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5 Factors Shaping the Future of Work in 2020 and Beyond

Future of work

Welcome to the new decade and a new era of company culture.

A narrative of fear around the future of work has dominated the conversation. Fear that robots will take our jobs, fear that A.I. will dehumanize the workplace, and fear that the workplace as we know it today will change drastically.

I’ll let you in on a secret: The workplace as we know it is already changing. And it’s changing for the better. A 2019 McKinsey study on the future of work found that at least 30 percent of activities at about 60 percent of all occupations are technically automatable.

Therefore, automation and A.I. enable us to spend less time on work that doesn’t create great impact (think manually entering data into expense reports, scheduling interviews with a lot of back and forth, or pulling reports for ongoing dashboards) and more time focused on work that matters, like great coaching for your team or developing strategic plans for your company’s five-year growth strategy. 

Workplace automation allows us to actually work smarter, leaving more time to focus on building a human-first workplace. So as we think about the future of work in 2020 and beyond, let’s let automation do its work, and instead focus on these five factors already shaping today’s top workplaces.

1. Flexible Working Hours

Research from the Australian recruiter Robert Half’s 2019 Salary Guidereveals that 47 percent of workers would accept a lower salary in exchange for flexible working hours. Flexibility will continue to be a driver for employees as they look for employers in 2020 and beyond, because if employees have more capability to build the work they do around the people and things they care most about, a whole world of possibility opens up in the workforce and in what we’re capable of doing.

So leaders, if you haven’t already started incorporating flexible schedule policies and work-from-home options into your culture playbook, you’re already behind on establishing a workplace of the future.

2. Remote Work

When you asked leaders and executives about remote work 10 years ago, they probably said it was just a fleeting fad. Research has shown that it’s not just a fad — it’s a way of working that allows people to be productive and work at their peak energy times. A study by FlexJobs found that remote work has grown more than 91 percent in the past 10 years.

What flexibility boils down to is trust and autonomy, and building that trust is a two-way street. In the same survey, 76 percent of respondents said that they would be more loyal to their employers if they had flexible work options, making the case that remote work is more than just a movement — it’s empowering employees to work how they want, where they want. And remote work not only increases trust and loyalty; it also widens a company’s candidate pool, making it easier for leaders and managers to hire top candidates in today’s war for talent.

3. Mental Health Support

Supporting the health and wellness of employees in the workplace today goes beyond onsite gyms and team weight-loss challenges. It’s about creating a psychologically safe environment where employees feel supported. The 2019 Mental Health at Work Report conducted by Mind Share Partners found that 86 percent of employees believe it’s important that a company’s culture support mental health.

Despite that, fewer than half of the respondents felt that it’s currently being prioritized. This lack of support accounts for company attrition, unengaged employees, and lower productivity. It’s time that we stop feeding into the outdated and damaging stigma of not discussing well-being in the workplace and instead focus on championing the mental health and wellness of our employees. 

You may wish to read: What Actually Happens When Employees Have Flexible and Remote Work Options

4. Transparency 

Once upon a time, transparency was granted only to executives and leaders of a company. Today, employees have more transparency than ever. And your best employees won’t just request transparency–they’ll demand it. In 2013, Buffer, a global social media management software company, began to openly talk about the salaries its employees were making, not just with employees internally, but by creating an external calculator for all to see how much they would make based on cost of living, their role, etc. Their open pay system breeds high trust among the team while also holding the company accountable to paying people fairly, equitably, and without bias. 

5. Diversity

The numbers in minority distribution and representation in the workplace are downright depressing. The 2018 McKinsey and Lean In Women in the Workplace study found that since 2015, when the study first launched, corporate America has made almost no progress in improving women’s representation. Women are underrepresented at every level, and women of color are the most underrepresented group across the board. As leaders, we have a responsibility to change the future, making the workplace accessible to and inclusive of all. It’s people, not technology, that will decide how inclusive the future of work will be. 

It’s 2020. A new year. A new decade. A new era of the future of work. So I leave you with one question I hope you’ll ask yourself: What are you doing to change the future of your workforce today so that it looks different 10 years from now?

Write up credit: Katie Burkie

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