5 themes shaping the future of work

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Katharine Rooney, Senior Writer, Formative Content

  • 70% of workers felt that COVID-related restrictions had led to the most stressful period in their career.
  • Many people are reconsidering what really matters to them at work.
  • Technology is enabling new work models.

When it comes to the world of work, COVID-19 has taught us an important lesson: that preparedness is everything.

In a new report, The Changing Nature of Work: 30 signals to consider for a sustainable future, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) examines how workplace developments are likely to influence the way we move forward as a society.

One key finding? That planning for disruption is critical, not only to enable a rapid response to external shocks, but to ensure that any necessary adaptation is inclusive of marginalized populations.

Here are five more things we’ve learned from the report.

1. The pandemic has highlighted the emphasis we need to put on wellbeing

Remote working has blurred the line between work and home life for many people; intensifying discussions around work-life balance and adding stress to daily life. This is particularly true for women, who have experienced higher levels of anxiety during the pandemic, according to a multinational survey by French international development organization Focus 2030.

In its COVID-19 Risks Outlook, published in May 2020, the World Economic Forum noted that up to 70% of workers felt that COVID-related restrictions had led to the most stressful period in their career. As a result, many of us are reconsidering what really matters to us at work.

Meanwhile, the pandemic has exacerbated existing social inequalities, making it harder for marginalized communities to access healthcare, education and work opportunities.

In May 2021, the World Health Assembly recommended that governments incorporate mental health support planning into preparedness for emergencies such as the pandemic.

The physical and mental health impacts of the pandemic should also be considered by employers when reimagining future work models, the UNDP report suggests.

2. Digital technology will change the way we work forever

We are now deep into the Fourth Industrial Revolution, with leading-edge technologies like robotics, artificial intelligence, and the internet of things shifting the balance of the way we operate at work. By 2025, according to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report, humans and machines will spend almost an equal amount of time on tasks in the workplace.

This dovetails with the UNDP’s report, which suggests that so-called “superjobs” – roles that integrate human and machine skills – will require careful consideration of human-machine interaction protocols and ethics. One example of this is ensuring that AI systems are free from bias.

As process-driven activities are taken up increasingly by machines, there will be a demand for humans to develop new soft skills, like empathy and creativity, in order to adapt to a rise in more knowledge-intensive sectors, such as financial services and product development.

a chart showing the share of tasks performed by humans vs machines, 2020 and 2025 (expected), by share of companies surveyed
By 2025, the balance of labour between humans and machines will be almost equal. Image: World Economic Forum

3. When it comes to new work models, we’re still finding our way

The world of work is no longer centred around traditional employment patterns. The Forum’s Platform on Digital Economy and New Value Creation estimates that 70% of new value created in the economy over the next decade will be based on digitally enabled platform business models – yet nearly half of the world’s population is not connected to the internet.

Many are also heading down the piecemeal work route. In the United States alone, the value of the gig economy is expected to reach over $455 billion by 2023.

That comes with its own challenges, like a lack of job security and social protection.

The UNDP believes that in the future we will see a blend of best practice from across the private and public sectors, with new social protection nets adapted to emerging work models and improved digital infrastructure.

4. The right conditions at work can help foster inclusion

A potential downside of advances in technology is that it could deepen inequalities, according to the UNDP report.

For instance, the authors note, “Women have less time for reskilling, upskilling and seeking jobs because they spend much more time than men on unpaid care work.”

They call for skills and innovation gaps to be improved through a process of lifelong learning, on-the-job experience and staff involvement in shaping the way organizations create value alongside more formal qualifications. https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-0&features=eyJ0ZndfZXhwZXJpbWVudHNfY29va2llX2V4cGlyYXRpb24iOnsiYnVja2V0IjoxMjA5NjAwLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X2hvcml6b25fdHdlZXRfZW1iZWRfOTU1NSI6eyJidWNrZXQiOiJodGUiLCJ2ZXJzaW9uIjpudWxsfSwidGZ3X3NwYWNlX2NhcmQiOnsiYnVja2V0Ijoib2ZmIiwidmVyc2lvbiI6bnVsbH19&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1423614884013559814&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.weforum.org%2Fagenda%2F2021%2F08%2Ffuture-of-work-technology-pandemic-wellbeing%2F&sessionId=777652d8376add29e12a786d5c7069920d3ed8b0&theme=light&widgetsVersion=1890d59c%3A1627936082797&width=550px

More inclusive work settings – from wider corridors to areas designed for specific tasks and even virtual reality spaces to reduce isolation among remote workers – are also set to become commonplace as we adjust to life in the wake of the pandemic.

