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After writing about the future of workspaces, I thought I’d follow up by taking a look at HOW we will be working in the future, especially with all the Gen Zs (born after 2000) about to arrive in the workforce, many of whom have been in education systems that have been reinventing the wheel.
So what changes can we expect to see in the next 5-10 years?
No More 9 to 5
Numerous studies, including those by Paul Kelley at the University of Oxford, show that working 9 to 5 is out of sync with human biology. Finally, employers seem to be realizing that although it is possible to force a night owl to be in an office at 8am every morning, it probably isn’t the best thing for that individual or their productivity. Flexible hours will quickly become the norm.
A 2015 Vodafone study found that 75% of businesses worldwide now have flexible working policies. This trend is being pushed along by the fact that more than half of office workers say they would leave their job for one that offers flexible work time (Gallup).
For the sake of the employees and the business, managers need to do what they can to help employees structure their days in ways that encourage productivity. Scenarios include working from home to avoid rush hour before coming into the office or regular days spent working from home. In my post “What Does Flexible Working Mean?” I talked about how a variety of people use flexibility to their advantage.
“Generation Z are the first group to care about flexible work schedules more than healthcare coverage.”
Privacy and Trust
When employees are no longer sitting in a particular chair for 8 hours a day, trust becomes a major issue. Some employees will take advantage, but as Sarah Bradshaw of BambooHR said,
“Treating people like responsible, trustworthy employees helps them to be responsible, trustworthy employees.”
Those employees who tend to be less productive or trustworthy will find it difficult to find and keep a job – just as they always have.
For the less trusting employers, wearable technology will be an option but the use of wearables will continue to raise concerns about privacy. Employers will be able to keep a close eye on where employees are, the hours they work, and their productivity patterns. Not only that but they’ll potentially have insight into their employees’ mental and physical well-being. In fact, Epicentre in Stockholm recently embedded RFID chips in the hands of about 150 staff, so there’s no escaping big brother for those guys. They can, however, do cool things like open doors, operate photocopiers and access vending machines just by flailing at them!
A one-size-fits-all approach to working is suddenly looking rather dated. As well as night owls and early birds being able to work on different schedules, employees will also be empowered to complete tasks in a way that works best for them in the location that suits them best.
Employers are not the only ones having to rethink their approach, the education system is definitely taking note. My son is currently taking half of his courses online and half in class. Right now, he’s taking pre-calculus online to see whether he learns math best online or offline to determine how to take his remaining math courses in high school.
The Rise of the Contractor
PeoplePerHour, the online freelance platform, recently forecast that half of us could be working for ourselves by 2020.
With the rising numbers of contractors, people have started looking more closely at what that means for contractor rights and working conditions. I think it’s safe to say that we will begin to see legislation to stop companies taking the easy road to cheap labour without taking proper care of their workforce.
Although the gig economy (short-term, task-based work such as ride-sharing) has been growing rapidly in recent years, these are the jobs that will be most easily replaced by automation in the years to come so this may well be a bubble that is about to burst.
Your Office-Mate will be a Robot
OK, not exactly, but you will certainly be interacting with a bot of some sort on a daily basis. If you work in an office, think of it as an extension to Siri where you will be communicating questions or commands, and a bot will deliver you what you need (hopefully saving you lots of time in the process). Read about how Slack’s CEO already uses SlackBots in his everyday life to set up meetings, order food, handle expenses, prioritize, and ask HR questions.
Continuous Learning Will Become Critical
Although formal educational institutions will still play a role in on-the-job training, they will just become one part of an ongoing learning cycle where the majority of staff are learning throughout their career in a variety of ways: online, offline, paid, free and some with virtual or augmented reality elements. Sometimes learning will be required by employers, sometimes it will be needed to stay competitive in a particular field, but now that cost is less prohibitive, learning will often just be for personal development or fun.
School systems have started to wake up to the fact that the majority of their students won’t be getting jobs their teachers recognize. In more progressive school districts, the focus is starting to be more towards preparing students for the soft skills required to be adaptable. Here in Canada, there is now much less emphasis on homework, exams and grades and much more focus on developing in-classroom skills with the goal of ensuring every student becomes a learner, thinker, collaborator, innovator and contributor.
“We want our students to possess the attributes that will allow them to develop “adaptive expertise” where they will be able to be both proactive and responsive in a global society where the opportunities and challenges that they will be presented with haven’t yet been imagined.” Kevin Kaardal, Superintendent of Schools/CEO for the Central Okanagan
What else? In Part 2 I’ll be looking at the future of careers, how we will dress and whether there might be some opportunities in our future!