Four possibilities for the future of work

Wouldn’t you love to be able to peer into a crystal ball and see what your future holds?

While we may not be able to predict when you’ll win Lotto (that’s what astrology is for, right?), a recent report by CSIRO and collaborators has taken some of the guesswork out of what Australia’s workforce might look like in the coming decades.

The report, Tomorrow’s Digitally Enabled Workforce, analyses existing trends to see where we might be headed. It’s designed to help Australia adapt to continual changes in the economy, how we work, and help policymakers support this change.

According to the report, six megatrends related to national and global changes in technology, society and demographics, will impact Australia’s workforce over the next two decades. Megatrends are ‘gradual and deep-set trajectories of change that will at some point reshape the business and policy environment’. 

We are well in the throes of digital disruption/transformation across all sectors of our economy, both nationally and globally. While some reporting on the research laments that all our jobs will be lost to robots, I see plenty of reasons to get excited about the future opportunities of a digitally enabled workforce.

Here are four reasons why this report has us excited about the future of work.

1. Things are changing faster than they ever have before

We’re currently in a ‘perfect storm’ of change that encompasses technology advances, digital connectivity, globalisation, the ageing population and the rise of new economic structures. The combination of these factors will continue to cause rapid change.

Although the world has undergone rapid change before (the Industrial Revolution, for example), ‘this period in history is witnessing a unique combination of forces that will lead to much more rapid transition and restructuring of labour markets in the near future than previously experienced.’

The implication is that change, everywhere, will be continuous for the foreseeable future. Embrace it! The first iPhone was released in 2007, less than 10 years ago. But could you imagine your life now, without a smartphone?

There will be challenges, sure, but technology has improved our lives immensely, and I believe it will continue to do so.

2. More people will become freelancers

Freelancing is already a common path for many kinds of writers – copywriters, technical writers, journalists.

The report notes that online platforms are allowing ‘purchasers (employers) and providers (employees) to transact quickly, efficiently and with a clearer picture of the risks and rewards.’

There are great opportunities here for freelancers: more freedom where you work, what you work on, and fitting your work around your lifestyle. Location independence in some fields has already led to a new breed of ‘digital nomads’ who travel the world while they work.

Employers gain the opportunity to assemble the best team to work on a project, regardless of location. The right tools will enable collaboration between distributed teams. Which leads me to the next point…

3. Cloud computing will allow more flexible work and collaboration

Cloud computing is the enabler of workplace flexibility, and has already had a major impact on businesses.

‘The Cloud assists businesses to overcome economical, technical and geographical limitations, and offers a multitude of benefits.

‘The potential for geographically diverse groups of workers to collaborate and share files, data, information etc., and the ability for businesses and workers to utilise fluid workspaces, flexible working arrangements, and co-working environments are extraordinary.’

It’s not just about enabling freelancers, it also helps people reach experts in their fields without worrying about location. When you don’t need face-to-face meetings anymore, collaborating with someone across the office floor is not so different to collaborating with someone across the globe.

4. Generation Z will bring creative and entrepreneurial skills to the table

While it’s generation Y will soon that will soon form the main cohort in the workforce, Generation Z (those born between 1995 and 2009) have just started entering the workforce. 

Generation Z are the most connected generation ever. My generation (Gen Y) is the last generation that will remember time before the internet - Gen Z won’t, they are true digital natives.

The interesting thing about Gen Z, is that despite being digital natives, Gen Z value face-to-face collaboration, meaningful work and are incredibly entrepreneurial. According to CSIRO’s report, they are hard workers and know they’ll need to keep learning throughout their lifetime. Gen Z will be a highly valued part of the workforce for their creativity, entrepreneurship and digital skills.

What future workplace trends are you excited about? Read the full report: Tomorrow’s Digitally Enabled Workforce