What is the future of work and what will it mean for your job?

Posted in Office 365, by MarkJ4 View all Posts

The way we work is changing. Not only is it changing, but it’s changing at an incredible pace! What we are used to today will look very different in 5-10 years and beyond. Many factors are driving a change in the normal 9 to 5 working hours, and I believe this passionately. I believe it so much that I spent two years of my life developing a service that will help facilitate the changing work landscape. (More on that later…)

I realise that some of you may disagree with my points listed below and that’s fine. However, regardless of whether I am right or wrong, you can still introduce a few changes to safeguard your future.

I am a great believer in planning for the future. I have always taken an interest in technological advances and wonder what impact they will have on me, my family and those around me. I also think it’s wise to make sure we’re able to end our careers and be able to enjoy a long and happy retirement.

If you’re an employer, you will also need to consider how these points will affect your workforce and in particular, how you’re going to attract and retain the staff you need to run your business successfully.

Let’s get started, the remainder of this article sets out nine factors or predictions that will affect our jobs in the future.

Microsoft Teams Governance EBook

1 – Technology can now easily support remote working

If two people want to work or collaborate remotely then, regardless of the specific task they are completing, you can be sure that they will need to contact each other. One of the most significant requirements for carrying out a project is to be able to use great software to facilitate regular meetings and conversation as well as tools to help manage the full project life cycle. Independent workers also require a variety of systems to help manage their customers and business.

Up until the last 3-5 years this technology wasn’t available or was limited in some way – remember the ‘good old days’ when you actually had to physically write a letter and walk to the post box or actually pick up a telephone and dial! How many of us now use some kind of instant message / online chat / video link – even when the ‘remote’ worker is simply located in a different corner of the same building!

Here are a few hand-picked solutions to aid project co-ordination and collaboration.

Online meeting/chat/collaboration software

Online web conferencing and meeting software used to be either expensive, flaky or slow due to reduced domestic internet speeds. Now we have a flurry of meeting software and fast internet speeds are becoming the norm.

Here are some great tools to help run an online meeting or conversation:

  • Microsoft Teams – A tool allowing a Team to chat, collaborate, share and meet online.
  • Slack – This performs the same role as Microsoft Teams.
  • Google Hangouts – Developed by Google and is a free way to run an online meeting with multiple attendees.
  • Zoom – A paid meeting/webinar tool, but packed full of features.

Project and Task Management tools

To be able to manage a project’s progress, you need to be able to break it down into individual tasks, allocate them across the team and then review progress against expectations. Trello changed everything for our business.

We run Collaboris entirely remotely and use Trello on a daily basis – allocating team members to an individual task ‘card’ and then moving the card from left to right across the project board as its status changes (initial idea / approved / in progress / ready for review / complete etc.). Microsoft also has a Trello equivalent called Microsoft Planner that’s bundled in with an Office 365 subscription.

Here are some great tools that can help you manage a project:

  • Trello – Manage tasks in a Kanban style board.
  • Monday.com – Plan. Organize. Track. In one visual, collaborative space.
  • Microsoft Planner – Developed by Microsoft and remarkably similar to Trello.

Small business, solo-preneur tooling.

Every person wanting to become a Freelancer or small business needs to be able to manage documents, contracts, scheduling and tasks to run their business successfully. Office 365 can be used for as little as £6/month. With that, you get access to an eye-watering amount of features.

Here are some other great tools to help manage your business:

  • ClickFunnels – Amazing software to help you build a marketing funnel to attract new business (great training too).
  • QuickBooks – Accounting software to manage your business.
  • HelloSign –  Get legal documents digitally signed.

I won’t list every conceivable tool that you could use to run your own business from home as there are simply too many. Rest assured you can get your business up and running for a few dollars a month instead of having to pay hefty up-front fees for expensive software.

2 – Remote access to organisations data and systems is easy

Business is now flocking to the Cloud at an incredible rate. We are continually hearing incredible statistics from Microsoft about Azure, and some believe it will be bigger than Windows by 2021. Let that sink in for a moment. That means Microsoft will generate more money in its Cloud business than selling on-premises software (mainly Windows). Amazon (AWS) has an even bigger marketshare with Google (Google Cloud) just behind Microsoft. I believe this trend will continue until we’re all in. Some will need to resist due to regulations or data sovereignty issues, but the rest of us will be “forced” to the Cloud so that we can keep our costs down and enjoy the latest versions of software too.

