New technologies have always disrupted the status quo when it comes to employment – there’s a reason we call them industrial revolutions, after all. This time, however, when machine learning, AI and blockchain technology mean big shifts can be implemented virtually instantaneously, people are understandably nervous of the sheer pace of change.
When it comes to our careers, many are concerned about how these disruptive technologies will affect their jobs – or whether their jobs will simply cease to exist altogether. But as with any big shift, great change also creates room for great opportunity. We take a look at the changes already underway, and how you can prepare yourself to make the most of them!
Rise in remote work, the gig economy, and the arrival of the digital nomad:
It’s not hard to see why companies and individuals alike have increasingly turned to independent and freelance work. For employers in a post-recession world, it often makes financial sense to outsource certain tasks or roles that don’t require the long-term resource investments of hiring a fulltime employee.
And for companies that want to reduce overheads will retaining their top performers, the ability to rent computers, laptops and tablets which their employees can use to work from home can be extremely effective. The increased freedom of working from home, and eliminating the twice-daily rush hour commute alone are often reason enough for employees to stay with a company for longer.
There are dozens of reasons companies and individuals alike are shifting in this direction, and it’s happening fast. In 2016, around 34% of Americans were employed in the gig economy, with that number expected to hit 43% in 2020. In fact, the freelance economy is growing three times faster than the overall workforce in the US.
As the ability and opportunities for people to work from anywhere, anytime grows, an increasing number of people are embracing the chance to live as digital nomads – taking on work and clients when they need to, and traveling and exploring the world as they go. And while this kind of life certainly isn’t right for everyone, it’s a trend we can expect to see grow.
So what’s our takeaway from all this? When it comes to the future of work, it’s going to happen less and less from a fixed location like an office, and you’ll likely be rubbing virtual shoulders with freelance workers from around the globe as part of your daily routine.
Once-off tertiary education vs. lifelong learning:
For parents, preparing your child for a working career that will be very different from your own can be pretty daunting. Schools and academic institutions the world over face a tremendous challenge, with many concerned that the syllabus and subjects they teach are simply no longer relevant or useful for students entering a new world of work.
Perhaps you have a child about to graduate high school, and you’re unsure whether advising them to go to college is a good idea. Will the degree they receive be redundant by the time they qualify, leaving them with little to show for the experience apart from a mountain of debt?
The reality is that while subjects and degrees which in and of themselves require students to acquire and refine critical thinking skills (such as the STEM fields where graduates are in short supply) are probably going to stay relevant for a long time to come.
In most other fields, learning how to keep learning in a digital world, and where and how to acquire new skills as you need them is likely going to give most workers a bigger advantage than a degree or once-off qualification in the future.
Looking on the bright side:
According to a report by the World Economic Forum, robots, algorithms and machines are set to displace some 75 million jobs by 2022. That’s a pretty scary number – until you consider that they’re also expected to create 133 million new roles.
And when you consider the kind of tasks that machines and computers are best at – generally of the monotonous, repetitive, and time-consuming variety – the jobs they’ll be taking away are likely to be the ones we didn’t enjoy much anyway. That may be of little comfort to someone facing retrenchment due to automation in their industry, but it’s also an opportunity for many to carve their own career paths based on their passions and creativity.
Whether it’s taking on a diverse range of freelance projects, becoming self-employed, starting your own online store, or building up a solid reputation in the gig marketplace, the future of work has never been more in our own hands.