The future of work is increasingly in the spotlight. At the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, in January, experts discussed the challenges employers and employees will face as the workplace continues to evolve. Last year, the WEF’s “The Future of Jobs Report” addressed new technologies and their impact, forecasting that technological changes will require “difficult transitions for millions of workers.”
In its “World Development Report 2019: The Changing Nature of Work,” the World Bank focused on how advances in technology are changing the workplace as well as the skills employers seek. And it’s not just global industry leaders who are looking ahead. Staffing firm The Creative Group (TCG) along with AIGA, the professional association for design, earlier this year released research about the challenges workers in creative industries will encounter in a changing work environment.
In addition to a focus on technology, much of the recent discussions and reports call attention to two workplace trends to watch: Reskilling and flexibility.
According to the WEF’s “The Future of Jobs Report,” 54 percent of all employees will require significant reskilling and everyone will need an extra 101 days of learning by 2022. That finding was echoed by the WEF’s Klaus Schwab in a report titled “Towards a Reskilling Revolution: A Future of Jobs for All,” which said workers must engage in lifelong learning if they want to not just remain employable, but to achieve fulfilling and rewarding careers.
The World Bank, in its report, noted: “As for the current stock of workers … reskilling and upskilling those who are not in school or in formal jobs must be part of the response to technology-induced labor market disruption.”
And the TCG/AIGA research found that while 45 percent of those surveyed said they think advances in technology will create opportunities for them, 88 percent said that keeping their skills — both hard and soft — up to date will be difficult. “Learning new technology can be daunting,” said TCG’s Executive Director Diane Domeyer, “but it will open doors to many professional opportunities — and it’s critical for success.”
Flexibility in the workplace covers a lot of ground, from working from home to the freedom the gig economy allows.
Technology, according to the World Bank, is changing how people work and the terms under which they work. With technology allowing remote workers to be more efficient, nearly 70 percent of the respondents to the TCG/AIGA study said that they wish they could work remotely more often than they do.
And two experts at the WEF event in Davos this year argued for a four-day workweek. Adam Grant, a professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, said reducing work hours allows individuals to focus their attention more effectively, producing the same amount of work in less time, often with higher quality and creativity. Rutger Bregman, author of Utopia for Realists, agreed, noting that a shorter workweek is something policymakers have been trying to figure out for the better part of a century.
“When you are more positive about your job and your life while on the job, it relates to being able to be more productive,” Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, an associate professor of economics and strategy at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School, told Business Insider.