So why does it matter that we will all be in the Cloud?

This matters for many reasons, but the main one is that remote workers can now access organisations systems with ease. Just ten years ago, if a company in the UK wanted to hire a person in a different country (and have them access their system/data), it would be a massive challenge. All of the data was locked away inside a corporate on-premises data centre where you had to be on-site to access it. Some companies would open up their data with a VPN, but this would often be resisted by the I.T., compliance and security teams.

SAAS solutions (like Azure and Office 365) have made it easy to grant access with granular permissions to 3rd party global workers. Nearly all Cloud services make it simple to add users often with social logins like Facebook or LinkedIn.

3 – Business users are now unleashed with a new breed of tools

Traditionally, even for simple requests, business users would have to raise a request to the I.T. department. I.T. would then evaluate it and decide how and when to deliver it. Often this took a long time as I.T. had other projects on their books. In many cases, the business would want I.T. to upgrade on-premises software as they required the new features. Depending on the software this might be very expensive, time-consuming and risky.

In the new Cloud-enabled world we live in today, the Cloud vendor is continuously patching and releasing new features directly to the business. This is a massive change in itself. Rightly, or wrongly business users can now build on top of their cloud service and integrate it with other services without I.T. even being involved. Vendors such as Microsoft are also releasing “power user” tools (see PowerApps, Flow and Power BI) that allow power users (often referred to as citizen developers) to build entire applications themselves.

What are the opportunities here?

As these new tools and “mini projects” arise business users are going to need training and support to adopt them. This support will likely be requested externally as internal teams don’t have the skills to keep up. Tools like PowerApps put a lot of power in your average Joe’s hand, but they’re still going to hit stumbling blocks. In other words, if you position yourself as a remote worker who specialises in this new niche, you can create a business serving customers all around the world. To become a successful Freelancer, I believe it’s better to specialise in one thing well rather than have to be a generalist like so many are having to do as contract and permanent workers. Being a generalist can cause you massive frustration in just trying to keep up!

4 – The new generation expects flexibility

I am a dad of two teenage daughters and uncle to a 20 and 22-year-old. The life they’ve experienced in their early years is dramatically different from the one I did. Instead of endless nights playing on the parks, going to friends houses, they’ve “mostly” communicated via text messages in their favourite social apps such as Snapchat, Instagram and Kik. Their generation communicates far less than we did.  They expect everything to be done via the phone or with their mates on a gaming console. They’ve used mobiles, tablets, Netflix instead of bikes, marbles and conkers.

Through no fault of their own, this momentum is set to continue (and to be honest I can’t see it ever being reversed). All of this means that their expectations from a “job” are very different from the ones I had when I began my career. When I started, I was taught that a “job is for life”. The new generation expects the tools, convenience and flexibility they’ve grown up with.

The video below explains five trends that are shaping the future of work.

What are the impacts to business if the generation entering the workforce now expects to work remotely?

Many businesses are already dipping their toe in the “gig economy” and utilising online Freelance workers (especially in sectors such as I.T., design, sales and marketing). If there’s enough opportunity for the new breed of worker to work as a solo-preneur they will take it, meaning you may miss out on some fantastically skilled workers.

If you’re unsure how big the Gig economy was in 2017, then have a read of “Freelancing in America: A National Survey of the New Workforce –  “This workforce is adding $715 billion annually to the economy through their freelance work“.

5 – Climate change will limit the commute

Let’s face it; our planet is facing a massive crisis. We’ve got ice melting that really shouldn’t be. Species are dying off. The earth needs some urgent T-L-C. Every day there’s a new story breaking by a leading scientist saying that we have just a few years to reverse this horrifying trend.

As I write this a news story just broke that negotiators in Poland have finally secured agreement on a range of measures that will make the Paris climate pact operational in 2020. In other words,  most of the world has agreed to lower global warming by adhering to a standard set of rules — fantastic news. At last, we’re doing something about it.

How could the climate agreement affect us as business owners?

This is a big deal. To lower our emissions and stop the burning of fuel we’re going to need to stop spending millions of hours per day in cars, trains and planes travelling to large offices which burn even more.

