By Dan Schawbel | August 2020
Over the past six months we’ve experienced the impact of COVID-19 on the global workforce: widespread adoption of remote work, navigating new ways of collaboration, trying to find opportunities for growth in unpredictable circumstances—and on top of that, dealing with the stress of it all.
The way we work has changed dramatically in a short amount of time—more than we’ve ever seen before. But the one constant across all of this change is our reliance on technology. And for better or worse, COVID-19 has underscored our dependence on technology as we connect and collaborate from a distance.
I believe this is only the tipping point of technology making a meaningful difference on the way we work. Here are five ways that I predict technology will transform the future of work:
One of the biggest things the pandemic has taught us about the workplace is that remote work actually works. Technology has enabled us all to work from home for more than six months now, and for many of us, this is our new normal. The tools are there to support a remote workforce, and companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Slack have all made plans to offer remote work indefinitely. Not only will this be a common practice for many organizations, but remote work will also be a huge criterion for people looking for new jobs. It’s now a workplace standard—companies that don’t offer the flexibility will have a much harder time attracting top talent.
The downside to remote work becoming more mainstream is the challenge of fostering a team culture virtually. Prior to the pandemic, a big part of the employee experience was the office and company culture. As we all continue to work in different locations, maintaining that sense of culture and connectivity will be increasingly important—and that’s where technology will play a significant role. While there’s no true replacement for face-to-face interactions, organizations and teams will aim to find new ways to build that team dynamic despite being dispersed across the country or even the world.
There is a huge unemployment crisis right now, with many organizations having to lay off or furlough their staff as a result of the pandemic. But even in this tough economy, there are still many open jobs going unfilled because applicants don’t have the right skills—and the pandemic is only widening the existing skills gap for the global workforce. This is where technology can have a huge impact. Tools that offer virtual learning opportunities can help reskill and upskill workers who are searching for jobs, without requiring them to be in a physical school or boot camp environment. Reskilling has never been more important than it is today, and technology is giving us the opportunity to help close the gap across all industries.
“Remote work will also be a huge criterion for people looking for new jobs. It’s now a workplace standard—companies that don’t offer the flexibility will have a much harder time attracting top talent.”
While working from home provides the benefits of flexibility and no commute time, it also blurs the lines between personal and professional lives. Work is home and home is work—there is no distinction between the two anymore. With technology keeping us so well connected, we can often feel the need to be “always on” beyond traditional working hours. This dynamic will force us all to create more boundaries between work and life in order to find some type of balance between the two.
Navigating work-life balance, juggling new at-home responsibilities, adjusting to work-from-home norms, fighting Zoom fatigue, and following the impact of a global pandemic—that’s a lot to deal with, and it adds significant stress to our lives. The pandemic is magnifying mental health struggles for workers all over the world, and it’s a topic that should be discussed. We need to treat mental health like we do physical health. I think with today’s pace of innovation, we’ll begin to see technology playing a role in how organizations begin to address the mental health issue and what types of support they provide.
Technology’s impact on the way we work has reached a really interesting inflection point: it has already had such a profound impact on shaping the workplace into what it is today, but at the same time, we’re only just embarking on the next stage of its evolution. I’m excited to see what the future holds.
Photography: Courtesy of Dan Schawbel