It’s no secret that the working environment has changed drastically over the last few decades. Look back to the Milton Freidman thinking of the 1970s; that the only responsibility for a business is to provide value to its shareholders, and compare that to the modern approach; that all stakeholders (including employees) should be considered when the business carries out its activities. It’s fair to say that the working environment has changed drastically, and the Future of Work looks much different from the working world now.
The transformation is continuing rapidly today. Digital Transformation, demographic, social and environmental changes, globalization and labour flexibility will undoubtably have huge impact in the future.
And that’s not mentioning the small challenge soon to face the majority of businesses and their workforce: the emergence from a global pandemic and the associated possibility of returning to work in the coming months.
Without completely panicking, we can break down the Future of Work problem using certain frameworks. One such framework involves breaking-down the Future of Work into four different components. These components are work places, work types, work models and work cultures.
When people talk about the work place, it is exactly what it says on the tin. It is where work is done. For most of us for over the past year, the workplace has been in a small box office room next-door to a living room with a noisy toddler. However, many of us have gotten comfortable with the at-home office, and dare I say quite a few of us have gotten very accustomed to working from home, and coupled with an organized schedule, many of us may now say that we are more productive at home than in a physical office.
In fact, 29% of those surveyed are willing to quit their current job if they are not afforded a flexible work arrangement. This is certainly where a problem can lie in the Future of Work.
While some of us may say that we would rather work form home and some of us would rather return to the office instead, in many workplaces it is ultimately the executive level that will make the final decision as to the return to work. What may be seen as a more inclusive and productive approach to this part of the Future of Work is ‘open-source change’ involving employees directly.
This involves a form of crowd-sourcing feedback from employees directly both before and during the change management process, which could increase the chances of the change being successful by up to 24%.  Statistics aside, it sounds a lot nicer than direct executive instruction. To make that shift, we recommend starting small and expanding the ‘open-source’ approach over time. Co-creating your work place model is a great place to start on the way towards ‘open-source.’
We must remember that by return-to-work we are not just referring to the interactions of the worker in the workplace. As a business, it is critical to define Health and Safety protocols that keep employees safe from the time they leave home until the time they return.
Also, if a business has hired new individuals during the pandemic and expanded their overall workforce, is there physical space for them in the office when we all return to work? Other challenges involving work places include ensuring social distancing in the physical workplace.
A reluctance to define and communicate your strategy to all stakeholders could result in the loss of some of your most valued and critically skilled employees. The bottom-line impact for any sized business could be significant and not easily recoverable.
How often do you hear of the fear of robots taking our jobs in the future? And this is a grounded, genuine concern. Change to the type of work we do is happening, and its happening at a rapid pace. A 2017 McKinsey study on the future of work found that at least 30% of activities and about 60% of all occupations are technically automatable.
Without question this will free up time for a business. It will give the business more time to focus on more important tasks. And for the employee, there are 2 ways we can view it. We can view it as a need no longer needed to be fulfilled by physical employees. Or we can view it as an opportunity to develop a new skillset which would not have been possible if the employees were caught up in their previous task.
What’s more, although the change is happening quickly, it will not happen overnight. There is time for the employee to upskill themselves and embrace the coming changes in work types and for the employer to design new roles to ensure future growth supporting their employees to reskill and leveraging automation where it makes sense.
How are we contracted to work for a particular organization? That is the question of work models. We’ve all seen the emergence of the gig economy in recent years. However, the work models of the future may be a lot more expansive.
Since the demand for goods and services of a business can ebb and flow, a work model with a lot of elasticity could be a great way to manage the peaks and valleys while maintaining balanced growth is by creating a workforce model with elasticity. One thing is for sure that we will be seeing a lot more of on-demand workers in the future as work models expand.
It might not be simple for an operations advantage that flexible work models will be preferred in the future. Having a flexible work model has also been shown to the edge over their competitors in the talent market in studies.
Portfolio working is a work model which has been suggested by some as an answer to these problems. This involves an employee simultaneously holding a contract with several companies at once, with a guaranteed number of hours of work from all of them during any given period.3 It would certainly solve the issues that we are currently looking at and could be an option for senior executives to be employed more flexibly.
One thing that is for sure is that these types of on-demand work models are going nowhere. As more labour law surrounding flexible employment and the increased unionization of on-demand workers is in place, on-demand workers look like they are here to stay in the Future of Work.
There are many definitions of what workplace culture is. Some say it is the companies’ values, others the attitudes and others say how people act in the workplace. Ultimately it boils down to what the employees feel as they work for the company. Obviously, it is important for a company to have a strong, positive culture. The benefits of such according to research are increased loyalty and clarity of employee responsibility.  
As a result, it is essential that a company endeavours to implement its desired company workplace culture. The company practices which help to develop a strong desired company workplace culture will be discussed at length in a future blog post.
As part of any good workplace culture, there should be consideration for DEI: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Focusing on DEI as part of an overall work culture has a significant impact for a business, as shown in the below piece.
In case one needed more convincing as to the importance of work culture in an organization, studies have shown that 86% of employees would not apply or continue to work for a company that has a bad reputation with former employees or the public. Also, it is found that having a culture that attracts high talent can lead to 33% higher revenue. 
The Future of Work possesses a lot of change. With proper understanding and the right strategies, we can place ourselves in a position to tackle these upcoming issues and use them to our advantage. There is a great opportunity for a well-prepared firm to gain an advantage in the future.