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How the nature of the workplace is changing

September 25, 2018
Sustainability

The workplace is evolving at a much greater pace than ever before. Employees are increasingly having to juggle workplace commitments with busy home lives, balancing the opposing forces of career progression with those of both child and elderly care.

At the heart of this rapid change is technology: a double-edged sword that makes carrying out many tasks quicker and easier, while blurring the boundaries between work and leisure more than ever.

So what can businesses do to adapt to the workplace of the future? To gain a much greater insight into the evolving workplace, employee benefits provider Unum UK teamed up with strategic think-tank The Future Laboratory to produce The Future Workforce report.

Together, they interviewed a range of industry experts and business leaders across various sectors on topics ranging from artificial intelligence (AI) to the ageing population.

They also surveyed more than 3,000 workers, 97pc of whom work either full or part-time in companies with up to 5,000 employees and approximately 3pc who define themselves as self-employed.

The results of the study have helped Unum predict the evolution of four types of worker cultures that will dominate the workforces of the near future (see box for further details). It also helped to identify the key trends which will determine how the workforce will look 10 years from now.

Artificial intelligence – threat or opportunity?
Of all the trends driving change in the workplace, technology is expected to have the largest impact. All sectors are facing some form of digital transformation, with robotics and AI already at the heart of many businesses.

For example, in finance, AI is being used to help detect fraud in real time, while delivery company DHL has introduced collaborative robot pilots – “cobots” – which work side by side with human workers carrying out physical work.

Over the next decade AI is expected to reduce costs, speed up manual processes and increase both efficiency and productivity. However, as AI focuses on replicating human labour, both employees and employers will need to evaluate where human skills can best be deployed.

As part of this process, one of the key challenges for employers is to help staff engage with and adjust to technological change, rather than see it as a threat.

Need for flexibility
Adapting to new technology is not the only challenge over the next decade. The struggle to make ends meet means that dual-income families are now the norm as both parents work while raising children, with the “sandwich generation” – those who have to look after children and elderly relatives simultaneously – also on the rise.

At the same time, with the state pension age moving to 68 and the closure of generous defined-benefit pension schemes meaning people have to work longer to generate a decent retirement income, the workplace is having to accommodate a greater number of older workers than ever before.

Consequently, employers will increasingly have to provide flexible working to meet both the professional and personal commitments of their workers. Recent figures from the TUC revealed that the number of remote workers has increased by nearly a quarter of a million (241,000) over the past decade. This is set to rise further to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse workforce.

We are in the era of the “anywhere office”, concludes the Unum UK report, and while forward-thinking companies are beginning to adapt to the “flexi-future”, they also need to address the challenges it creates, such as how best to integrate new technology and maintain a work-life balance for their staff.

By Chris Price

Source: The Telegraph

 

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