How can my employer prepare for my future working needs?

What’s the Problem?

Technologies are not only changing the type of workers we have, but also work itself. Flexible work arrangements such as teleworking, outsourcing, virtual teams, international placements and contracting, crowdsourcing and job sharing will increasingly be the norm.

For the employee, the future of work will mean an increasingly connected worker. Work will no longer be confined to a physical office space nor a fixed time.  At times, this can be positive: it gives workers more autonomy over when and where they work and the flexibility to take time out for reasons such as childcare. Workers will be able to choose their location for work-life balance reasons and even compete for highly skilled jobs with people in other countries. It may also assist workers faced with physical or ambulatory disabilities to participate in the workforce more equally.

At other times, 24/7 connectivity can sometimes blur the lines between work and home and produce negative results: workers may not be able to switch off and establish a healthy work-life balance and may even feel guilty at home when they are not working.

For the employer, attracting talent in a globalised labour market will be vital in keeping up with rapid change. The many available sources of information will make it easier for employees to find a better deal and switch instantly, meaning companies have to come up with innovative ways to attract and retain talent. Rather than traditional employers, companies have to play a different role.

Supporting wellbeing in the workplace will be an increasingly vital means of attracting talent for employers, especially when it comes to the next generation of workers, who view work in a more holistic manner. Employers will need to create job structures that allow them to do so, and to make this possible without resentment. Home-based working is an example of where trust can be stretched. Global mobility will also play a significant role in hiring practices as employers look internationally to recruit talented workers.

Management practices will also have to change. If employees are scattered across networks and locations, working at all hours and at different times, what are the implications for occupational health and safety, cybersecurity and data confidentiality? And what are the industrial relations implications if the traditional working week – or even a traditional job – becomes a thing of the past?

There will be a wholesale change in the relationship between employers and their employees. The supremacy of the organisation is fading and being replaced with the authority of the individual. Our future working lives will be characterised by empowerment, flexibility, and collaboration – all of which will help us adapt to the subtle combination of technology and globalisation that is shaping the world in which we work. These changes require a cultural change in the way work is done and managed.

Key Facts

  • Some companies are trialling a six hour work day. While data on the impacts is scarce, early indications are finding that the result is a higher quality of work, with employees reporting they are less stressed, and taking less sick leave. 
  • In each year, approximately one in every five Australians will experience a mental illness. Despite this, nearly half of all senior managers believe none of their workers will experience a mental health problem at work. Most managers, whether they realise it or not, will supervise a worker with mental illness at some point in their career 
  • According to Forbes, successful 21st Century workplaces recognise that employees are now the most valuable assets in an organisation. To attract and retain the best, companies need to provide their employees with a culture and environment that inspires them to be their best.
  • Virtual labour, work that crosses national boundaries through online capital, labour and information flows, will be more common. This phenomenon will have huge implications on tax regimes, immigration laws and industrial relations.
  • The rise of virtual labour has also affected union membership in Australia, now one of the least unionised countries in the developed world. Union membership is just 15 per cent - 10 percentage points under the average for OECD countries. And among the young - those most affected by the rise of the gig economy - only 6 per cent of workers are union members.
  • The virtual and the gig economy is already experiencing increased regulations to ensure workers’ rights and traditional labour protections.


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