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Here’s What the Next-Generation of Work Will Look Like (And How You Can Prepare)

The next-generation work environment is expected to look vastly different from the current one, driven by social, digital, and technological trends. Unfortunately, too many companies aren’t making the changes necessary to prepare for and take advantage of future work environments. Employees themselves are also concerned about what the future of work might look like considering the encroaching power of artificial intelligence and automation.

According to a report by Forbes, a study by Amazon and Workplace Intelligence found that 70% of people aren’t prepared for the future of work.

Enabling a workplace that is innovative and insightful will require decision-makers to fundamentally rethink how work gets done, and organizations must prepare for the next generation of employees and the changing nature of work by adapting their culture, policies, and practice

A Stronger Emphasis on Cognitive Work

Cognitive work is when employees rely on their creativity, knowledge, and skills to complete tasks. This type of work is becoming increasingly important in the workplace as more jobs are being replaced by automation or eliminated.

As such, companies will need to invest more in developing cognitive capabilities among their workforce.

A Greater Focus on Strategy and Innovation

Cognitive work will not only involve intellectual and emotional skills but also the ability to adapt to and use advanced technologies effectively. As technology continues to evolve, the cognitive capabilities of the workforce need to keep up.

This means employees will have to learn how to integrate technology into their work, use it to improve their productivity and creativity, and stay updated with the latest technological advancements relevant to their field.

With the advent of AI and machine learning, mundane and repetitive tasks are being automated, freeing up time for employees to engage in more complex, cognitive tasks. These technologies can also provide access to vast amounts of information and data, empowering employees to make more informed decisions and come up with innovative solutions.

Workplaces Redesigned for Cognitive Processes

Workspaces therefore will need to be designed to stimulate intellectual and creative thinking. These could include quiet spaces for deep thinking, collaborative spaces for team-based cognitive tasks, and access to technological tools that support cognitive work.

Education and training will also become crucial in the next-generation work environment. Companies will need to invest in continuous learning and skills development programs to help employees enhance their cognitive capabilities and learn how to use new technologies effectively.

The future of work is shaping up to be more cognitive and technology-driven. It’s a future where human creativity and intelligence are valued over manual skills, and where technology serves as an enabler rather than a threat.

Standardized Hybrid and Remote Work

It’s impossible to discuss the future of work without touching on trends like remote and hybrid work structures. According to a report by Forbes, as of 2023, 12.7% of full-time employees worked from home, while 28.2% worked in a hybrid model. Significantly,

Recent reports have suggested that many companies are moving against the remote work movement and are creating policies to bring their employees back to the office. However, these reports are nuanced.

Many companies are switching from a necessary remote work environment brought on by the pandemic to a hybrid remote work environment, whereas before, remote work wasn’t even part of their repertoire.

A Balance of Remote Work with In-Person Collaboration

There are benefits and drawbacks to remote work.

A report by MIT Sloan Management Review noted that remote work could save companies up to $10,600 per employee annually. Some major employers, such as 3M, SAP, and Spotify, have already committed to making remote work programs permanent. Overall, what was once considered a “trend” appears to be here to stay.

Remote and hybrid work are also popular among employees, especially younger ones. According to a report by Inc., 62% of Gen Z employees want the future of work to look like a hybrid setup with some days at home and some in a workplace.

However, other reports have noted that remote work can harm employee well-being. It can lead to loneliness, isolation, and disconnection from the team.

According to another report by Forbes, “Lonely employees are less motivated and don’t perform as well as their happier counterparts. Lonely, unhappy employees are extremely likely to quit their jobs. Worse, loneliness can increase the risk of heart disease, dementia, and diabetes, as well as mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression, and substance abuse.”

Organizations need to find ways to enable teamwork and collaboration without having everyone in the same physical space. This means investing in digital tools for communication and collaboration, such as video conferencing and virtual whiteboards.

For some companies, the hybrid model — having employees spend part of their workweek at home and part of it in the office — is the best way of getting the benefits of both in-person and remote work.

More Automation and Artificial Intelligence

As mentioned, AI and automation will be key drivers in the changing work environment, and both employers and employees need to be ready for how they will impact how they function in the workplace. Although the likelihood of AI completely replacing humans in the workplace is small, automation and early implementations of generative AI have already displaced some workers.

For example, according to a report by CBS News, a study by Challenger, Gray & Christmas found that artificial intelligence had effectively eliminated nearly 4,000 jobs in May 2023 alone. Specifically, “AI was responsible for 3,900, or roughly 5% of all jobs lost, making it the seventh-highest contributor to employment losses in May cited by employers.”

While this is concerning news, it doesn’t necessarily mean that workers are facing a crisis. In fact, many workers have found that AI makes them more productive, enables them to do more in less time, and can even make their jobs easier. AI itself could also create new types of jobs.

According to the Brookings Institute, “Workers who can gain more education and training, either on the job or elsewhere, can learn new tasks and become more complementary with machines. For instance, while robots have displaced unskilled workers on assembly lines, they have also created new jobs for machinists, advanced welders, and other technicians who maintain the machines or use them to perform new tasks.”

Employers Have a Responsibility to Prepare Their Workforces

With this in mind, employers have a responsibility to prepare the workforce for a future that is much more automated and dependent upon AI. That means they must generate opportunities for workers to develop new skills and access new training on AI technology.

For example, companies could create development programs to help employees learn how to use AI-driven tools and systems, or they could invest in digital learning tools that allow workers to learn at their own pace.

Get Ready for the Future of Work

The future of work is here, and it’s likely to involve a mix of automation, AI, remote work, hybrid models, and cognitive processes. It will be up to employers — both large and small — to make sure their employees are prepared for the changes ahead.

Investing in education, training, and digital tools is a necessary step toward helping workers succeed in this new landscape. Only then will businesses ensure their long-term success.

To learn more about how you can prepare your company for the future of work, contact us today at OptionOne Technologies.

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