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What will the future of work look like?

As the world begins to emerge and venture into a post-pandemic future, the attention of business decision makers has turned towards discovering what the future will look like. With all the changes that have occurred, there remains to be a large amount of uncertainty about what the future has in store. Opinions on what this future will look like are divided too, and this rings especially true for the work environment. Employers and employees have differing ideas on what they want the future of work to look like. Many employers are wanting a return to the way work used to be, whilst employees are wishing to make the most of their new hybrid working environments and continue their work remotely.

These newfound ideas and opinions will shape the future work environment and how work is conducted. But the question remains. What will the future of work look like?

Distinguish what is temporary, from what is here to stay

Although there have been a lot of changes in recent times, many of these changes are merely temporary. Social distancing measures and changes to law designed to accommodate COVID complications are just a few examples of these temporary changes. Whilst it feels like they're here to stay, eventually normality will return. However, some of the changes brought about by COVID are here to stay, and it's important to distinguish them from the temporary ones.

So, what is here to stay?

Automation technology

Automation has not been a new change when it was first introduced to help businesses continue to operate during COVID. The technology used in automation has been around for years and has already played a big part in shaping the current work environment. However, because the social distancing health and safety measures were introduced, automation played a key role in allowing work to continue and shaping how various roles were completed. As these measures are reduced however, automation will continue to become more present in the work environment. The World Economic Forum predicts that automation and artificial intelligence will create 97 million new jobs by 2025, including the creation of new roles that reflect changes in the current ones. A trend that will continue shape the future of work, albeit in a slightly different capacity to the current work environment.

More flexible working environments

One of the biggest changes that came during the COVID was the increased flexibility offered to employees in their working environments. The shift to remote working changed perceptions on how work can, and in some cases should, be done. Fears regarding decreases in productivity levels were quickly allayed with 43% of employees surveyed by Gartner reporting increases to their productivity when conducting work remotely. Whilst this shift into conducting work remotely was originally viewed as temporary, it seems that many employees are reluctant to go back to the old way of working life. Many employees have even gone as far as being prepared to issue an ultimatum to their employers too. Gartner have reported that 39% of employees they surveyed are likely to leave if their employers insist on returning to solely working on location. Results that show just how much employee expectations about work have changed.

Expectations for working remotely have increased too. Among those working remotely, or in a hybrid environment, 75% have increased expectations on being able to work flexibly. Compare this to the 4% that wish to return to working full-time on location, and a trends hinting at changes being made in the future are occurring.

The future of work will involve remote working in an increased capacity, and employees have already begun embracing this.

The cultural future

With all the changes caused by COVID, culture in the work environment has also seen a large number of significant changes. Business values have been tested, and some of these values have had to be prioritized over others in order to continue through challenging times. Values such as agility, innovation, collaboration, performance, and execution form part of the ‘big nine’ set of cultural values, as listed by MIT Sloan Management Review. Each of these values have formed the current work environment and will continue to shape the future of work.

In fast-changing environments, businesses with agile work environments capitalized on opportunities that COVID presented. With travel restrictions in place, airlines faced a large amount of uncertainty about their future. As revenue opportunities decreased, airlines such as Virgin Atlantic began special-cargo only routes to generate revenue. A change that was generated from changes to customer expectations and demands and one that will continue into the future.

These changes also required innovation and collaboration to produce effectively and efficiently in the new work environments. Not only were new, innovative products required to meet changes in demand and expectations, but new processes were also required to account for enforced workplace changes. Trends that will continue to be present as the future of work continues to develop.

Despite the unknown nature of what the future holds, current trends provide a strong indication of the potential opportunities that await. As the work environment reflects the social interactions of society, it's constantly changing and perhaps the post-COVID change may be the biggest. Whether it be through remote work or through the increased use of automation, there will be plenty of big changes to come. It's just a matter of embracing the natural change instead of fighting it.

Published Date:

November 26, 2021

Read Time:

5 minutes


Team Tidy