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Future of Work Quotes, Tips & Trends

Aternity July 20, 2021

As COVID-19 restrictions are lifted in more areas, the world continues along its path to the “new normal.” But what that new normal looks like is yet to be seen, as some companies are embracing the remote work culture while others are returning full time to the office, and still others are adopting a hybrid work approach that blends remote work and in-office work. With the workplace evolving and attitudes about remote work shifting, the future of work begins to take shape, and it’s likely to retain some of the changes that emerged as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

To gain some insight into what human resources leaders and other thought leaders think about the future of work, we’ve rounded up some insightful quotes about the future of work as well as tips and trends to help you navigate the waves of change.

Future of Work Quotes

  1. Coworkers view one another on a more personal level post-pandemic. “It’s ok to be human at work now. We’ve seen the inside of one another’s homes, heard our colleagues’ children crying, dogs barking, and more. Thank goodness. Now we can connect to one another without the veneer of stilted professionalism.” – Christine Comaford, The Future Of Work: 7 Trends And Tools You Need, Forbes; Twitter: @comaford
  2. Prominent trends that emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic will drive the future of work. “Before COVID-19, a transformation had already begun to steer businesses toward a digital approach. The pandemic has expedited this change, forcing businesses to find efficient ways to connect outside of the office, and most of these changes are here to stay. Within the next few years, much of the workforce will likely experience significant shifts, mainly driven by a few prominent current trends.” – Alex Sixt, 4 Trends That Are Shaping the Future of Work, Entrepreneur; Twitter: @Entrepreneur
  3. Gleaning insights from individuals can inform future strategies. “Sixty per cent of workers across Europe claim to have had no major difficulty adapting to COVID-19–inflicted changes, according to Deloitte’s European Workforce Survey. It is a reassuring finding, but it should do more than just bring relief. Organisations should examine the responses of their workforces. What were their coping mechanisms? What brought them success in the face of the pandemic’s ever-present and evolving threat?“By gleaning insights from individuals, it is possible also to glimpse a future of work framework that could achieve the same kind of resilience and adaptability. We have already learnt lessons that can be applied to overhauling organisational strategies and setting the stage for success.” – Drew Keith, Lisa Manzati, John Guziak, and Giovanna Mantovani, First comes the workforce, Deloitte; Twitter: @DeloitteInsight
  4. The future of work will shift to output-based performance measurement. “While enabling employees to work remotely became commonplace across 2020 (and will continue this year and beyond), the next wave of flexibility will be around when employees are expected to work. Gartner’s 2020 ReimagineHR Employee Survey revealed that only 36% of employees were high performers at organizations with a standard 40-hour work week.“Organizations that offer employees flexibility over when, where and how much they work, see 55% of their work force as high performers. In 2021, I expect to see a rise of new jobs where employees will be measured by their output, as opposed to an agreed-upon set of hours.” – Brian Kropp, 9 Work Trends That HR Leaders Can’t Ignore in 2021, Gartner; Twitter: @Gartner_inc
  5. There will be a greater emphasis on people analytics in the future of work. “It’s out there for the taking…leaders just need to know where to find it and how to use it. With remote work so prevalent, new ways of supporting employee performance as well as their well being and consequently supervising their progress have to be introduced. There have to be systems in place for empowering each and every individual working for you. In the last six months we have seen how pivotal data collection and live analytics have become — everything from tracking each employee’s productivity to predicting your team’s potential slowdown.” Top Five Trends to Watch: The Future of Work Over the Next Decade, Rallyware; Twitter: @RallywareSF
