The future of work is a hot topic for industries across the board. Our own Julie Berry and Reagan Long went to NYC this year for WORKTECH18 — a leading international workplace conference — to explore the present and future state of work for the people and technology involved.
Below, we reflect on the top five themes from the conference, what we learned about the state of work today, and the key factors shaping how, where and when work will take place in the future.
Employee vs. Independent Contractor
Many firms have moved to hiring less employees in exchange for more contract workers. As The Wall Street Journal stated: “Never before have companies tried so hard to employ so few people.” Here are some of the factors to analyze before deciding to hire an independent contractor:
- COST: Despite high hourly rates, it typically costs less to pay a contractor than it does to employ a full-time worker. Hiring an employee also requires paying for a number of expenses, such as benefits, technology, office space and supplies; not to mention social security, medicare, and insurance.
- FLEXIBILITY: Employers with flexible workloads would benefit from hiring independent contractors, which allows more leeway in hiring and releasing workers. Independent contractors are typically hired for specific tasks, projects or timelines, without the long-term commitment.
- CULTURE: It’s more difficult to build a strong workplace culture when you hire independent contractors. Oftentimes, contractors work remotely and don’t typically interact with the rest of the team. If building a strong workplace culture is important to you, full-time employees may be the best option.
- RELIABILITY + TRAINING: Since independent contractors are typically short-term, the fluid nature of the ever-changing team can be inconvenient for training, and disruptive to the flow or productivity of your work.
Retail Continues to Change
More and more consumers are shopping online today, resulting in several big box stores and retailers closing brick-and-mortar shops. However, people are now looking for more authentic, original, and one-of-a-kind options, which could open the door for more artists to fill the gaps.
Additional changing trends in retail include:
- RETAILTAINMENT: These stores combine retail and entertainment, such as boutique shops with a barista counter or outdoor stores with a climbing wall.
- PREDICTIVE ANALYSIS: Companies are now using big data analytics to glean meaningful insights about their shoppers in order to create personalized marketing campaigns. An example includes Amazon’s online shopping feature: “Here’s what else you might like.”
- RETAIL + TECH INNOVATION: As artificial intelligence and virtual reality continue to become mainstream, expect to see the use of these technologies while shopping. For example, the new Amazon Go Grocery store allows shoppers to “just walk out” of the store without checking out, and instead uses sensors to detect what someone has purchased and charges the associated Amazon account.
- THINK SMALL: As a response to the craving more authentic experiences, retailers have created smaller store formats to gain a competitive edge against large retailers by offering a personal touch, amazing customer service, and hyper-local involvement in the community.
Increased Need for Empathy
As the world becomes more automated, there will be an emphasis on empathy and creating a sense of community — important in both the workplace and in providing customer assistance. A 2018 State of the Workplace Study on Empathy by Businessolver found that 92 percent of employees believe that empathy is undervalued in the workplace; however, 80 percent of employees, HR professionals and CEOs believing that empathy has a positive impact on business performance, motivation and productivity.
Here are four ways to build empathy within yourself, in order to improve your workplace:
- Be quiet, inside and out.
- Fully watch and listen.
- Ask yourself what you are feeling.
- Test your instinct.
Learn more about these four empathetic practices in this article from Psychology Today.
Voice Technology Gains Momentum in the Workplace
Just as it has within the home, voice technology will become a key component of the office — increasing productivity in the following ways:
- Streamlining the booking of conference rooms
- Enhancing the set up of IT support tickets
- Reducing the complexity of office equipment
- Improving customer service phone support
- Integrating with business apps, such as Slack
- Providing easily accessible big data and search engine capabilities
- Providing enhanced internal workplace educational options
- Smarter and more efficient IT operations
The Future of Work
Work will continue to be accessed on demand via the Cloud, with a real-time connection to data. Future offices may look more like a full-service hotel with retail, conference room lounge amenities, and micro-office meeting space, as well as catering, pantry, tech services, chefs, etc. For Millennials, things like flexibility, team collaboration, and company culture will mean more than a high-paying salary. And well-being offerings — such as access to gyms, coworking spaces, meditation rooms, workplace cafes, natural light, plants, etc. — will be key to attracting and retaining talent.
. . .
Today’s workforce has many options and industries in which they can enter into the job market. In order to stay ahead of the curve technologically, increase top talent retention and attraction, and cultivate a productive and happy workforce, employers must understand the current and future state of work. Setting the stage for collaborative, advanced and transparent workplaces starts now, and we’re excited to continue being a part of the conversation.