The workplace of the future

  • 19/02/2021  |
The workplace of the future

Today the working scenario is rapidly changing: several jobs that today still exist won’t be around anymore in few years as emerging technologies continue to reshape labour markets. In less than 2 years, we’ll completely change also the way we work as employees, with consequences on our lifestyle as well.

This major evolution is pushed forward by two main reasons: first of all, over the past decade, the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution has started, driven by a set of ground-breaking technologies, which redesigned the strategic directions of any industry. Then, this shift to a new business world is now increasing in velocity and depth because of the COVID-19 outbreak, which forced many firms to close their physical locations and limit face-to-face interactions.

I see two main outcomes in terms of disruption of employment: the first one in terms of competencies and roles, and the second one in terms of working environment as we know it.

With regards to the first point, the last Future of Jobs report by the World Economic Forum stated that, by 2025, the work hours performed by machines, with growing capabilities and algorithms, will match the time spent working by human beings and 44% of the skills that employees will need to perform their roles effectively will change.

This will lead to a rundown of “useless” jobs, which will be replaced by a surging demand for new one, which will reflect the acceleration of automation, the innovation and growth across multiple industries and the resurgence of cybersecurity risks. Examples are FinTech Engineers in Financial Services, the new roles in green economy, cloud computing, data and AI economy.

In such emerging professions, skill shortages are more acute, jeopardising the ability of global companies to harness the growth potential, and in such scenario, I think that both strategic and tactical actions are needed to provide reskilling and upskilling opportunities to current and future staff.

In our Group we are tackling the change by engaging in short and long-term network initiatives, together with high schools, universities, public institutions and learning associations, with which we collaborate to close the existing gap between education and work world. And also, in the past we made a strategic choice to create an internal department, our RGI Academy, which keeps providing our staff with effective trainings and development where required.

We strongly believe in this approach, especially considering that we are now in an early stage of change, in which the skills that will be directly jobs-relevant for the future are still in a definition phase. So, our challenge now is to identify the new set of soft skills that, irrespective of the roles and jobs that the market will create, will be successful in staying competitive and creating value.

For example, according to the data from the online learning provider Coursera, newly emerging in 2020 were skills in self-management such as active learning, resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility. This is clearly related to the COVID-19 context, which has also brought about significant well-being challenges as workers have struggled to adapt to new ways of work over a short period of time.

This echoes the second trend that I see as an outcome of the current job revolution: the need to redesign the workplace and the environment in which we all have been used to work.

The pandemic has indeed shown that a new hybrid way of working is possible at greater scale than imaged in previous years. Data shared by the LinkedIn Economic Graph team and Glassdoor online platform demonstrate that there is actually an emerging marketplace for remote work, as evidenced by both strong demand from jobseekers as well as an increasing demand from employers for jobs that are based remotely and the industries with the largest opportunity to work from home are the Information Technology and Insurance industries, with 74% of workers in those industries reporting having access to remote working.

This means that company adaptation to the newly remote and hybrid workplace is a must, as well as a reassessment of the role of the office.

First of all, companies are required to ensure employee well-being: remote workers are faced with potential well-being and mental health challenges due to extensive changes to working practices as well as new areas of exclusion such as access to digital connectivity, living circumstances and the additional care responsibilities faced by parents or those looking after elderly relatives. In RGI Group, we tackled this issue with several actions, among which I can mention the psychological support service for our colleagues, available 24/7, which has been running in our company for 9 months now and our engagement initiatives, to create a sense of community among employees even online. Also, it is important to embrace the necessary integration of technology and skills to transform the workplace and to ease the transition into a more simple and agile structure.

This plays an essential part also in catching the real opportunity of the moment: move away from rigid and standardized approaches to become more relevant to each employee, build a true people-centric culture and a socially responsible, sustainable working environment.

The challenge for us now is to envision a hybrid office for employees, remodelling working spaces and encouraging creative and activity-based working, identifying the real purpose of our offices in production, collaboration, commitment and communication/engagement within our community.

In my opinion, everybody will benefit: employees will experience a better work-life balance, employer will expand the talent pool by hiring across traditional geographical limits, and we all will make our part also in reducing our environmental footprint thanks to the reduction in travels, commuting and huge offices’ energy consumption.

So, the sooner we’ll make it, the better.

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