  6. While opinions vary on the future of work, most experts agree that massive changes are in store. “The ‘future of work’ describes predictions about what work habits, places, and practices might look like in the coming decades.“Opinions vary, but business and tech leaders agree that massive changes are on the horizon—changes that will likely be driven by technology and enable machine learning, full automation, seamless communication, creating a completely new idea of what ‘work’ even means.” – Louis Grenier, The future of work: what innovative companies can teach us about succeeding in tomorrow’s workplace, Hotjar; Twitter: @hotjar
  1. The future of work is boundaryless. “As we have enhanced our ability to facilitate seamless and real-time cross-border communications, the workplace has become increasingly virtual, connected, and boundaryless. This has resulted in an emergence of globally managed workpools, where half of global employees are working outside of their main office headquarters for at least half the working week. This is likely to increase in a post-COVID-19 world. As the world faces the transformative economic, social, and environmental challenges of Globalization 4.0, it has never been more important to address talent needs from a global perspective.” Future of Work: 8 Megatrends Shaping Change, GetSmarter; Twitter: @getsmarter
  2. Work has been undergoing an evolution for more than a century. “In the past hundred years, the world of work has undergone continuous evolution. The steady push of technology and the rise of the digital workplace have shaped not only how and where we work, but also the nature of the roles and skills required in a highly dynamic working culture. The working world continues to evolve, requiring business leaders to look for innovative solutions that will support the workplaces and workforces of the future.” What Is the Future of Work?, SAP Insights; Twitter: @SAPInsights
  3. How companies treated their employees during the pandemic will impact future talent acquisition. “Your actions during this pandemic will have a long-term effect on your employment brand. And for the next several years, top talents will most likely go for companies that showed their humanity and genuine care for their employees’ wellbeing during the crisis.” – Lenmark Anthony Baltazar, Post-Covid Future of Work Trends, Sage HR; Twitter: @SageHR_
  4. Companies will need to take a human-centered approach to automation. “How automation impacts the workforce will in part depend on decisions businesses make. Will they implement technology that replaces or augments human labor? How will businesses ensure that their workers are adequately prepared as automation changes work? If businesses implement labor-displacing technology, will they help workers transition to new jobs? As businesses adopt automating technologies to realize efficiency gains, lower costs, improve their products, and increase outputs, they should account for how these decisions may impact their workforce and the broader community, and develop strategies that put humans at the center of their decision-making process.” Automation and a Changing Economy, Autodesk; Twitter: @autodesk
  5. The future of work affects several key stakeholders. “There are several key stakeholders surrounding the future of work, but generally employers (whether through desire or necessity) ultimately drive the majority of changes seen in the workplace. However, they face pressure from all sides. Workers, whether permanent or contracted, demand competitive pay and benefits, a strong culture, and job security. They also bring their own culture, norms, and expectations that influence how work is done. A company’s shareholders are primarily concerned with return on investment. Its customers demand quality products delivered at low cost. Lastly, society, whether through government or direct pressure, demands fairness, accountability, and a sense of corporate responsibility.” – Tim Spencer, What’s happening around the future of work: Drivers, trends, and opportunities, Lerer Hippeau
