The future is here: four trends redefining what it means to work

Published on Monday, 22 February 2021

The professional landscape is changing, from the types of jobs that are available to the ways in which we understand work. In the last decade, many organizations swapped out the conventional cubicle for open-spaced and unconventional floor plans. Designed to stimulate collaboration, creativity and productivity, these spaces were made popular by avant-garde companies such as Google and AirBnb.

Fast forward to 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic erupted onto the scene, forcing many people to start distance working, and ultimately compelling organizations to reevaluate whether centralized office spaces are truly necessary. The year 2020 was a game-changer for companies, governments and citizens all over the world, as COVID-19 accelerated the transition toward digitally based working environments. Although the pandemic has significantly altered the ways in which we now work, the truth is that our traditional understanding of work was already undergoing a transformation beforehand.

In a world that continues to evolve at a staggering speed in conjunction with new expectations from an increasingly dynamic workforce, what can we expect the future of work to look like? A unique combination of several factors, including digital transformation, advances in technology and mobility, as well as shifting workplace demographics are redefining how working environments will be shaped be in the future.

Digital transformation: Out with the old, in with the new

In this day and age, so much of our personal and professional lives revolve around technology and an increasing amount of our interactions and activities are taking place on digital platforms. While COVID-19 is seen as a major catalyst in advancing digital transformation, this transition was already underway well before the pandemic began. In the years leading up to 2020, many companies were replacing outdated processes with digitally based ones and implementing a digitally oriented culture within their organizations.

Many of these digital technologies were created with an emphasis on enhancing productivity and were designed to solve problems for organizations and their teams. New services such as Zoom, Slack, Google Drive and DropBox helped companies to maximize their internal activities and better streamline communication in order to minimize inefficiencies that occur at the office.

Especially now, as the world moves towards the “new and next” normal post-pandemic, more and more companies are realizing that the traditional structures and forms of working are not as effective in a digitally centric landscape. At Enel, thanks to Innovability® (innovation at the service of sustainability), we have digitalized our assets and introduced several innovative technologies such as drones, cloud processes and automation. We were the first utility company to have 100% of its data and apps in the cloud, which allows us to operate more quickly, remotely and securely, which is critical in these changing times.

New technologies and digital services will continue to challenge how we approach work and will push organizations to integrate alternative structures that create an enhanced and efficient working environment.

Technology: The nexus of innovation and the future

When it comes to new technologies such as automation and artificial intelligence (AI), the conversation is fairly divided between whether advancements in these areas will reduce the number of jobs, or if they will create an equal or greater quantity to replace them.

However, it cannot be denied that developments in technology have created a multitude of possibilities that we could only dream of 30 years ago. Technologies such as Big Data, AI, Cloud, robotics and IoT have changed the way we live by streamlining processes, making information more available and accessible, and by giving people more flexibility in how they work.

For example, organizations leverage insights delivered by Big Data to create extra value for customers and personalize their interactions. The development of robotics and AI-powered software are redefining the types of jobs traditionally performed by people. Additionally, the use of cloud technologies and collaboration platforms provides more independence for employees and employers by enabling them to connect on any device from anywhere.

pc resting on a chair | Enel Startup

Source: Unsplash

Mobility: The office of the future is portable

As mentioned previously, technological advances have created a multitude of benefits that improve our daily lives. In regard to remote working, it has given us the freedom and flexibility to work from any location—on public transportation, at a coffee shop or at home, as long as there is an internet connection.

While not all jobs can be done remotely, the pandemic has significantly impacted the attitudes toward delocalized work, with many companies realizing that distance working doesn’t come at the cost of sacrificing productivity. A recent survey conducted by Gartner revealed that 82% of corporate leaders intend to let employees work remotely at least part-time post-pandemic.

As collaborative platforms and video conferencing tools become more advanced and scalable, the necessity for offices and physical communication will become less relevant and will be substituted with more digitally based systems.

Demographics: New generations bring fresh perspectives

The composition of the workforce itself is changing as members from the Baby Boomer generation start to retire and more Millennials and Gen Zers enter the labor pool. In fact, millennials will make up 75% of the global workforce in 4 years according to a survey conducted by Deloitte.

These new generations are a paramount force shaping the future of work because along with their digital savvy, young professionals bring new mindsets and expectations of what work is and how it should be done. For millennials, flexibility in hours and working location are not seen as extra benefits, but rather are expected from employers.

Flexibility and autonomy are key factors driving change of conventional work constructs and is even more significant now as a result of the pandemic. It not only benefits younger generations, as all employees have more time to spend and care for their families. Companies looking to remain relevant and successful in the long term will need to adapt to these new realities in order to attract and retain top talent.

So, what does this mean for the future of work?

New technologies, shifting demographics and other innovations are changing the fundamental nature of how we think about and do work. The future of work is moving towards a delocalized and flexible structure that is driven by technology and is increasingly digitally centric. 

Understanding the forces driving this change can help organizations make more effective decisions, create an environment where employees want to work and lead their companies through the next phases of the digital transformation. Businesses that are able to adapt to these changes will be better positioned to retain top talent, remain resilient and be more successful in the long term.

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