- Charles Towers-Clark
The Future Of Work In 2020 And Beyond
The future of work is a somewhat misleading phrase. Referring to a way of working that is fundamentally different from traditional paradigms (clock in at 9, out at five, sick days negotiable), the ‘future’ of work is already here and significantly changing how people think about jobs and about how their time is valued.
It is useful, however, to look at how far we’ve come in terms of employment and workers’ rights, and how far we still need to go to create the ‘future of work’ that many envisage. As we move into 2020, here are a few predictions on the next developments in employment and work, and why ‘the future of work’ might not be quite as Utopian as some think (at least not yet).
Over this past year, more and more companies have been becoming far more transparent, including the transparency of salaries. Especially popular in creative industries, salary transparency is gaining traction amongst an increasingly empowered and informed workforce, so much so that LinkedIn named pay transparency one of its top four trends in the Global Talent Trends 2019. It might seem like a stretch to go from pay secrecy to completely public and open salaries for each employee, but this is part of a much wider trend towards transparency that is based on instilling mutual trust between employer and employee. This trend will continue throughout 2020 and beyond, as employees look for a more flexible, accountable, and trustworthy relationship with employers. Under the omnipresent gaze of social media, the most transparent companies will continue to attract the best talent (and the least trustworthy will lose the best talent), and we will also see a small number of companies allowing employees to choose their own salaries—primarily as a means of giving more responsibility to employees.
Another trend, perhaps less radical than pay transparency, is that of companies forgoing traditional roles and departments—and all the territorialism that goes with them—to focus on purpose-built projects that thrive without the need for departments. Focusing on specific projects encourages a more concentrated effort from project members to complete a distinct goal, and have a greater effort/reward ratio than the status of a role and department ever could. While this trend is harder to measure, I expect a slow and steady shift towards project-based organizational structures. This is because the same workforce that rightly expects equality, honesty, and respect from their employers, also has no patience with the ‘because I said so’ rhetoric that comes with fixed departments and arbitrary role definitions.
Unfortunately, whilst the most attractive professions will offer a level of transparency and trust to their employees in exchange for critical skills and high levels of emotional intelligence, the gap between high value ‘thought-based’ professions and those that do not require specific skills will increase. Those that work to survive, and may not have any option other than to continue working under an oppressive working structure, will likely not benefit from a trend towards trust and transparency. This disparity will be most starkly felt in areas that have a huge amount of process-driven jobs that can be easily automated, such as factory work and clothes production, and we will begin to see the adverse effects of AI and automation as more jobs are taken up by robots in these areas. More prosperous regions don’t have such a high proportion of workers in these kinds of roles, and so this could well lead to more of a ‘them and us’ mindset if not properly addressed.
Time to pay taxes
Treating workers fairly at every level of employment has been an incredibly hot topic this year, and the largest, seemingly untouchable enterprises have begun to show cracks in their slick, shiny armor. Numerous disturbing reports have surfaced of Amazon’s horrific working conditions that endanger the safety of its employees, and the company has been slated by various political figures for not paying their taxes. Google too has been under fire for not paying their fair share of taxes and has seen an employee revolt over working conditions that is only intensifying. The level of public outrage around this issue is not going to decrease over the next year. In fact, large enterprises will most likely face more backlash for not solving these troubling issues. As a result, non-profit objectives will be a major focus for companies moving forward, to somewhat offset bad press and indeed to improve their impact on society.
The future is... mixed
As we move into 2020, the way we work is changing dramatically. On one hand, we will start to see the adverse effects of AI and automation in areas that have a large amount of process-driven jobs, and a larger separation between those working to survive and those in thought-based roles. On the other hand, we are seeing a greater focus on equal rights for all employees, flexible and considerate schedules and company structures, and a far greater emphasis on accountability around poor working conditions.
Cut-throat business practices are becoming less and less acceptable under the vigilant eye of social media, and this can only be a good thing for workers of all descriptions. In 2020 and beyond, the intense scrutiny that businesses are facing will certainly lead us to a more positive and productive future of work.
Courtesy : Forbes