Every cloud has a silver lining, and for many, the silver lining to coronavirus means employers can no longer resist remote and flexible working options. Remote working and flexi-time – in some shape or form – are here to stay. But what else does the future of work have in store for us?
The job market is changing fast. AI and automation have brought us face to face with the fourth industrial revolution. Jobs are being replaced by machines, but new roles are also being created. What does it all mean for workers? Are half of us going to be unemployed a few years from now? Or will we be living a utopian dream where robots do all the horrible jobs while we swan around like royalty?
The OECD expects around 14% of jobs to be fully automated within the next 15 years. But according to a survey by recruitment firm Career Addict, 34% of us believe machines could take our jobs. Why the discrepancy? Maybe we just don’t have a clear enough picture of what the future of work will look like or what skills will be in demand.
What Workers Want
But do we have a clear picture of what we expect from our future workplaces? It seems so, according to Career Addict’s survey. They asked 1,000 people for their views on automation, work-life balance and reskilling in the future workplace; here’s what they found:
- 1 in 3 think their jobs could be replaced by machines in the future.
- Part-timers are more likely to believe their jobs could be automated (43%) compared to those in full-time roles (30%).
- 3 in 5 said that AI and automation will positively impact their work performance.
- 93% are open to re-skilling and lifelong learning.
- 75% believe automation will improve work-life balance.
- 3 in 4 believe a 6-hour workday will make them more productive.
- On average, respondents would give up 8.8% of their salary for reduced working hours.
According to Career Addict, the pandemic has forced businesses into a simulation of the future – where we need automation and AI, reskilling and lifelong learning, and remote work options to help us keep up with technological and societal changes. And one of the things respondents shouted loudest about was remote work, followed by flexible work. So come on, employers – it’s time to step into the future.
What else do we expect from our future workplaces? Well, for starters, we want an end to workplace discrimination. We expect our future workplace to be inclusive and fair, with a friendly climate and minimal stress. We also expect a fair wage, and we want our work-life balance to be taken seriously. Plus we’ve had enough of repetitive, manual work; we expect machines to take over the boring stuff.
By 2030, we also expect businesses to be more sustainable. Having observed the negative effects of environmental ignorance, many people rated sustainable practices as a top priority for businesses of the future.
Automation – Good or Bad?
If you think this is beginning to sound like a Hollywood ending, hang on a sec. We don’t expect 100% plain sailing. Some people think unemployment will rise thanks to automation, with many lower-skilled workers out of work. And it’s younger workers who feel most at risk, according to the survey. This may be because older professionals are more likely to hold managerial roles – after all, if you have skills like leadership and critical thinking, robots won’t be able to take your job anytime soon. So, start climbing that ladder.
But when we stop to think about it, haven’t jobs always been automated? Millennia ago, when some bright spark managed to attach a plough to a willing animal for the first time, did half the village sit around saying there goes my job? Of course not. Some jobs will go, but others will change. Jobs may even become more productive and enjoyable. Plus, new jobs will be created. According to the OECD, a third of all jobs will be transformed by technology and innovation in the next few years.
Bring It On
Surprisingly, it seems most of us are up for the challenge. An astounding 93% of survey respondents said that they would undertake workplace training – and we want employers to offer it. We are ready and willing to learn the skills we need for the future of work. And we also see the potential benefits of automation. 75% of survey respondents see the potential for automation to improve work-life balance – although that still leaves 25% of us who aren’t convinced.
A final silver lining in the future of work could be a shorter working week. Researchers have repeatedly tested the effects of reduced working hours, which are thought to result in higher levels of motivation, concentration and productivity. In fact, some companies have already switched to a six-hour workday – Microsoft Japan, for instance, tried out a four day week and found employees were 40% more productive.
“The ‘future of work’ has been firmly propelled closer to the present due to COVID-19, with health and hygiene standing as an obstacle for most workplaces today,” says Christopher Thoma, Project Manager of CareerAddict. “Our insights show how remote work and technology can play a critical role in how businesses evolve, in order to increase productivity moving forward.”
CareerAddict is a leading online resource dedicated to helping professionals kickstart and advance their career. With over 1 million monthly readers, we provide expert career advice and insights into the modern workplace.