The rise of the “gig economy” might have caught some unawares but those paying close attention to occupation trends since the mid-90s would not be surprised by this change in the workplace. Tech start-ups were the incubator of these new ways of envisioning the relationship between the employee, occupation, and employer. Since then, workers have continued to exploring other, novel types of employment. Read on to see how the very idea of “work” will continue to change as we head into the future.
1) The Career Path
First, the “gig economy” shows no signs of abating; in fact, it continues to grow as more workers explore alternatives to working for long-term for a single company. According to the website Fast Company, 40 million work as independent contractors while 15.5 million workers find themselves fully self-employed. The future of work will likely involve more workers seeking multiple income streams from several businesses at a time.
Advantages exist in the arrangement for both employer and employee; the company saves on labor costs such as benefits while the worker enjoys flexibility in setting their rates of pay and hours worked.
2) The Human Cloud
Concomitant with this trend is the growing tendency for companies to use third-party websites that specialize in helping clients with the completion of large tasks by recruiting freelancers. This variation on freelancing similarly allows for greater flexibility for companies and workers. Companies contract out a specific project that may involve numerous smaller tasks such as writing copy or tagging photos while freelancers sign up for a project, complete it, and then move on to other projects. Workers have maximum flexibility as their workspace is essentially located in the digital cloud. There is no reason to believe that this workplace of the future will not continue to grow and evolve.
3) Tech and Tools
Technology, too, plays an increasing role in shaping the contours of the workplace. Emerging digital platforms are enabling staff within a company to work collaboratively in new ways. These tools need not be expensive or technologically advanced; a Knoll Workplace Research paper cites the use of Google docs as enabling teams to work together both synchronously and asynchronously. The fact that many workers are familiar with Google products means that there is no need for extensive training.
Virtual workplaces can also utilize social media tools. These tools serve as a virtual water cooler or lounge replicating the personal interactions found in traditional office environments. This familiarity enhances worker morale and productivity; this is all the more important to virtual teams in which personnel may not initially know each other well. It goes without saying that this use is carefully implemented and designed to increase workflow via unique social media accounts created expressly for this purpose. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that including a moderate amount of personal content helps to foster effective bonds between workers.
4) Employee Monitoring
That said, there are still millions of personnel working full-time for a single company, but even here there are signs of change. Owners are becoming more active in monitoring the physical and emotional states of their workers, rightfully viewing them as assets. It is not only a worker’s physical and emotional well-being that is seriously affected by workplace stress, but worker productivity suffers as well. Tired or ill employees also suffer disproportionately from workplace injuries.
Yet, remedies exist. According to the Guardian, BP has initiated a program to provide the fitness tracker Fitbit free to its employees. This innovative consumer technology allows for workers to keep records of fitness goals while also allowing their workplace in tracking their employees’ progress. This trend, another example of change in the workplace, may well continue as companies realize that drawing on emerging technology to monitor the health of their employees offers significant benefits to both parties.
Finally, worker retirement is becoming a thing of the past. For one, the older population is soaring. As people live longer and often in better health than in the past, older personnel return to work either to supplement their retirement income or simply to keep busy. More likely to favor flexible work environments and open working arrangements, these workers often take up self-employment and freelance consulting. Businesses benefit from the experience these workers can offer to a company, all the more so as today’s senior labor force is one of the most educated in American history.
While it is impossible to predict the workplace of the future, we can extrapolate from these five developments that flexibility and change will continue unabated. Drawing from the best of each, workplaces will continue to draw on a mix of the physical and the virtual; technology will foster worker innovation and collaboration. As for the future of work, it seems evident that managers and workers will continue to forge new relationships in the years ahead.
How does the future of work impact the way you do business?
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