I think it is crucial to talk about the future. Since I started studying Futurism with the specialization of the Institute For The Future, I take this topic very seriously. The learning I have done, both in Futurism and in”learn how to learn,”has led me to work on several limitations that I had in my mind.
Before going to the “Future of Work” topic, let’s talk about the fact that we do not learn how to keep learning as adults. One of my most significant gaps, which I am now just working on, is precisely the difficulty in learning.
Even though I learned many of my professional skills on my own and in a self-taught way, I recently started to feel that I did not know how to study skills in a focused and purposeful way.
Combining Futurism to my interest in learning led me to focus on acquiring skills that were relevant to my future, and that allowed me to adapt to the future of work.
I stopped saying that remote work is the future of work
One of the flaws that I have (and I am working daily to improve this), is when I express my opinion as a fact. And when we work in digital and content creation, as I do, this is something we have to be very, very careful about.
Since I have this consciousness, I make an extra effort to separate my opinions from facts, especially linguistically speaking.
I cannot say that remote work is the future of work. I can say that remote work is a growing trend — and that it is expected to be an important part of the work model in the future.
Trend-based forecasts can be proven and are factual. Positions based on an idea of the future are just speculations.
But Krystel, does that mean you do not believe remote work is the future of work?
So let’s talk about my opinion. Since I started my studies of Futurism, I focused my reading and searching on the theme of work and adaptability.
The data and studies about remote work are pretty clear:
- In the United States, the percentage of people working from home has increased by 173% since 2005¹;
- 69% of millennial managers (people born between 1981 and 1996) have members of their teams who are allowed to work remotely²;
- 73% of teams will have remote workers by 2028².
But talking (just) about remote work is not the solution
Many people say that remote work is the future of work, but by saying this, we are automatically excluding numerous types of people for whom remote work isn’t the best solution.
People have different learning curves and personal incentives and motivations. Some people are extrovert, and others are introverted. Some professionals need a work context to be productive, while others can work on a moving train.
One of the growing trends in the professional scene is the theme of self-awareness. Being aware of what we want and need to be productive and happy.
What I expect from the future of work (and I would like to be already the present for many people) is that the central concern will be to offer professionals what they need to do their best work.
The working model should be shaped more around the needs of professionals and less around the expectations that companies have of the professionals.
If there are people who want to work all the time remotely, others may only want to do it from time to time. Others may also prefer to create a real, physical, and contextual barrier between their personal and professional lives. And it’s okay. It can not be a one size fits all.
Remote work policies poorly implemented
One of the thoughts I hear at several meetups and professional events here in Silicon Valley is about the fact that many companies start a remote work policy without having the needs of their professionals as a primary concern.
They implement remote work because “it is the future.” Because it sounds good. But implementing remote work in a company (or even starting a company that is 100% remote from the begging) is not easy. It involves processes and policies that many founders and managers do not think about or work with from the start.
- A study by Igloo³ shows that most remote employees feel that technology causes them to be left out;
- 57% of respondents say they think they have already lost some important information because there is no face-to-face communication;
- 55% of respondents say they have previously been excluded or removed from a meeting or brainstorming session because they are remote workers.
The challenges of remote work are real, and it is not fair that companies want to implement remote policies only because it is popular or because it is “the future.”
So what will the future of work look like?
The future of work, or at least one of the scenarios that I am actively working to implement in my life, is a future where remote work does exist, but as an integral part of the professional world. Not as a substitute for the traditional model, but as an alternative and standard option.
Like going to the office, choosing to stay at home, or traveling elsewhere, should be normal.
The study “The Future is Flexible — The Importance of Flexibility in the Modern Workplace”⁴ from Werk is related to this.
According to Werk’s website, a flexible job is a job with aspects that can be modified/adapted by the professional himself. These aspects, accordingly to Werk, are the following:
- Desk Plus: a variety of locations (being able to work in places other than the company’s office — that is, being able to switch between the office and other sites of your choice)
- Timeshift: unconventional hours (planning of the working hours by the professional)
- Parttime: reduced hours (the professional has the choice to work fewer hours)
- Travellite: minimum travel (reduced business travel, using virtual meetings)
- Microagility: freedom of adaptation (possibility for the professional to be able to make adjustments in his own workday)
- Remote: location independence (totally remote and relocated work)
Werk’s claims that the average employee needs to have access to 2.5 types of flexibility.
Maybe someone wants to work every day in an office, but may want to work fewer and on unconventional hours. Another person may want to be 100% remote, but work during “business hours.”
According to Werk, the aspects of flexibility most asked by workers are DeskPlus and Microagility. Remote working isn’t the principal component asked by the employees. Not everyone wants to always work remotely. But it seems that everyone wants more flexibility to be able to work outside the office if they wish to.
A curious fact, which is directly related to this topic of flexibility, is the study by Buffer⁵. This study reveals that the most significant benefit linked to remote work is not being able to work from anywhere in the world: is having a flexible and adaptable schedule!
I do not know what the future will be like, nobody can predict it. What is essential today is to be able to look at all these realities that are already happening. Create and think of as many scenarios as possible for your own future.
The more possibilities of futures you think of, the more actions you can start taking today to adapt to many of them and to be able to control your own work. This will make you, whatever the model of the future of work will be, more prepared than the vast majority of people.
After all, if you do not take control of your work now, someone will decide for you what your future will be like.
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 “Latest Work-At-Home/Telecommuting/Mobile Work/Remote Work Statistics” — Global Work Place Analytics https://globalworkplaceanalytics.com/telecommuting-statistics
 “Future Workforce Report” — Upwork https://www.upwork.com/press/2019/03/05/third-annual-future-workforce-report/
 “2019 State of the Digital Workplace” — Igloo https://igloosoftware.lookbookhq.com/resourcespage/report-igloo-digital
 “The Future is Flexible — The Importance of Flexibility in the Modern Workplace” — Werk https://werk.co/research
 “State Of Remote Work 2019” — Buffer https://buffer.com/state-of-remote-work-2019