The Future of Work – Trends Forecast for 2024
Hybrid working has become an inescapable megatrend since 2020, allowing millions of people around the world to work where they feel most productive. There is no doubt that the significant advances in technology have allowed this megatrend to exist.
This hybrid working model has brought many benefits to employees including improved happiness, improved productivity, higher employee retention and higher employee attraction to those companies offering the hybrid working model.
Aside from employees, hybrid working is also better for the environment with a reduction in carbon emissions, as less people commute to an office space daily.
A new, specialised job role is also increasingly being seen in the C-suite, as companies recognise the importance of hybrid working and strive to maximise its potential by appointing an individual to ensure all runs smoothly.
Development platform GitLab and Facebook parent, Meta, have both appointed a “Head of Remote”. Annie Dean, who used to be Meta’s “Head of Remote”, is now “Head of Team Anywhere” at software company Atlassian. These “Head of Remote” roles are responsible for guidelines that define where work will happen, the technology tools needed, the team norms, core collaboration hours and policies for success.
The way that people have worked for decades has been transformed, so having an expert on board to help navigate the way forward can only pay dividends.
Workers Reclaim the Lunch Hour
Hybrid working is letting us do the things we actually want to do in the middle of the day.
The pressure of set working hours can mean that the typical ‘lunch hour’ often ends up as a ‘lunch 15 minutes’. Enough time to wolf down a sandwich at our desk before it’s time to crack on. Or we end up combining lunch with a meeting, attempting to chomp and contribute at the same time.
Fortunately, the flexibility of hybrid working, is now enabling people to reclaim their lunch hour. This could mean getting to spend time with colleagues or clients, or maybe it’s just an opportunity for some me-time, whether it’s heading to the gym, going for a walk or cracking on with that novel you can’t put down.
Getting Ready for AI
Companies need to be aware of both the potential benefits and possible downsides of easily accessible generative AI. The arrival of ChatGPT and other AI-powered language models has suddenly put the powers of artificial intelligence at our fingertips in the workplace. It’s already being used by companies to create content, write code, power chatbots and do research.
A recent report by Goldman Sachs predicted that nearly two-thirds of jobs in the US and Europe are likely to be exposed to some degree of automation, and a quarter could end up being fully automated.
In the longer term, as AI frees us from repetitive, everyday tasks, our roles are likely to shift more into areas of creativity. This means reskilling and upskilling are going to become extremely important.
Send a bot
Can’t make your 10am video call? Why not send your meeting bot instead?
We’re used to dealing with bots in a customer service context but now they’re starting to appear in video conferences. All the main platforms now offer the option for us to send our own bot, which will then feed back with AI-generated meeting notes and actions after a meeting. There’s an obvious drawback: if everyone sends a bot, there won’t be much to take notes on. Nevertheless, if bots are used in a planned way, there are real benefits to be gained.
According to the latest annual survey of workforce trends around the world, by recruitment agency Randstad, the phenomenon of ‘unretirement’ is on the up. Driven mainly by economic factors, those who are beyond retirement age are increasingly opting to return to work, while others who are reaching retirement age are delaying their exit from the labour market. For companies, this can prove to be advantageous, as it means they can continue to profit from the skills and expertise of their older employees.
Unilever, a pioneer in the field of flexible working, is actively encouraging employees of retirement age to stay on. Its trial U-Work scheme offers older workers the opportunity to continue working part-time, while passing on their accumulated knowledge to others.
Older workers tend to struggle more than other age groups amid the noise, distractions and lack of privacy of traditional large open-plan offices. Hybrid working is “a reason to be cheerful” for older workers for several reasons.
With hybrid working now so apparent, it removes what can be a difficult daily long-distance commute, it makes it easier to administer self-care or care to others, such as an ageing partner, and it also frees up more time for non-work commitments such as volunteering or hobbies, while still holding down a job.
It’s estimated that around 15-20% of the population is neurodivergent in some way. This includes a variety of conditions such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia and other social and learning disabilities. Research has shown that neurodiversity can bring benefits for an organisation, introducing valuable new ways of thinking to the workplace – but for the neurodiverse, the workplace can often seem a hostile and daunting environment. With hybrid working now more and more common, it can help with creating a pathway to work for this 15-20% of the population who are neurodivergent.
With companies realising the benefits that neurodiversity can bring – office designers are responding. Workspace design plays a major part in how neurodivergent people feel at work, with noise and lighting being a particular issue. Even surfaces can be problematic. Designers are now beginning to actively design spaces with neurodivergent needs in mind. This can include providing different kinds of furniture such as sit-to-stand desks, as well as zones where people can pace and work at the same time. Sensory environments where light and sound can be dialled up or down to suit an individual’s needs can also provide relief for neurodiverse employees.
Hybrid is Here to Stay
The advantages of hybrid working for employees are numerous. The hybrid model empowers them to work when and where they prefer. It’s good for their health and wellbeing, and it saves them the expense and stress of commuting long distances five days a week. According to Stanford University’s Professor Nicholas Bloom, who is a world expert on hybrid working, employees value hybrid working so much that they equate it with getting a pay increase of around 7% or 8%.
Similarly, a survey by Microsoft found that more than half of workers would consider quitting their job if their hybrid working policy was axed.
Four years on from the Covid-19 pandemic, the growth of hybrid working, accelerated by that huge disruption in our lives, has permanently changed the way that millions around the world spend their working days.
Regus, (2014) https://assets.iwgplc.com/image/upload/v1702983436/IWG/MediaCentre/IWG_White_Paper_Future_of_Work_Trends_Forecast_2024.pdf?utm_campaign=IWG_Regus_Topic_2024_Trends_20240125&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Eloqua