a must-do. The next time you consider a job change, pay attention to the specific skills a certain job, requires. Do you have them? Can you further hone them? Do your homework and modify your resume accordingly.

Consider this, roughly 1 in 5 jobs in the US, doesn’t require the traditional, 4-year degree now. Even LinkedIn reported that, 40% of the employers who use its platform to hire, consider skills data to fill in existing job roles.

Towards hyper-flexibility

Moving forward, the global workforce is not very willing to log of out of remote work cubicles, they’ve logged into. The work-life balance, that has been enabled by cutting down on unnecessary commute and taking out time to pursue personal goals, is leading to more fulfillment. An equation, people are not willing to upset. In fact, 81% employees do not want to go back to office and would prefer a hybrid work model.

Other than desk job workers, organisations will increasingly try and incorporate flexible practices for frontline workers too. According to the 2022 Gartner Frontline Worker Experience Reinvented Survey, 58% of organisations that employ frontline workers, have invested in improving their employee experience in 2021. About a third of those who haven’t, intend doing so in the near future.

If you’re unhappy with the flexibility policies at your current organisation, then you can count yourself among 70% workers worldwide, who are willing to change jobs to address the same. Yes, flexibility is considered only second to job compensation, in terms of work satisfaction. In fact, a new buzzword, slowly gaining traction, redefines WFH, as ‘work whenever’. Worldwide, employees are now also looking for autonomy not only in terms of where they work from, but also, when they work.

Increasing employee focus

82% of employees want their organisations to see them as a whole person. Not just an employee. Does that resonate with you?

The findings of this survey, on future of work trends 2023, by Gartner, is probably an indication of the positive change that you’ve been waiting for! There’s immediate reason for your current or future workplace, to consider the same. Remote and hybrid work models can only work be sustained and improved upon, if employees can be trusted to work independently, while remaining aligned with the company vision. Other than possessing the right skills for a job, employees also need to be motivated, driven and keen to collaborate with their co-workers. Therefore, probably for the longest time ever, in the history of work, your well-being at the workplace, will be at the centre of HR policies. That includes attempts to address burnout, mental health, stress and other factors, that could impede your productivity.

To close the increasing technological gaps, organisations will also have to focus on upskilling their employees. The third edition of the World Economic Forum’s Future of Job Report predicts that more than 50% of the world’s working population, will need reskilling by 2025. That could sound like more opportunities for your professional growth! Further, with younger people entering the workforce, companies will need to take a relook at their policies addressing DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) at the workplace. Not aligning company values with that of their employees, could lead organisations to pay a heavy price. A recent survey by Qualtrics, states that, more than half – 54% of U.S. employees, would be willing to take a pay cut to work for a company that shares the same values as them.

So, how will the workplace evolve in the future?

Going by many trending global conversations, it seems, the workplace of the future, shall be steered in the direction of empowering the employee. Though another school of thought believes that, a challenging recession in the UK, shall trigger the ‘Great Return’ by forcing employees to get back to work full time and meet work challenges, in-person. Then again, the 4-Day Week experiment carried out in UK, US and Ireland, is now slated to be carried out in more countries, owing to its success in enhancing productivity and leading to a happier workforce, at the same time.

It’s an interesting parallel, co-existence of multiple work systems. Once again, mankind is figuring out work, as it ought to be. Learning and unlearning, as it adapts to the new. Embracing the unknown, with reinvented thinking. While it remains to be seen, which work system will triumph over the other, as of now, facts are in favour of decoding work to make it simpler and meaningful for all. Those who own workplaces and those who make them thrive.