  6. Employees are driving decision-making more than ever before. “If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that the world of work is changing… quickly. In this new rapidly changing world ‘late adopter’ is the same thing as ‘out of business.’ Companies no longer have the luxury of waiting to see what happens. One of the biggest shifts we are seeing in the workplace is the coming shift around who drives how work gets done.“Since the dawn of business executives would set the rules and pass them down to managers who, in turn, would pass them down to employees. But as Dan Pink aptly put it: ‘Talented people need organizations less than organizations need talented people.’ In other words, employees are now starting to drive the decisions and conversations around how work gets done, when it gets done, who it gets done with, what technologies are being used to get it done, and so on.” – Jacob Morgan, The Five Trends Shaping the Future of Work, IE University; Twitter: @IEuniversity
  1. The skills gap will remain a prominent challenge. “Across the United States, millions of people are working but still struggling to get ahead. At the same time, employers are trying to fill millions of job openings, but many are struggling to find workers with the right skills. This is the result of a fundamental mismatch between the supply of labor and demand for skills. This ‘skills gap’ is a challenge for everyone—and it’s likely to worsen as cognitive technologies and automation become more widespread.” – Joe Speicher and Tracie Neuhaus, Supporting worker success in the age of automation, Autodesk; Twitter: @autodesk
  2. Companies will embrace data-driven decision-making. “The basis of any commercial enterprise is information, and today, we have more information at our fingertips than ever before. Big data is a collection of data from both inside and outside your company that you can use for analysis. Many companies are good at collecting data but don’t know what to do with it.“Translating mountains of data into actionable insights and smart decisions is no easy feat, but it can be done with the right tools and strategies. Take meeting room and hot desk booking software, for example. Resource Central captures a wealth of data about how meeting rooms and workspaces are used and then provides insightful reporting to empower companies to make informed decisions about workspace arrangements.” The Future of Work – 5 Mega Trends That Are Changing the Workplace in 2021, Add-On Products; Twitter: @AddOnProducts
  1. Online learning will be essential for onboarding and upskilling. “Online learning is imperative to preserving culture. Because of the systems you have in place, each employee is taught identically. Everyone receives standardized training, education, and values. You’ve worked hard to create a mission that matters for your company. By teaching everyone the same foundational basics, you preserve common goals and allow employees walking in with different skill sets, backgrounds, and expectations to be united under a shared experience.” – Amy Regan Morehouse, 6 Reasons Execs Need To Build an Obsessive Learning Culture, Salesforce; Twitter: @salesforce
  2. The ‘death of the office’ may not be around the corner, but there’s been an unprecedented shift in workplace dynamics. “At Buro Happold, we do not believe this is the ‘death of the office’; however, there has been an unprecedented change in the working dynamic, accelerating already incubated trends of healthy buildings, agile working and resilience. We have all been disrupted, and as we find the ‘new norm’ of the workplace and we must prepare to be disrupted and be disruptors in the future too.“As we have seen throughout this pandemic, technology can play a significant role in our resilience to disruption. We should capitalise on this disruption to drive positive change. Namely, to enrich an employee’s workplace experience, to create healthy work environments, and to enhance an employee’s productivity, all whilst having minimal impact on our planet.” – Tom Hopton, The future of workplace: 5 key trends for positive changes, Buro Happold; Twitter: @burohappold
  1. The shift to remote work isn’t a once-and-done endeavor. “The largest-ever global work from home experimenthas helped remote teams learn new ways to communicate, set up varied productivity routines, and quickly adopt remote collaboration toolsand technologies at work. Implementing remote work is not a one-time endeavor. Building up a functional remote work infrastructure across your company is a more significant undertaking than most companies realize. An understanding and robust corporate culture, coupled with a structured work from home approach, is essential.” What is the Future of Remote Work?, Wrike; Twitter: @wrike

