Digital innovations, new working models and disruptive technologies ensure that the status quo is constantly changing in the modern working world. Most recently, the way we work changed so drastically and by leaps and bounds at the start of the industrial revolution. As we look to the future, questions inevitably arise about how and where we will earn our money tomorrow or the day after. The trends and developments already emerging indicate that there are exciting times ahead for workers: from automation and artificial intelligence to hybrid work and an increased emphasis on flexibility and sustainability.
Smart helpers as virtual colleagues
While the use of computer technology used to be limited to offices, today digital tools are used everywhere. Over time, simple digital tools have become smart universal helpers that relieve us of work in many areas. The unstoppable further development of automation technologies and artificial intelligence (AI) will therefore probably accompany us for a few more years. While some fear job losses due to automation, others see opportunities to redesign job profiles. Repetitive and rule-based tasks could increasingly be taken over by machines. This gives employees the opportunity to devote themselves to more complex, creative and interactive tasks in many areas. In one Study by the company OpenAI, which is likely to be known to the public primarily through ChatGPT, researchers together with scientists from the University of Pennsylvania have identified which professional fields could be taken over by AI models in the near future. Programmers, mathematicians and accountants, but also translators and journalists, are among the most threatened professions. In principle, many researchers and experts now assume that AI solutions could be used to perform tasks faster and more reliably in almost all professions. Much more important, however, is the design of the human-machine relationship. Very few professions will be completely eliminated through the use of advanced AI. Instead, AI-supported, digital tools will increasingly take on the role of the additional, virtual employee.
Triumph of flexible working models
Recent global developments, particularly the COVID-19 pandemic, have brought the importance of flexible working models to the fore. Previously, the home office was considered more of a luxury for certain creative professions. In various lockdowns and as a result of measures to combat the pandemic, the relationship between many employers and remote work has changed drastically. Working at fixed times and in a fixed place will probably never become the undisputed norm again. Remote work, which allows employees to work from different locations, has proven to be far too effective an option in various industries. In addition to the pure home office, the hybrid work concept is currently on the rise. Employees can decide for themselves whether they want to work from a different location on certain days of the week. These flexible models can help to better balance work and life. Flexible working hours could also become more important as employers increasingly recognize that individual preferences and needs are crucial to work productivity. However, the transition to more flexible working models requires a different approach to work organization and communication. Effective collaboration in virtual teams and the use of digital tools are becoming essential to remain productive despite physical separation.
Due to the high degree of specialization and digitization, knowledge has become the most important resource on the job market. Employees who want to make themselves indispensable to current employees and attractive to future employees should therefore go to important future skills set. In addition to certain technological know-how, this also includes personal skills that allow quick adjustment to rapidly changing framework conditions. As a result, the concept of “lifelong learning” is gaining in importance. Education and the acquisition of specialist knowledge is not limited to a specific phase of life, but is a continuous process that accompanies the entire career. Hardly any profession can do without regular further training measures. In addition, self-study is taking up more and more space. The willingness to continue learning will not only promote individual career development, but also help to keep the working world agile and innovative overall. In fact, workers who continuously develop their skills are better prepared to meet the challenges of the future and seize opportunities.
Gig economy – projects in focus
The notion of a traditional permanent job with a long-term commitment to the employer is fading as alternative employment models gain popularity. A term that comes up more and more often in this context is “gig economy”. So far, the keyword has usually been used to describe the temporary and project-related way in which freelancers or part-time workers work. One advantage is that employees have the opportunity to gain experience in many different industries. At the same time, however, the gig economy also means uncertainty and dependence on frequently changing employers. Nevertheless, ideas and practices from the gig economy could also become increasingly relevant for the work of permanent employees. Common working time models would no longer play a role. Instead, the daily routine, working hours and location would depend heavily on the current project. However, this new variety of working models also brings new challenges - especially with regard to social security and labor law issues.
More sustainability and social responsibility
The culture in many companies will continue to be shaped by values that focus on people and promote collaboration, creativity and personal development. On the other hand, the individual's sense of responsibility towards the general public is becoming more and more important. As the climate crisis progresses, there is a new sensitivity to environmental issues, and as the effects of climatic changes highlight the misery in mostly southern regions, social conscience is also growing stronger. The integration of environmental aspects into business processes is already leading to a growing number of companies rethinking their production and operating methods. From using renewable energy to reducing waste and CO₂ emissions, sustainability could become an important guiding principle for companies, not only boosting their credibility but also offering cost savings and long-term competitive advantages. The beginnings of this development that are already visible often go hand in hand with the digital transformation. Promoting diversity and inclusion could also become more important. By recruiting and retaining people from diverse backgrounds, companies maintain and, in many cases, increase their ability to innovate.