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Key Future of Work trends & themes

Shifts and undercurrents that are emerging in certain nodes of our lives are having a significant and unprecedented impact on the future of work...

... These are substantially influencing the ways in which it is likely to evolve in the near, medium and longer term.

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At Working the Future, we carry out our own expert analysis of the rapid pace of change that is occurring across key over-arching themes, some of which we've listed here. We carry this out on an almost constant basis, to ensure that the future of work insights and knowledge that we share with our clients are always on-point and relevant to their requirements, helping them to keep ahead of the curve. 


Obviously, there are myriad socio-cultural trends, shifts and undercurrents that are likely to influence the future of work significantly moving forward, but here we’ve shortlisted five key areas that are set to make an impact in 2019… Below them, you'll find the core future of work themes and areas that we're tracking on an ongoing basis, to help inform our thinking.


If you'd like to find out more about how Working the Future can help you, please email us.

Five key future of work trends to watch this year
Welcome to the age of attention deficit​

2018 was arguably the year that Facebook fell from media grace. The controversy around data-harvesting, the manipulation of social media in the run-up to key elections and votes internationally, and ensuing data breaches continues apace, with convincing evidence in short supply that the behemoth intends to take meaningful steps to act more responsibly moving forward. 


In 2019, expect to see the emergence of greater public discourse around the extent to which modern social and communications technology has been designed specifically to draw us in and hook us on dopamine-inducing news feeds and cycles. There’s an epidemic of attention deficit playing out at the precise moment in history when we need most focus on how we, as humans, remain relevant in the future of work, so no doubt we’ll see growing awareness of the need to reclaim a piece of the attention economy, in a world where ‘skim’ culture seems to be at the fore.

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Generation Z goes large

Just when we thought we’d got our heads around the emergent behaviours and drivers of the Millennial generation, along come the Centennials. Also known as iGen or Gen Z, Centennials are those young folks born any time after 2000. Bloomberg estimates that this cohort will comprise 32% of the global population in 2019.


As the rising costs, and indeed relevance, of university education render it potentially less enticing than for previous generations, Centennials will continue to enter the workplace in increasing numbers in 2019, and, being the first generation to have grown up ‘hyper-connected’ – not as mere ‘digital natives’ like their older siblings – with continuous access to 24/7/365 media consumption, their attitudes, behaviours and motivations will once again be considerably different to what we’ve seen before, requiring yet more nuanced, smart approaches to how we recruit, motivate and retain younger members of staff.

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Mass career customisation

Retention will continue to be a centre-stage topic of conversation in most boardrooms; according to research undertaken by the UK CIPD in partnership with Hays in 2017, the rate of staff turnover is on the rise, and our conversations with both corporates and SMEs throughout the course of 2018 suggests the churn trend continues to be a challenge.


As workers come to terms with the fact that they’re likely to be working longer than their forebears, it stands to reason that they’ll want and demand more flexibility from their work to meet the needs of their changing personal circumstances throughout the course of their lives. We predict that those organisations that are flexible and savvy enough to adapt to curate morepersonalised work journeys for their colleagues will both benefit from improved loyalty and retention, but are also likely to enjoy greater organisational resilience in work’s evolving future.

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Growing need for greater emotional agility and resilience in the workplace

If 2018 showed us anything, it was that change and uncertainty pervade all aspects of the world we now live in. 2018 was the year of unprecedented climatic events, presidential and other political manoeuvring, and the continued emergence of stories of commercial impropriety, corrupt elites and leadership failures that have all significantly eroded trust in authority as we know it. We don’t expect this global volatility to self-correct any time soon.


Being able to survive and thrive in increasing uncertainty will require us to be able to flex in both our thinking and response to continuous change and circumstances we feel we have increasingly little control over. We expect to see continued public discourse and awareness around the importance of purpose and meaning in our lives, and also the continued growth of intervention approaches such as mindfulness and meditation in our workspaces.

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Continuing rise of in-work poverty

Last year, the UK-based Joseph Rowntree Foundation reported on data published by the DWP, showing in-work poverty (defined as affecting those in households where the household income is below the poverty threshold, despite one member of the household working either full or part-time) to have leapt by 300,000 from the previous year. 


With zero-hours contracts now widely used to maximise workforce flexibility and drive profit, and with much-needed resources and attention being diverted due to Brexit, we don’t think in-work poverty is likely to disappear any time soon, sadly. However, we do expect awareness of this socio-cultural issue to grow and even potentially the emergence of additional grass-roots movements to try to tackle it, in the absence of any meaningful governmental leadership on the matter.

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Ongoing future of work-related themes that we're tracking
Advances in technology​
  • Massive advances in automation, AI & robotics
  • Leaner, more efficient 'digital' organisations
  • Faster innovation cycles driven by customer feedback loops
  • The rise of open-source and greater collaboration
  • Facilitation and destabilisation of global workforces
  • Rising threat of job obsolescence
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The end of nine-to-five


  • The end of the standardised working week
  • More flexible, tailored working arrangements to drive work-life ‘blend’
  • The rise of self-employment
  • The rise of job fragmentation
  • The rise of the intrapreneur
  • Focus on mastery / expertise / inimitable skills and the rise of self-branding
  • Increased work precarity


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Transformative social change​
  • A transition in attitude towards working
  • Emerging generational cohorts drive disruption in the workplace
  • A move towards doing more with less
  • The end of mass consumption and the rise of experientialism
  • Workers become more localised
  • Increased remote working
  • The rise of the gig-economy and 'on-demand' talent
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Inter-generational working​
  • Key attitudinal differences to work & leadership across generational cohorts
  • Increased longevity and longer working lives
  • Workplace implications as retirement ages increase
  • Pension shortfalls lead to increases in baby boomers at work
  • Inter-generational workplace tensions
  • New working models
  • Rise of the 'encore career'
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Global connectivity​​

  • Workplace implications of a globalised and connected world
  • Access to information, education, learning and knowledge improves
  • Unprecedented challenges arising from emerging economies
  • Improved workplace diversity drives competitive edge
  • Increased global competition for work
  • Workers increasingly owning 'means of production'​

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The rise of ethical businesses​​​
  • The shift from traditional capitalism
  • Entrepreneurs and workers seeking to solve global societal and environmental problems
  • The rise of business transparency
  • Growth of values-based businesses
  • The rise of the 'triple bottom line'
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Climate change and resource depletion​
  • Increasing fuel costs drive remote working
  • Business and consumers resigned to doing 'more with less'

  • The rise of environmentally efficient and sustainable business

  • Increased social collaboration to solve global challenges

  • The rise of the environmental migrant

  • The rise of urbanisation


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Organisational design re-booted​
  • Increased focus on organisational agility to drive innovation and progress
  • The arrival of more fluid and transient organisational structures
  • The end of hierarchy and the rise of holacracy
  • The rise of peer-to-peer collaboration
  • The advent of crowd-working


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