The Future of Work

The nature of work is changing. The hours spent in the office are getting longer and the factory jobs of our parents and grandparents are long gone. Workspaces have already changed over the past 30 years, and they don’t seem to be settling down anytime soon. It’s hard to prepare for every single possibility a future workspace may hold, but thankfully, in a recent report, “The future of work: A journey to 2022,” PricewaterhouseCoopers identified three trends of modern and future workplaces the can help us navigate the road ahead. 

The nature of work is changing. The hours spent in the office are getting longer and the factory jobs of our parents and grandparents are long gone. Workspaces have already changed over the past 30 years, and they don’t seem to be settling down anytime soon. It’s hard to prepare for every single possibility a future workspace may hold, but thankfully, in a recent report, “The future of work: A journey to 2022,” PricewaterhouseCoopers identified three trends of modern and future workplaces the can help us navigate the road ahead. 

Money is Everything

The first trend is that of the corporate minded organization. This company focuses solely on profits, revenue, and growing its market share. Employees work more hours, but are compensated well for their sacrifices. The increase in expectation is met with job security and an increase in earnings and rewards for the top performers. 

In order to work as efficiently as possible, these organizations will rely on the collection of personal and professional data. Though it may be difficult imagining a world where your employer has access to your daily health habits or location, the increase of wearable technology has made this much more of a reality. In fact, the survey found that over 30% of participants would have no problem with employers having access to their health data (PwC, 2015). 

This type of work environment may sound great to the C-Suite, but it would come at a great sacrifice of the employees. Work/life balance would be heavily skewed towards the work, and sleep, physical, and mental health would most likely suffer.

Contracted Hires

The second trend reflects globalization and the generational shift towards specialist skills. Where collaboration is no longer restricted by location, companies now have the option to hire the best person for the job, regardless of locale. This model emphasizes project by project employment contracts and the ability to work remotely.

Contract and consultation employment is already shaping the workforce. Today, 31% of HR professionals are building talent strategies based on portfolio careers (PwC, 2015). Intuit has estimated that by 2020, 40% of U.S. workforce will be made up of freelancers (Intuit, 2020 Report, 2010). The freelance website Upstart already has 10 million registered users from 180 countries. 

This trend would be great for small companies who need specific jobs done, without hiring a full-time staff member. However, these contractors would lose all sense of job stability. The stress of constantly interviewing for work would be immense, especially for those supporting a family. Individuals would also be responsible for their own training and development, which would shift the cost from the employer to the employee.

The role of HR would then move to sourcing and negotiating contracts and finding ways to motivate people who have never set foot in the office. One of the biggest HR challenges here would be hiring people who genuinely have the expertise required for the job. Reviewing and verifying sample work would be imperative. One solution may be an industry-wide rating system, which would penalize poor performance and make it more difficult to get future work. 

The Holistic Approach

The final trend is the socially conscious organization, emphasizing both social and environmental responsibility. According to the PwC report, 65% of people around the would want to work for an organization with a powerful social conscience. This can take the form of the company using renewable resources, partnering with nonprofit or community organizations, and setting up volunteer opportunities for employees. It also may consist of flexibility in work hours or location and fluid work paths.

Many large organizations have been shifting towards this style in recent years. Netflix and Amazon are now offer significant paid parental leave. Other companies are reducing work hours, or allowing employees to work from home. This flexibility in the work week allows people long stretches of uninterrupted time to get work done, while allowing the employee to work where they feel most comfortable and productive. 

In return for this holistic focus, employees would feel a loyalty to a company that treats them well. It will be a function of HR to drive the social responsibility agenda of the organization and help employees find that all-important work/life balance.

There is no guarantee that your company will follow any of these models, but it is guaranteed that there significant changes ahead. Though there are no right or wrong models, you should take these trends into consideration when considering job prospects or planning their future careers. Finding a company that aligns with your personal work philosophy will help maintain job satisfaction and overall happiness.