To follow it’s a natural conclusion if governments follow through with their promises to reduce global warming, they’re going almost certainly need businesses to lower their carbon footprint. This will inevitably mean less business travel and less time in fuel burning offices.

6 – We now expect an “uberized” world

One other way to predict how we will work tomorrow is to look at the trend that’s happened in recent years. Services like Uber and AirBnb have made buying and selling services as easy as buying a pair of socks on Amazon.

It couldn’t be easier. Pick up your phone, find a house, (or taxi driver in Uber’s case) and click a couple of buttons. They’ve disrupted entire industries and have triggered a new generation of marketplaces to pop up in every industry imaginable. An example of where we utilised a marketplace at Collaboris was when we needed some legal documents writing for MicroJobs. We had no prior relationships with lawyers and were also conscious of cost. Within less than 30 minutes we’d hired someone from Lexoo.

Recruiting staff is frustrating, risky and potentially expensive – especially for smaller companies or where the task only requires someone for a few hours/days. You create a job spec, use an online site or hire a recruiter. The process can take an age and even then you risk hiring the wrong person.

Expect recruitment to be “uberized”.

The traditional process of recruiting staff is prime for disruption. Just as we have with the Uber app, we are going to see a flurry of services like ours (Collab365 MicroJobs) that make it easy to find staff. Like we have done for experts with Microsoft skills and Lexoo with lawyers, I expect we will soon end up with a lot of niche marketplaces that are set to serve one particular industry or vendor. As these sites grow and gain momentum, they will eventually make recruitment a far more enjoyable experience. They will usually have robust payment flows that protect buyer and seller and also offer reviews making you more confident of your new hire.

7 – AI and Robotics could automate your job

Another massive trend we see in technology is Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics. AI is already huge. Each of the major tech companies has invested heavily in it.

Towards Data Science has gathered some interesting statistics on AI, here are a few:

  • The share of jobs requiring AI has increased by 450% since 2013, per Adobe.
  • According to BridghtEdge, the next significant marketing trend is seen as being consumer personalisation (29%), followed by AI (26%).
  • Around the globe, robot imports have increased from around 100,000 in 2000 to roughly 250,000 in 2015, according to IDC.

You can read the full report here

A recent post on Brugel, the European ‘think tank’ specialising in economics stated that:

Based on a European application of Frey & Osborne (2013)’s data on the probability of job automation across occupations, the proportion of the EU workforce predicted to be impacted significantly by advances in technology over the coming decades ranges from the mid-40% range (similar to the US) up to well over 60%.”

The report goes on to explain that the net result would be 54% of EU jobs being at threat of automation.

Although some of these figures sound shocking, there are also studies that suggest that the workforce will merely shift in focus and that with the relevant reskilling and training opportunities for employment will come from different areas and different sectors. This will make the actual figure of jobs that AI, automation, and robotics displace much lower.

In fact, according to a recent report from the World Economic Forum, the shift in the workforce could result in a net gain of 58 million jobs in the next five years.

This candid video is well worth of a watch. It explains the “future of work” really well.

I think if you’re working I.T. – you’re lucky. Demand for developers and engineers are set to rise. However, the industries you currently work in may be impacted by automation. My advice here is to keep an eye on the future and keep your skills relevant. Remember my point above, become a specialist and sell that “one thing” over and over, rather than become a jack of all trades (master of none).

8 – Companies can’t find staff (in I.T. anyway)

A study by Korn Ferry Institute finds that by 2030 there will be a global human talent shortage of more than 85 million people which could result in ~ $85 trillion unrealised annual revenues globally.

While those figures are across many industries and Job skills, IT skills are always close to the top of that shortage list globally. The innovative and fast-paced IT landscape means that there is a constant shift in ‘Goalposts’ when it comes to demand meeting supply.

This skills gap coupled with the changing attitudes and expectation of the modern worker makes for some changes in focus and working cultures across the industry. These include investments in training, adjusted and flexible working patterns, alternative resourcing and Outsourcing models, to name a few.

If there’s a skills shortage then surely it’s going to be easy to find a job?