5. Entrepreneurship is transforming the way we do business

With technology like crowdfunding, blockchain and online banking democratizing access to investment, there is now greater opportunity for disruptive ideas to take root, says the UNDP.

It predicts that start-ups will lead the way in adopting new organizational structures and practices, as they have already done with digital collaboration tools.

The organization also sees a role for entrepreneurialism within larger and more traditional companies, supporting a culture of innovation and embedding lateral thinking, autonomy, proactivity, market awareness and risk-taking.

Whatever the future of work turns out to be, the UNDP sees one thing as non-negotiable: “The interventions we create should focus on solving the problems of tomorrow based on foresight, with humans at the centre of transformation.”

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Australia urged to evacuate offshore detainees amid widespread, acute mental distress

Any doubt?

From funders to partners: elevating community expertise to help communities thrive

German opposition win in Lower Saxony felt all over Europe

London is becoming the world’s first National Park City

Yemen consultations have started, insists top UN negotiator

Commission approves emergency measures to protect eastern Baltic cod

How data can help mining companies tackle their trust deficit

From drought to floods in Somalia; displacement and hunger worsen, says UN

From raised fists at the 1968 Olympics to taking the knee: A history of racial justice protests in sport

Will the European Court of Justice change data privacy laws to tackle terrorism?

This is how travel hotspots are fighting back against overtourism

Do all you can to resolve climate change ‘sticking points’ UN chief urges South-East Asian leaders, in Bali

Four lessons from Africa on building effective business ecosystems

Australian homes are turning to solar power in record numbers

European research priorities for 2021-2027 agreed with member states

Meeting the basic needs of our healthcare workers

Mental health: a medical school’s demand

Embracing the diversity in a multicultural city of Romania

The EU Commission lets money market funds continue the unholy game of banks

How the power of sport can bring us together and drive social justice

EU Blue Card: Commission welcomes political agreement on new rules for highly skilled migrant workers

Why building consumer trust is the key to unlocking AI’s true potential

Ukraine’s new political order not accepted in Crimea

Protecting European consumers: toys and cars on top of the list of dangerous products

This is how New York plans to end its car culture

Progress against torture in Afghan detention centres, but Government needs to do more, says UN report

European Citizens’ Initiative: Commission registers ‘Mandatory food labelling Non-Vegetarian / Vegetarian / Vegan’ initiative’

Is South Korea set to lose from its FTA with the EU?

Anti-vaccers: does the empty can rattle the most?

The role of public affairs in student NGOs

Future Forces Forum: Prague will be hosting the most important project in the field of Defence and Security

Latin America’s cities are ready to take off. But their infrastructure is failing them

Political power of women suffering ‘serious regression’, General Assembly President warns

7 top things to know about coronavirus today

How global trade can save lives and livelihoods – and help protect the planet

EU job-search aid worth €9.9 million for 1,858 former Air France workers

European Semester 2018 Spring Package: Commission issues recommendations for Member States to achieve sustainable, inclusive and long-term growth

COVID-19: Save European culture and values, MEPs tell Commission

Children suffering ‘atrocities’ as number of countries in conflict hits new peak: UNICEF

We need to rethink ESG to ensure access to water and sanitation for all

International Court of Justice orders Pakistan to review death penalty for Indian accused of spying

Rise in violent conflict shows prevention ‘more necessary than ever’: UN chief

Top UN political official updates Security Council on Iran nuclear deal

It’s not summer holidays what lead to the bad August of the German economy

How can the world end viral hepatitis by 2030? 5 experts explain

How to talk about climate change: 5 tips from the front lines

Failure to open accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia is a mistake

Myanmar doing too little to ensure displaced Rohingya return: UN refugee agency chief

Further reforms in Sweden can drive growth, competitiveness and social cohesion

EU-UK relations: solutions found to help implementation of the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland

Statistics show the ugly face of youth training schemes

Croatian Presidency outlines priorities to EP committees

Media and entertainment in flux: it’s time for the close-up

5 droughts that changed human history

Are the G20 leaders ready to curb corporate tax-avoidance?

European Youth, quo vadis?

China is the first non-EU country to invest in Europe’s €315 billion Plan

EU institutions agree on priorities for coming years: A common agenda for our recovery and renewed vitality

Coronavirus Global Response: EIB and Commission pledge additional €4.9 billion

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s