The sudden, rapid rise of advanced AI technology — leading to artificially-produced writing, artwork, and, more recently, prompt-based video — is just one of the seismic technological shifts society has experienced in the last 5 years. So powerful are these tools (namely, Open AI’s ChatGPT and Midjourney) that the very notion of work is being brought into question.
How long will it be before machines are capable of running the world on our behalf? Suddenly, the slow creep towards a machine-ruled utopia has broken into a full sprint. It’s happened so fast, in fact, that many experts (including multi-billionaire Elon Musk) have signed an open letter calling for a halt in the development of AI systems, until society is fully prepared for the consequences of a superintelligence. We’re living through weird, wonderful times.
But even more surprisingly, this is the second time the well-established idea of the 9-5 has been threatened in the past decade. The global pandemic sent a large chunk of the working world home. At first, working from home was a temporary measure — ‘2 weeks to stop the spread’ and then business as usual. However, this taste of freedom proved to be a metaphorical opening of Pandora’s box. In fact, some of you may even struggle to imagine a time before working from home.
Change is inevitable, and as we surge towards an ever more uncertain future, the world of work presents a fascinating opportunity to ponder and predict what’s coming next. So join us, as we dive into 5 of our personal predictions for the future of work as we know it.
Gig Economy Dominance
The gig economy is already a significant force, and it’s expected to become even more prevalent in the future of work. Workers, especially Millennials and Gen Z, are increasingly opting for freelance, contract, or project-based work over traditional full-time employment. Companies will embrace this trend as it allows them to access specialized skills on demand, reduce fixed labor costs, and remain agile in a rapidly changing business landscape.
However, this shift will also raise questions about workers’ rights and social safety nets, challenging society to find new ways to support gig workers and ensure fair working conditions. With companies like Uber and OnlyFans recently coming under fire for their ethics, workers are wising up to some of the more underhanded tactics present in the gig economy.
Emphasis on Upskilling and Reskilling
As automation and AI continue to disrupt industries, the need for upskilling and reskilling will intensify. Many jobs will evolve, and some may even become obsolete. To stay relevant in the job market, workers will have to continuously acquire new skills and knowledge.
With remote work now the norm, the job market is likely to become increasingly competitive, too. More and more, companies are opening up to the idea of hiring internationally, with employer of record services bridging the gap between hiring managers and highly-skilled applicants and enabling companies to source talent remotely from around the globe.
Employers will play a crucial role in fostering a culture of learning and providing resources for employee development. Governments and educational institutions will need to collaborate to create accessible and affordable upskilling programs, ensuring that the workforce remains adaptable and equipped for the jobs of the future.
Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) in the Workplace
Imagine attending meetings in a virtual boardroom with colleagues from different continents without leaving your desk, or training new employees through interactive AR simulations that replicate real-world scenarios. With VR headsets now available at budget-friendly prices, and industry giants like Apple now championing the tech as ‘the future of computing’, we think this is a solid bet for the future.
AR and VR will not only enhance communication and training but also revolutionize industries like architecture, engineering, and healthcare. For example, architects could use AR to visualize building designs on-site, engineers could troubleshoot machinery issues remotely, and surgeons could practice complex procedures in a risk-free virtual environment.
However, the adoption of AR and VR will also bring challenges, such as data security concerns and potential distractions in the workplace. Striking the right balance between using these technologies for productivity gains while mitigating their downsides will be crucial for their successful implementation in the future of work.
Ethical Considerations and AI Governance
AI and automation advancements come with ethical challenges. As AI systems become more sophisticated and integrated into the workplace, concerns about privacy, bias, and job displacement will grow. Predictive algorithms and automated decision-making could lead to unfair treatment and exacerbate societal inequalities. In response, there will be a greater focus on AI governance and ethical guidelines for AI usage in the workplace.
Companies will be under pressure to be transparent about how their AI systems function and to ensure they are accountable for any adverse outcomes. Policymakers will have to collaborate with technology experts to establish regulations that strike the right balance between innovation and protecting human rights.
Mental Health and Wellbeing Initiatives
The pandemic highlighted the importance of mental health and wellbeing at work. In the future, companies will prioritize creating supportive and inclusive work environments that prioritize employees’ mental health. Flexible working arrangements, access to counseling services, and promotion of a healthy work-life balance will be integral to these initiatives.
Additionally, technology will play a dual role, both as a potential cause of stress (e.g. constant connectivity) and a solution provider (e.g. AI-driven mental health apps). Balancing the benefits of technology with its potential drawbacks will be essential for fostering a mentally healthy workforce.
As we peer into the crystal ball of the future of work, one thing is certain — change is inevitable. While predicting the future with absolute certainty may be impossible, preparing for it is within our reach. Adapting to change, being open to new opportunities, and continuously learning are the keys to navigating the uncertain waters of the future of work.
As we embark on this journey, let’s remember that the power to shape our destiny lies not in predicting the future but in our collective ability to embrace and harness change for the better. For more on the world of AI, check out our guide to AI applications in the rail industry, or read our thoughts on whether AI will replace content writers in the near future (eek!).