So much has changed about the way we work. Think about it. Nowadays, most of us spend nearly the entire day working on a computer, a device still practically locked in the annals of science fiction novels just 50 years ago. But as the pace of technological progress quickens, we’re set to see more changes to the nature of work. So, it’s a fair question to ask: what will our jobs look like in the future?
To start, there’s strong evidence to suggest that the “gig economy” will play an important role in defining our understanding of work. More and more people are freelancing, and contract work is set to be one of the largest segments of the U.S. economy by 2027.
Yet there are many other features of this futuristic labor market, and they all point to one thing: remote work is going to be the new norm. Traditional offices will still have their place, but coworking spaces will continue to rise in popularity, and more people will choose to work from home or elsewhere.
Here are some reasons why we can expect this change to occur in the way we work.
The Era of Work-Life Balance
The link between money and happiness has always been widely-studied, largely because the exclusivity of the two is not easily understood. But some convincing research has come out to suggest there is a limit to the impact money can have on your quality of life. Essentially, it produces diminishing returns, meaning it improves your life only to a point, after which more money has almost no impact on how you feel about your life.
So as global economic prosperity continues, more people will reach this plateau, and this will change their expectations of work. One of those changes—the quest for a work-life balance—is already present in today’s labor market, but it will become more important as we move forward. It describes a situation where your work fits into your life the way you want it to, meaning it provides you with the lifestyle you want, but it also gives you the freedom and flexibility to pursue other interests.
Remote work is ideal for promoting this type of flexible work, which is rapidly becoming one of the most sought-after job perks. As a result, to stay competitive in the labor market, more employers will need to offer remote working options. And this represents a shift from looking at not higher salaries but rather balance and well-being as the primary means for achieving a better life.
Part of the reason we can even talk about remote work is because of the other major trend in today’s labor market: the rapid switch to automation. But automation is really nothing new. Since the use of any machine is in a way automation, this practice really began in ancient times. And each time a machine replaces a human, new jobs have always emerged to meet this change in demand.
Yet this is the crux of today’s automation debate, whether or not it creates jobs or takes them away. But no matter which side you fall on, the influence of technology on the labor market is clear. And while it’s uncertain if we’ll have more jobs or less, it’s far more apparent that our jobs will be different. Factories, warehouses and many types of retailers will switch over to more automated solutions, reducing demand for labor in these industries.
This means the economy will need to create jobs in different sectors. As mentioned earlier, the gig economy is one of the fastest growing segments of the economy, suggesting this could be an area of growth to help offset the jobs lost to automation. And on top of the gig economy, eCommerce is booming, meaning the majority of jobs created in this digital economy will take place online, where remote work is the norm.
The Tools Are Catching Up
It’s easy to understand why remote work is a popular idea. But it’s also easy to see why it hasn’t become a mainstream practice. Up until just recently, the difference between in-person communication and digital communication was so vast that it was worth it to keep people in one place, or fly them around the country, so that they could speak to each other in the same room.
And while this practice may always have a place, technology has advanced so much that a high-quality video call with someone on the other side of the globe can take place in a matter of seconds. Combine this with the many different productivity platforms out there, such as Gmail and Google Drive, Slack, Trello, and Asana, and it’s easy to see why digital technologies are revolutionizing the way we do business.
Furthermore, one can only expect the tools to improve. As more people work remotely, incentives for companies to improve their products, and for others to try and innovate their way into the market, will become more attractive. As such, it will be much easier for people to engage in remote working arrangements, facilitating a transition that is already desired by much of the working world.
Change is Slow
It’s true that remote work will likely become the norm in the near to not so distant future. But this change will still not happen overnight. More old-fashioned ways of thinking about business still linger and influence the way things are done today. But in the end, the tides of progress cannot be stopped.
About the Author: Jock is the founder of Digital Exits, an online brokerage service specializing in the buying/selling and appraisal of online businesses. He has been an internet entrepreneur nearly his entire career, operating in both the educational services and cybersecurity markets. He writes frequently about his experiences to contribute to the discussions going on in today’s business world. Some of his work has been featured in publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Entrepreneur and Business Insider.