July 01, 2015

The Future of Work

The “future of work” is a hot topic right now. Various media outlets from Forbes to the Huffington Post have recently written articles that predict what our work lives will consist of and what the work place will look like in the next decade. While these portraits of the future vary, there is one common thread – flexibility. Almost all of these authors agree that the future of work will be about choice.

Historically, people have not had much choice about how they actually work. While we may pick the company we work for, everything else involves following the rules set in place by others. This includes who we work with, when we work, where we work, and the technology that we use to work. However, this is changing. With the growth of flexible working arrangements and the increase in non-employee engagements, people are gaining greater control over the hours they work, the location that they work from, the career path they want to follow, the amount of work they do, and the technologies they use.


Throughout history, people have been ambivalent about technological progress. While new technology has driven progress and prosperity, it has also fueled fears that it will render labor redundant. But these fears have not really seen fruition. New innovations have traditionally accelerated economic growth and job creation by boosting productivity and fostering the emergence of new industries. But now, as machines become smarter, innovations such as advanced robotics, 3D printing, and big data analytics are enabling companies to save money by eliminating even highly skilled workers.

Industry observers believe that as companies cut down on their permanent workforces to reduce costs, they will rely more heavily on contractors and freelancers to fill gaps where human skill and experience is necessary. For example, in the Netherlands, a country with high productivity and employment, innovation is huge. In the recent INSEAD Global Innovation Index, the Netherlands ranked fifth, and approximately 85 percent of large Dutch firms report innovative activities. Dutch companies are also world leaders in patents. In this innovation-heavy country, the labor market has the highest concentration of part-time and freelance workers in Europe, with nearly 50 percent of all Dutch workers, and 62 percent of young workers, engaged in part-time employment. A common source of part-time employment is the subcontracting of white collared services, where highly skilled or specialized workers engage with a wide range of businesses to supplement the work of machines with human value-added activity.

What’s the Best Part About Being an Independent Worker

What’s the Best Part About Being an Independent Worker

Source: IBM

Five Impacts of New Media Framework

In the 1990s, many studies looked at the future of the Internet through the view of publishing. The printing press was the closest comparison that people had for the kind of revolution that the Internet would become, and the publishing and media industry were undergoing a digital disruption. Studies used five categories of impacts to examine and understand the changes that were transforming the market – expertise, organizational transformation, social and legal norms, concepts of identify and community, and education. Gavin Heaton, a digital strategist and founder of the Disruptor’s Handbook, uses this framework to examine trends in the workplace today and in 2025. He predicts that in 2025, the future will be full of automated and augmented technologies, with organizations that emphasize on international knowledge and trading, norms that stress experience-telling, and education that emphasizes innovation and industrial creativity.

Five Impacts

Five Impacts

Source: Gavin Heaton, Firebrand Ideas Ignition