Future of Work Trends

  1. Many employees moved farther from their physical office locations during the pandemic. Data from PwC indicates that nearly 25% of employees are planning or considering moving 50 miles or more away from a core office location. That includes 16% of remote workers and 8% of essential employees who are more likely to be working on-site. The 25% figure is in addition to 12% of workers surveyed who have already moved farther from their physical office locations since the pandemic first emerged.
  2. Employers are adopting hybrid work models to cater to the demand for flexible work options. The pandemic forced many companies to shift to a fully remote work environment seemingly overnight, and workers and companies alike discovered that it’s possible to maintain productivity when working remotely. In fact, 73% of workers want flexible work options to continue, according to data from Microsoft, and 66% of business leaders are considering redesigning work spaces to accommodate hybrid work environments to meet the increased demand for flexibility.
  3. Organizational culture is a top priority for many companies. Human resources leaders are leading the charge when it comes to reimagining work in a post-pandemic world, and their vision centers on employee experience. According to PwC, 49% of Chief Human Resources Officers (CHROs) say driving inclusive leadership is a priority, followed by accelerating the adoption of digital tools (41%), investing in new tools to support collaboration and creativity for virtual teams (37%), and offering opportunities for upskilling (36%).
  4. Look for the “human experience” to emerge in place of employee experience. While there’s much-needed focus on the employee experience, Christine Comaford, an executive coach for mid-size to large organizations, predicts that “human experience” will soon be the norm in an article published by Forbes. The human experience takes a more holistic view of employees as humans and addresses needs beyond those relevant to the workplace, including physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and financial health.
  5. Jobs with the highest proximity are likely to experience the most disruption. A report from McKinsey predicts that jobs in industries that require a high level of interaction with customers — such as retail stores, post offices, and banks — are likely to retain some changes long-term, such as e-commerce and digital transactions. This is due in part to the behavioral shifts among consumers that are likely to remain.
  6. Some companies are implementing flexible workspaces, which will reduce their physical space requirements. Positive experiences with remote work during the pandemic have left some companies more open to flexible work arrangements, according to McKinsey. To adapt to a more flexible work culture, some companies are implementing flexible workspaces that will reduce their total space requirements — a move that not only addresses employees’ demand for more flexible work arrangements but also reduce the company’s overhead costs.
  7. Companies will rely more on data collection to monitor employee engagement and employee experience. Gartner predicts an expansion in data collection, as more companies rely on digital technologies for everything from clocking in and out to monitoring emails or chats. In addition to tracking employee productivity, companies are also increasingly using digital technologies to monitor employee well-being and engagement, which can provide better insights into the employee experience.
  8. Automation will remain mainstream. According to ProofHub, automation might be mainstream now, but it will only grow in prominence in the future of work. Driven by the need to turn to digital technologies to support processes like collaboration and communication during the pandemic, expect tools like project management software, instant messaging applications, collaboration software, and other technologies to become essential core business tools, rather than just productivity boosters.
  9. New leadership styles will emerge as Millennials begin to fill leadership roles. As members of the Baby Boomer generation retire, Millennials are filling the leadership positions of former executives, and they bring a new style of leadership that focuses more on innovation and learning than on achieving perfection, predicts Alex Sixt in an article published by Entrepreneur.
  10. A focus on sustainability will become mainstream. Nexudus predicts that sustainability will be prominent not only in physical building and office space design but also in workplace practices. Sustainable practices can include everything from installing solar panels to choosing coffee companies with a commitment to sustainable growth and trade practices to supply your workforce with their daily cup of joe.
  11. Increasing automation adoption will eliminate some jobs while simultaneously creating others. The International Monetary Fund predicts that automation will displace 85 million jobs by 2025. But it’s not all bad news. New roles will emerge in technology fields like AI and in content creation, leading to the creation of 97 million new jobs.
  12. Scalable hiring practices will become the norm. Velocity Global points out that the global recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has made many companies aware of the importance of remaining agile. As a result, more companies are looking for flexible workers instead of full-time employees.
  13. Office spaces are becoming more home-like. Wunderman Thompson reports the emerging trend of creating office spaces that are designed to be home-like sanctuaries, a trend embraced by the likes of Spotify and Citibank. After many employees spent a year or more working remotely from home, experiencing some of the comforts of home in the physical office is a welcome shift for many workers.
  14. Employees also value the flexibility gig work provides. While more companies are looking to replace full-time positions with flexible or contingent workers, businesses aren’t the only parties to benefit from gig work arrangements. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of gig workers surveyed by Gallup in 2018 reported that they prefer gig work. And with the demand for flexibility on the rise, that figure may increase in the coming years.
  15. Tomorrow’s leaders may be ‘unlikely.’ According to the National Safety Council, the shift to remote and hybrid work means that leaders now have to be more transparent and collaborative than ever before, as these work models require unique skills for effective management. Coupled with Millennials taking on more executive and leadership roles in the workforce, this shift will lead to future leaders that today may seem like unlikely leadership prospects.
  16. Workforce ecosystems will arise as a strategic approach to the future of work. According to MIT Sloan, “Workforce planning, talent acquisition, performance management, and compensation policies, for example, all tend to focus on full-time (and sometimes part-time) employees. Consequently, organizations often lack an integrated approach to managing a workforce in which external workers play a large role.” One solution to this challenge is the idea of a workforce ecosystem, which focuses on value creation and consists of “complementarities and interdependencies,” encompassing both internal and external actors.
  17. Technology has the potential to break barriers for people with disabilities in the workplace. According to PEAT, developers, designers, and employers have the power to build a future of work that’s inherently accessible by leveraging technologies like artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, extended reality, and digital accessibility.

