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Preparing for the future world of work: Rachel Pinto

Thursday 20 March 2014

Planning for the future is often the subtext to everyday life. Whether it's eating more healthily to improve life expectancy or recycling leftovers to save the environment. But what about preparing for the future world of work? New research out this month explores the jobs and skills needed in 2030. But what's the subtext of this for employers and employees in the years ahead?
Rachel Pinto

Rachel Pinto

Rachel is a Senior Research Officer at Acas focussing on policy research.

Attending the launch of The Future of Work Study, it was clear that some of today's workplace trends are set to intensify, but also bring distinct challenges to employment relations. Toby Peyton-Jones, UKCES Commissioner outlined how the workforce is becoming more diverse, and how people are working for longer. By 2030 it is expected that around a third of the workforce will be aged 65 and over. This raises questions of how to share the knowledge accrued by experienced older workers, but also how to help them adapt to changing work environments.

So what are these changing work environments? For a start there will be increased digitalisation, with technology becoming more pervasive in the workplace. This means that specialist roles and technical expertise will be in demand. But also employers will need to adapt to new business models to maximise its potential; therefore requiring greater management capabilities. The future challenge here lies in equipping employees with the right skills, but also directing and encouraging young people to go where the future jobs will be.

Mark Keese from the OECD noted that there will be a rise in non-routine analytical and interpersonal roles. This continued shift towards the need for higher level roles, places less emphasis on routine work, which is more likely to be low paid with less job security and with fewer opportunities for progression. As Mark noted 'the most in need are left with less' highlighting the need for extra help and support to vulnerable workers as the future beckons. Further discussion on this and other future challenges in the workplace can be found in the The Future of Workplace Relations.

There is also a growing tendency towards changing work patterns; with employees becoming more adept to working flexibly. It is estimated that by 2015 there will be 1.3 billion virtual workers, as more people use their smartphones and tablets to work across different locations. Similarly this will also encourage more home working. But while this means employees can work at a pattern to suit them,  Acas research on homeworking. 'pdf icon Home is where the work is: A new study of homeworking in Acas – and beyond [1Mb]' shows that home workers tend to work longer hours compared to those attending a regular place of work.

Working on the move, also brings challenges to employment relations between managers and employees, as interactions are less likely to be face-to-face. Instead, the emphasis is on self-management, with working in isolation the norm. Findings from the Workplace Employment Relations Study 2011 already indicates the growing use of regular email communication to consult staff which has increased from 35 per cent in 2004 to 49 per cent in 2011. Going forward, we need to consider what this means for the quality of interactions at work.

It's clear that the future ways of working needs to be aligned with strong employment relations. To sum up in the words of Matthew Hancock MP in his keynote address 'no one can act alone.' Changes to the world of work will be felt by all so it's important to work together to make sense of it. This means gaining valuable insights on future work trends, but also responding to it through seeking advice and support where possible.

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