May 9, 2024
min read

7 Predictions About the Future of the Modern Workplace

Graham Womack
Guest Author

The working world is changing.

From generational shifts to advances in technology – most notably, but certainly not limited to artificial intelligence – there’s a lot of evidence to suggest that it won’t be business as usual in the future.

Here are 7 predictions that can help company owners and managers prepare for what’s coming:

1. The Older Workforce Will Change Expectations

In recent decades, it’s become clear that people are staying on the job longer.

Pew Research Center notes that 9% of adults who are at least 75 are employed, compared to just 4% in 1987. In fact, this age group of workers has more than quadrupled since 1964, making it the fastest growing cohort in the labor market.

Some of this is likely due to the fact that people are living longer. Current life expectancy in the U.S. is around 79, compared to about 70 in 1964. And it’s only expected to continue growing

What it might mean for businesses: It won’t be uncommon in the future for people to work into their 70s, maybe even their 80s. That may change compensation expectations, which benefits you offer, as well as what retirement looks like. 

Already, some are embracing the idea of working longer but taking gap years (aka sabbaticals) or even adjusting slowly to part-time work.


2. You Will Soon Hire People Who’ve Never Lived Without Technology

Older members of the workforce remember what now seems like an entirely different world, one without ubiquitous and affordable computers and smartphones. They remember typewriters, paper notes, and having to wait for people to respond to messages left on answering machines.

Even among millennials many no doubt remember these “before times.” As late as 1997, just 35% of American households owned a computer, compared to around 95% now.

What this means is that many folks entering the workforce in the next decade will develop tech skills almost from birth. What these people will be able to do to improve efficiency and processes in the workforce is staggering to consider.

3. Alternative Compensation Will Grow

A lot of workers are interested in stock options these days, with more than 6,500 employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs) accounting for just over $2 trillion. Options can come in a variety of forms, such as restricted stock units (RSUs) which have their own nuances to be aware of.

With the stock market famous for reliably delivering sound long-term returns and with, as we noted earlier, people living longer, it’s perfectly logical that stock compensation will continue to grow. 

And while this type of compensation is far from foolproof, when it works, it can work ridiculously well. As one author wrote about stock options, “They turned Google’s earliest employees into multimillionaires.”

4. AI Tools Are Going to Keep Improving

Generative AI has rapidly come onto the business scene in recent years and has quickly evolved, with distinct services like ChatGPT (essentially an AI chatbot) and GPT-4 (a more advanced language model) now well-known.

These tools are of course far from perfect. There have been some laughable moments, such as a Missouri man getting fined $10,000 for using AI to write a legal brief and the software inventing phony cases to reference.

Still, the thing about AI and machine learning is that with repetition, the software can get better and learn from its mistakes. In time, AI capabilities will be no laughing matter — and will be integrated into all of the most modern productivity tooling to help workers of all types streamline their more repetitive, simple tasks.

5. The Cloud Will Continue to Transform Business Operations

Nearly 95% of companies are using cloud-based software somewhere. 

However, gaps remain. Perhaps your enterprise resource planning software, or a proprietary accounting system, was built and continues to be maintained on-premises. As you know, this can be very expensive, and will only continue to be so as labor costs more and more. 

As cloud-based solutions become cheaper, more versatile, and more scalable, you will likely need to begin shopping around to replace aging in-house systems.

6. Pay Will Catch Up with Productivity

Labor production grew by 64.7% from 1979 to 2022. What’s interesting is that in this same time, hourly pay rose just 14.8% — meaning that productivity grew at a rate four times higher than pay.

It won’t stay like this forever.

Smart companies will recognize that, inevitably, workers are going to want a bigger piece of the pie.

Smart companies will strive to find ways to improve compensation, which can help with employee happiness and retention.

7. Companies Are Going to Have to Do Better

Consumers vote with their wallets, and what they’re telling us now is that they care about a company's ethics, such as sustainability

That’s incentive for companies to try to make a positive difference in the world. The good news is that there are a lot of different ways this can happen.

Companies can of course offer their goods or services in a way that’s better for the planet. They can also look to give back at every opportunity. They can have their management focus on servant leadership, which is the idea of leading “with purpose, focusing on the needs of their followers and the organization as a whole, rather than their own personal gain.”

With the world seemingly more divided than ever, companies that look to lift people up and give more than they take are the ones that will shine.

Welcome to the Future

As we peer into the future of work, it's clear that change is not just on the horizon; it's already reshaping the landscape.

From the increasing influence of an older workforce to the relentless march of technology, these predictions offer a glimpse into what lies ahead for businesses and employees alike.

Embracing these shifts requires foresight and adaptability. Whether it's adjusting compensation strategies, leveraging AI tools for productivity gains, or embracing cloud solutions for streamlined operations, do your research today to ensure your modern workplace is ready for the evolution of tomorrow. 

Graham Womack is a writer. His work as a journalist has appeared in a wide assortment of publications, including the Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle and Sacramento Bee. Separate this, he has written extensively for corporate clients about the ever-evolving world of B2B SaaS solutions. Email him at thewomack@gmail.com.
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