Tips for Adapting to the Future of Work

  1. Employers need to do more to support employees’ work-life balance. While productivity remained higher than expected for many companies after the shift to remote work, some employees are feeling the effects. A Microsoft survey found that one in five respondents feel that their employer doesn’t care about work-life balance, 54% feel overworked, and 39% feel exhausted.
  2. Invest in health, hygiene, and safety. SHRM points out that the COVID-19 pandemic forced companies to implement stringent hygiene practices, but combined with social unrest and economic turmoil, it has also led to an increase in anxiety, stress, and depression. Companies that invest in improved mental health offerings and employee assistance programs will be better equipped to meet the needs of their workforce.
  3. Companies are increasing their use of contingent workers, but questions remain for HR. According to IndustryWeek, nearly one-third (32%) of employers reported in a Gartner survey that they’re replacing full-time workers with contingent workers, which can cut labor costs and achieve greater workforce management flexibility. However, this shift requires human resources to consider what benefits contingent workers will be eligible for, as well as how to apply performance management systems to a contingent workforce.
  4. Employers should evaluate what’s working and what’s not during remote work periods. National Law Review points out that while many employees made the transition to remote work seamlessly, others need to be on-site to perform their jobs. With changes to both where and when people work — including spreading work out over larger chunks of the day to accommodate children and family needs — employers have an opportunity to take lessons learned from this era and apply them to future flexible work arrangements.
  5. Workers increasingly seek to work for companies with values that align with their own. National Law Review points out that a 2015 survey showed that employees tend to be more engaged if they believe that their employer is working towards the greater good. Another survey conducted in 2017 found that a company’s commitment to social responsibility increases employee productivity by 13% and may have a positive impact on employee retention, reducing turnover by as much as half. To cater to employees’ desire to work for companies that share their values, companies will need to take a stand on prominent issues like the environment, social justice, and immigration.
  6. The competition for talent is set to heat up. As Baby Boomers retire and some women and non-college-educated workers have left the workforce, the competition for talent is going to be fierce. To remain competitive, global HR analyst and Dean of the Josh Bersin Academy Josh Bersin tells Allwork.Space that companies will need to focus on building businesses and teams that support success for everyone while taking care of their people.
  7. Companies should identify up-and-coming leaders and nurture their growth. Capterra says that companies, particularly small businesses, that want to boost employee retention would do well to identify tomorrow’s leaders and work with them to establish their career goals and create a plan for moving up in the company, making them more likely to stick around for the long haul.
  8. Recognize that soft skills are increasingly essential to success. According to the World Economic Forum, research conducted by LinkedIn found that 80% of employers feel that soft skills are increasingly important to business success. Recognizing that hard skills can be trained and soft skills are invaluable, companies should explore ways to identify soft skills in the recruitment process.
  9. Provide workers with the technology tools they need to remain productive when working remotely. Aternity reports that according to 451 Research’s Voice of the Enterprise: Workforce Productivity & Collaboration, Employee Engagement 2020, just over half (51%) of survey respondents indicated that they have the technology they need to match their in-office productivity while working remotely.
  10. A collaborative effort between businesses, employees, educational institutions, and government is needed to envision the future of work. Consultancy.eu reports on research from Deloitte, noting that all the afore-mentioned parties have a role to play in enabling the fundamental workforce transformation that’s underway. “Workers and employers aside, the government also has a part to play in enabling a fundamental workforce transformation. Not everyone can afford advanced technology – a reality that is accentuating socio-economic inequalities in a digital-first paradigm. Per Deloitte’s respondents, governments and educational institutions will have to collaborate to make the digital world more inclusive,” Consultancy.eu explains.
  11. Consider blind hiring to help build a diverse workforce. Feedough points out that biases can be partially eliminated by employing blind hiring during the first wave of the interview process. By eliminating information like gender, age, and race, employers can focus exclusively on candidates’ skills and achievements, which helps to build a diverse workforce based on merit.
  12. Comprehensive remote and hybrid work policies are a must in the future of work. SurveySparrow reports that 74% of companies are planning to continue remote work to some extent in the post-COVID-19 era. While remote work policies originally had restrictions designed to reduce the risk of performance deterioration, many companies have found that employees are just as productive — if not more so — working remotely compared to working on-site. As such, companies should revisit and revise their remote and hybrid work policies for more relevance and flexibility.
  13. Companies should build adaptability and resiliency into the workforce. In an article published by Inc., Marcel Schwantes shares insights from Cecile Alper-Leroux, VP of human capital management (HCM) innovation at Ultimate Software. Alper-Leroux points out that while organizations commonly talk about adaptability today, some don’t realize that adaptability isn’t necessarily about the organization, but about the workforce. That means companies should focus on giving employees opportunities to expand their skillsets to cultivate a highly skilled, adaptable, and resilient workforce capable of tackling any challenge.
  14. To thrive in an environment where the lines between work and home are blurred, employers should encourage employees to set boundaries. Failing to set boundaries and adhering to the ‘always-on’ mindset can have negative impacts on every facet of employees’ lives, Salesforce reports. While employees ultimately are responsible for setting their own boundaries, employers should encourage them to do so to support work-life balance and avoid stress and burnout that can hinder productivity.
  15. Managers should communicate two to three times more frequently with employees during remote work (and periods of stress or disruption). Talking regularly with their teams is one of the most effective ways managers can help to reduce stress and avoid burnout. “Effective communication has always been a key management skill, but it’s a pivotal responsibility when employees are no longer all physically together in a central location. A good rule of thumb is to talk one-on-one or to small groups of employees 2-3 times more than you would in an office,” Robert Half explains.
  16. It’s imperative for companies to adapt to the changing perception of work. Working the Future explains that perceptions of work evolve over time in response to cultural change and other nuances, and future-proof organizations will be those that adapt to accommodate these changing perceptions and preferences.

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