We’re witnessing an emerging revolution in workplaces. The World Economic Forum calls it the Fourth Industrial Revolution that will fundamentally change the way we work, live, and relate to each other. No wonder - billions of people who are connected to mobile devices with enormous processing power, the rise of artificial intelligence and machine learning, robotics, Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, and quantum computing must have a massive impact on the society. It is in full swing - this revolution - but what does it hold for us and our working environment?
What happened so far...
Although it’s still uncertain how it all will unfold, this change has already started shaping the job market. According to the World Economic Forum’s report The Future of Jobs, almost 1 million jobs are in jeopardy due to automation. Among the roles that are in the biggest risk of redundancy, there are data entry and payroll clerks, cashiers, telemarketers, customer service workers, some accountants, and analysts. On the other hand, near a double (1,74 million) new jobs are emerging, such as innovation and new technology professionals, big data specialists, robotics specialists, interaction designers, digital strategy specialists, and more. There is also a list of stable jobs what have been and will be in demand. There is no surprise that software engineers, human resources managers, supply chain and logistics specialists are listed there.
For the majority of society, it's all too obvious: the way we work, how we work, and how we interact has changed dramatically. We read about buzzwords and trends, we are surprised - sometimes shocked - when we look back on the changes of recent years. Some people may even be a bit overwhelmed. However, the fact is that remote work, freelance work etc. has already become a reality for millions of people. The world of work as we know it today was unimaginable as recently as only a few years ago.. And the world of work continues to evolve ...
What the future holds for us...
Those are the top workplace trends
A 9 to 5 office job is still a living reality of millions of people. However, flexibility in terms of both the workplace and working hours is in demand and employees around the world complain that they don’t get enough of it. When Harvard Business Review surveyed 1,583 American white-collar professionals, they’ve realized that among 96% of those who would embrace flexibility, only 47% have access to types of flexibility they need. This gap is even bigger among women - only 34% is satisfied with that. The survey has measured various types of flexibility, including unconventional hours, freedom of choosing the location, a possibility to work part-time or project-based and flexibility of minimal travel requirements. With such a big demand for flexibility from employees, it’s easy to imagine that more employers will try to fulfill the needs.
Granted, the development towards location-independent work is emerging as part of the much-demanded flexibility. Nevertheless, this point deserves special attention as it is the source of many other trends that are slowly but surely making their mark.
Whether home office, remote work, digital nomadism or distributed teams - numerous ways of working with more or less pronounced parallels arise. Though, they have one thing in common: they are the reason why the office as a firm and stable workplace of a joint team disappears.. Instead, the office is now imagined to be virtual - thanks to new technologies. With the right software, the right tools, and a good will for change, no employee has to go to the office anymore to access files and documents. He always has it with him through mobile devices, cloud storage and project management tools.
It so happens that digital nomads can always be on the road and need nothing more than a notebook and stable internet connections to make a living. It so happens that teams from different offices in other cities or even in other countries work together. It so happens that employees can work at home in order to receive a better work-life-balance or manage tasks on the move.
Obviously, even if not every job can be done remotely, technological advances are causing this type of work to spread. Many of the digital nomads are IT professionals, online marketers, copywriters, recruiters or designers. In 2018, 4,8 Millionen Americans referred to theirselfes as digital nomads. In the MBO Partners State of Independence survey, 27% they would consider to become digital nomads. Even if most of them are unlikely to do so, it shows that digital nomadism is an attractive way of life and works for many people.
As a result of the location independence, many other trends developed. These trends have similarities, often go hand in hand, favor each other and result from each other. Let's take a closer look at what followed.
Numbers don’t lie: the gig economy is on the rise. In 2016, over 50 million Americans were freelancers, which stands at 34% of the workforce. Based on how fast this trend is rising, it is predicted that 43% of the US workforce will become freelancers by 2020. In the past, freelancing has often been considered as a source of additional income or a temporary solution in between the office jobs. This situation has been changing rapidly. Many independent contractors claim that freelancing is their only source of income and the number of freelance moonlighters is shrinking.
It’s clear that freelancing is blooming in America, but what about Europe? It’s also a significant trend. In the UK, it’s estimated that by 2020, half of the workforce will turn freelance. At the moment, it’s 30%. There is also an interesting report based on the survey carried out by Malt and European Forum of Independent Professionals (EFIP). Freelancers from all over Europe have been asked about their motivation and challenges. They’ve stated that:
- 77% of them became freelancers by choice,
- 46.8% indicated that the main reason they became freelancers was to have a flexible schedule,
- 36.9% stated that it’s important to have location independence,
- 35.6% enjoy being their own bosses.
This trend is also visible from the employers’ perspective. According to the research conducted by the biggest UK’s freelance marketplace, PeoplePerHour, 57% of respondents stated that in the next years they plan to hire more freelancers than permanent staff. Even if you take into account that those employers are already eager to hire freelancers (otherwise, they probably wouldn’t take the PeoplePerHour’s survey), the trend is clear: the growing number of people work as freelancers and a growing number of companies are interested in them or they already do it.
No wonder - hiring freelancers have significant advantages. First of all, it allows searching for collaborators in a global talent pool. For example, if a European company needs a translator from Indonesian, it’s easier to find a freelancer from Indonesia than an Indonesian native speaker who lives in the same European city. Collaborating with freelancers also helps to cut costs and hire people for specific tasks only. It’s very convenient for startups and solopreneurs.
Co-Working + Co-Living
With the rising popularity of working remotely, freelancing and combining work with travel, it’s not surprising that services that support this way of work spring up like mushrooms. Coworking spaces meet the basic need of many workers: to have an office. A home office is not for everyone - many people find it hard to have a work-life balance, they feel isolated and miss the routine of going to the office every morning. At the same time, renting a small office for a long period is often way too expensive and risky for a freelancer. Here come the coworking spaces and there are almost 19.000 of them worldwide, each having on average 185 members. For a monthly free, they give access to the working station (it can be a small room, a private desk with a locker or a hot desk (not a private one) in a shared open space. Users pay as they go.
An interesting complimentary service is a co-living space, usually located in big cities. Co-living spaces address the needs of digital nomads who seek accommodation that is usually too long to stay in a hotel but too short to rent an apartment. Another target group are people who like to live in a shared space, with amenities like cleaning and access to events and co-working spaces in the same building.
The already mentioned World Economic Forum’s report shows another important factor of the future or work: the need for higher productivity. We face productivity issues caused by the rapid changes in the work environment. Office workers suffer interruptions every 3 minutes ans spend 1/3 of their office hours on email. Not in bulk, but during the day, distracted by the arrival of every message. What is worse, according to the recent studies, it takes even 30 minutes to refocus after a single distraction. Multitasking is an abolished myth. Distracted employees equate to billions of lost dollars for businesses.
Although email and social media are listed as number 1 productivity killers, the problem lies also in how work is organized and what tools are used. On average, office workers spend 19% of their time on finding documents, files, and resources they need to do their tasks. Multiple devices, unlinked storage spaces, and tools create chaos and wasting time on finding the relevant files.
Fortunately, this can be counteracted by using the right project management tools and optimal workflows.. Well, the future claims a little more adaptability from us, but at the same time it offers numerous possibilities and advantages.