The future of work discussion has always been an interesting one, but never so much as it is right now, because of how much has changed in the past 18 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Globally, the shifts businesses needed to make to adjust to the new reality were so major that there just seems to be no going back to the former pre-pandemic status quo. In speaking with experts across industries, Connected World has found that enterprise leaders in just about every vertical believe the pandemic sped up trends that were already underway, like the shift to hybrid work models and the adoption of technologies that facilitate digital transformation in the enterprise, by several years.
A new report offers some insight into how the workforce sees the future of work shaping up. Global Workplace Analytics and Owl Labs recently released the State of Remote Work 2021 report, which suggests looking forward to 2022, the theme will be adapting to a hybrid workplace and working on defining what that actually means. In the survey, 71% of employees said they are looking for a hybrid or remote work setup post-pandemic, with 34% indicating they would prefer this hybrid or remote work setup to be full time.
However, whether employers are up for the task of providing these options to their workforces is up for debate. This survey, which provides only the employees’ perspective, certainly suggests the workforce is ripe for change. Nine in 10 survey respondents report being equally or more productive when working remotely compared to working in an office setting, and 87% expressed interest in exploring a four-day work week. Respondents seem eager to embrace the technologies that will facilitate the hybrid work solutions of the future. More than half (56%) indicated interest in the use of holograms to make remote work more immersive, and 56% also indicated interest in leveraging VR (virtual reality).
Beyond the hybrid/remote work challenge facing the workplace today, the changing relationship of humans and machines will also help shape the future of work—particularly in industries like manufacturing. A new study from Ericsson examines how manufacturers have fared throughout the pandemic thus far and how technology will facilitate the next generation of workers. The research suggests while 80% of manufacturers are cutting costs to keep up with global competition, 69% say their financial performance has remained stable or improved during the pandemic.
Similar to how the employees surveyed in the Global Workplace Analytics study feel, manufacturers clearly believe change is coming. Two out of three manufacturers expect to be automated to at least 80% percent within 10 years, and nine out of 10 decisionmakers expect to use AI (artificial intelligence) in their production processes within the next decade. Ericsson’s data also suggests a swifter, smarter, and safer production employee is emerging thanks to ICT (information communications technology)-enabled production tools. In fact, in five years’ time, 70% of manufacturers say they expect to deploy at least five production tools. In many cases, respondents believe these production tools will rely on advanced wireless technologies like 5G.
To enable this future of automation, digital transformation will be a necessity. Digital transformation gives businesses the tools they need to march confidently into the future of work, and it also gives them the tools they need to facilitate hybrid and remote work setups, where applicable. Clearly, the future will bring much change to the workplace, and, thanks to the pandemic, that future is closer than it otherwise would have been. Enterprises that can ride the waves of change by harnessing digital transformation will avoid succumbing to them.
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