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What trends tell us about the future of work

Global and emerging trends: The world has proven to be uncertain in the last few years, showering us with unprecedented surprises. Globally, enterprises had to swiftly adapt to the pandemic, extreme weather and the first gen Z employees entering the workforce fresh out of university. This rapid transition into more technology-heavy structures, as well as growing work flexibility and generational gap, has long-term effects.

Trends impacting workplace, workforce and worklife

Last month, the CSIRO, Australia’s National Science Agency, released their 2022 megatrend report. They highlighted 7 trends that businesses should expect to face sooner rather than later. Previously, PwC Australia also published an important Hopes and Fears of 2021 report after surveying 32,500 employees.

Workforce trends

  • Rise of automation and the autonomous

Artificial intelligence (AI) discoveries are booming as well as autonomous systems advances. Applications are found in all industry sectors boosting productivity. But 60% of employees are worried that automation is putting many jobs at risk, PwC found. The rise of automation and automated process pushes forward the needs for new jobs, and new skills required by businesses in the future.

  • New skills needed

With tasks and skills required rapidly changing for the workforce, Australians are expected to undertake more training and reskilling in the future. 75% of Australian respondents in the PwC survey were ready to learn new skills or completely re-train in order to remain employable in the future.

Workplace trends

  • Climate change adaptation

Unprecedented weather and natural disasters are on the rise globally. Brisbane alone witnessed two floods in the span of a year. Natural catastrophes are expected to cost the Australian economy three times more in 2050 than in 2017 and imprint new risks on location, the CSIRO wrote. Workplaces might have to be re-thought.

  • E-commerce and digital space

Teleworking, online shopping, telehealth, digital currencies, augmented reality and digital property investing are now mainstream. There only seems to be space to grow in that sphere.

  • Remote working

In general, the forced widespread ‘remote working experiment’ has proven to be successful. Employees have shown that working from home can still be productive, meaningful, and does not impact their working relationships or organisational structure. In fact, the majority would argue that ‘working outside of the office’ is the new norm.  PwC found 74% of Australian workers want a mix of remote and in-person working, and 29% said they would consider quitting if there were forced to abandon remote work completely.

WorkLife trends

  • The human dimension

There is an observable consumer and citizen push for more transparency, trust, fairness, diversity and equality in businesses, governments and amongst all decision-makers, the CSIRO found.

  • Cleaner and greener

An increased focus on sustainability and renewable energy sources is very likely. Improved recycling solutions and net-zero energy transitions are on the radar. By 2025, renewable energy is expected to surpass coal, the CSIRO estimates. With the rising costs of electricity, incentives to reduce usage with the free ecoBiz program for example, or finding clean alternatives is becoming more attractive.

  • Health imperative

The pandemic highlighted the challenges posed by an ageing population, growing chronic diseases and unhealthy sedentary lifestyles.  Not only physical health, but mental health awareness is gaining momentum and losing its stigmatisation. One in five Australians reported high or very high levels of psychological distress, CSIRO highlights. Workplaces will be expected to have support systems in place.

Are businesses going to go back to the way they were?

Or is this the new normal? Only time will tell, but knowledge acquired can rarely be unlearnt. It seems unlikely the last couple of years won’t leave a permanent mark. Businesses have gained new insights and have changed their practices. With the building of new expectations comes an evolving workplace with new demands. Resilient businesses that develop strategies riding on future trends and answering the new demands will come up on top.

What is hard to predict is which changes are going to be retained, which will be dropped and how much further will they evolve.


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