Maybe. I think it will depend upon where you live. Sadly, we are seeing a trend towards protectionism. We’ve got the USA touting “American Jobs for American people”, and the primary driver behind Brexit was to lower immigration and protect UK jobs. All of this sounds logical. Fewer immigrants mean more jobs, doesn’t it? Not necessarily. The main reason we utilise the skills of foreign workers is that businesses can’t find people or afford to hire local workers. If they can no longer hire relocated workers from abroad, then projects will have to be completed elsewhere or cancelled. If they can’t afford local workers then pay levels will have to drop. This is the reverse of what those who wanted to lower immigration campaigned for.

I also see a big opportunity here. If a company can’t recruit a skilled worker from abroad to work locally in their office, they can still hire them to work remotely. For those that offer their skills in markets that are becoming more closed off this could lead to a prosperous few years 🙂

9 – Cloud service integrators wanted!

As organisations move their workloads to the Cloud, they’re going to be faced with many options around which provider to select. In each business area, we have almost unlimited choice. For example, I could list five services in each of these areas: CRM’s, Helpdesk’s, marketing apps, task management apps and collaboration tools.

Each business will end up utilising several vendors to provide the tooling they need for their company to operate.

Services like Zapier, IFTTT and Microsoft Flow have sprung up in recent years to help solve this. For example, in our business, we use Zapier to hook up our website to our CRM through Zapier. We’re able to connect systems from different vendors together in a few clicks. This is amazing as we all like choice. It forces competition which either forces the price down or services offering up. As consumers of this, it’s fantastic.

However, with all this choice there’s a problem (and an opportunity).

Business will need to find and hire people that know how these services are meant to work and can guide them through it. If they were to do this alone, they’d need to evaluate every service, then learn how to use it. Then bombard their team causing distraction and information overload.

For the worker, there’s an opportunity to specialise in a particular product or in an integration tool like Zapier. Once you’ve mastered your specialism, you can then offer it remotely around the earth.

As an employee how can you secure your future?

Given the way the workplace is set to pan out I have some candid advice for both the worker and the employer:

My advice for workers: First and foremost is to decide where your passion lies. If you follow your passion (in your work), this leads to happiness. For example, I desire to help those people that want to build a flexible life, working from wherever they want. The review below was for one of our first ever MicroJob sales. I keep looking at it as it makes me smile. I love the fact that we’ve built a platform that’s connected two people who didn’t know each other from different areas of the world. My goal is to help 1000 people become full-time Freelancers, and that’s what drives me to get out of bed every morning.

Once you’ve found your passion look for opportunities to help others and once you’ve noticed that opportunity, become an expert and offer your skills on a platform like ours. Quick plug: If you have Microsoft skills, then we’d love to have you on board. If you don’t have Microsoft skills but can offer services (such as marketing, sales, graphic design) to companies operating in the Microsoft sphere then we also have “Microsoft partners” category.

Don’t give up your day job just yet, consider working a couple of extra hours in the evenings until you’re established and confident that freelancing is the life for you. You can also gauge demand by offering different types of jobs requiring different skillsets. We have a great post here with good advice on how to create the perfect MicroJob.

Employers need to prepare to resource labour from around the world

My advice for employers: In the next few years your business will no doubt go through significant change. You will have competitors popping up who’ve built a business from their bedroom by utilising low-cost Cloud services. You can’t rely on finding staff as quickly as you can today (has it ever been easy?). You need to start building an army of remote workers who you can call on when you need them most. If you’re working on Microsoft projects, then look at our marketplace to find someone. If you’re not, then many other sites offer a much broader range of skills such as Freelancer.com and Upwork.

If you are a business in need of Microsoft skills, then you can post a Job Request. If you’re more of a shopper then why not browse some of our existing MicroJobs.

Hope you found this useful 🙂

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Want to comment?

  • BradShannon says:

    Great article! I love the technological world we’re in and our children are growing up in. As we move from a 9-5 workforce to a mobile workforce; I believe it is still very important to keep that work/life balance. If you’re working all hours of the day, then make sure you are taking time for yourself and your family too.

  • lauragb says:

    Great article. Deciding to be brave and go freelance 20 years ago was the best thing I ever did. Back then I did it for my children, now though its for me. It has not all been easy but I now do work I love and its easy to get repeat work if you are passionate. Mark is right recommending Trello or Planner you will to find a way to be organised even if its only you.

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