The working world is changing. Rapid advancements in technology were already shifting the way we live and work. This gradual shift has increased with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic. So naturally, we all wonder what these changes will mean for our careers and the working world in general. In this article, I explain how I believe the future of work will look by examining three main areas: Remote work, Contract work, also known as Freelance work or The Gig Economy and the increased use of artificial intelligence (AI).
I also share my ideas to help you survive and even thrive in your career over the next 10, 20 or even 30 years.
The work-from-home movement has exploded since the start of COVID-19. At first, many of us greeted this development with open arms. We enjoyed the increased flexibility and comfort we felt when we worked from home. However, more recently, the challenges associated with working from home have become clear. Issues such as increased isolation and loneliness and an increased workload have begun to crop up. Additionally, parents of small children (especially mothers) are struggling to balance the increasing demands of at-home childcare with work.
The growing disillusionment with the 100% work-from-home model has led to a movement towards a hybrid system. Where most companies allow their employees to work remotely for a few days a week. The hybrid work-from-home model is also something that my team and I used while I served as CEO of the Branson Centre. We found that this model provided team members with the autonomy and flexibility they craved. While still giving them opportunities to socialize with their co-workers face to face.
Even though we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of people who work from home, this trend varies across industries. For example, individuals working in Finance and Technology are most likely to work at home. Whereas, individuals from hospitality, manufacturing and healthcare are less likely and even unable to do so. In fact, 60% of workers in the United States have jobs that require at least some physical presence. In economically developing countries this number is even higher.
So what has happened to these individuals who can’t work remotely? Unfortunately, many have fallen prey to massive layoffs, and it appears that many of these jobs won’t be coming back. And where did all these jobs go? The answer to that is the increased popularity of contract work and automation.
The Role of Contract Work
The increasing economic uncertainty and cost pressures associated with the COVID-19 pandemic have caused several organizations to look for cheaper and less risky sources of labour. As a result, contract work, defined as work that is project-based or part-time, has a fixed duration date and doesn’t come with benefits, has become increasingly popular. A recent survey found that roughly 70% of executives expect to use more temporary workers and contractors in their companies than they did before the crisis. This shift to contract work is popular in sectors in which the individuals have to be physically present like the hospitality industry, food services and social assistance.
While the upside of contract work is a reduction in costs. Many employers are also noticing that contract workers are less invested in their projects and less loyal to the organization. As a result, I believe that the increased use of contract workers is a trend. In other words, companies are using part-time\freelance workers as a temporary solution, while they work towards what may well be one of the biggest trends in the future of work, the use of automation.
The Increased Use of Automation and Artificial Intelligence
One of the most significant trends that will emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic is the increased use of automation and artificial intelligence (AI), to carry out repetitive tasks. According to a study by Mckinsey, 88 per cent of finance and insurance executives, and 76 per cent of information and technology executives increased their implementation of AI since the COVID-19 outbreak. In the logistics industry, companies like FedEx have deployed more robots to mitigate the impact of having fewer employees on-site because of social distancing.
What Does This All Mean?
So what will be the effects of these trends over the next 10, 20 or even 30 years? One effect seems to be an increase in inequality. For example, a recent study found that the increased burden of at-home childcare associated with COVID-19 has set society back a whopping 50 years in terms of gender equality. Although the increased use of automation has affected workers across several industries, individuals in lower-skilled positions were affected first. Many of these positions have now become obsolete.
Another potential long-term effect could be the introduction of a Universal Basic Income. For those of you who don’t know, a Universal Basic Income is where the government gives every adult citizen a set amount of money to pay for the essential needs of life like food and shelter. I predict that as AI replaces more and more human jobs. Universal Basic Income will go from a fringe idea to a necessity and the future of work.
What Can You Do?
So far, the future of work looks rather bleak. But there are some things we can do to shore up our positions in the workforce. First, many professionals will need to reskill\upskill themselves. There are still several industries that are hiring. For example, online education, workplace health and safety, technology & artificial intelligence and sales & customer service are all seeing an increase in the demand for human jobs. It would be best if workers reskilled themselves to join these industries.
I also believe that with the introduction of Universal Basic Income, work will become divorced from income. In other words, if we all have a Universal Basic Income that pays for our food, shelter, clothing, and education. Then why will we work? What will work mean?
Although Universal Income will meet our basic needs, many of us will not want to sit around all day doing nothing. We’ll crave purpose. Purpose and meaningful work will become of greater and greater importance. People whose work adds more value to society like artists and poets and technologists will have increased value and will earn above the Universal Basic Income. Those who bring forth what is in them to create will become wealthy. This focus on creativity and meaningful work is the definition of a Soul Career.
It’s scary to see such drastic changes coming, and transition periods are always painful. But the outcome could be beautiful for human beings – if we design it to be.
That’s it for this post. You can check out the podcast on the Soul Career Youtube Channel and any podcast player.