5 Forecasts for How Work Will Change in the Future

The rapid growth of both technology and globalization is transforming the way people work. In her new book "Society 3.0: How Technology Is Reshaping Education, Work and Society" (Lang, 2012), Tracey Wilen-Daugenti, vice president and managing director of Apollo Research InstituteSM, examines how the nature of work is changing. Here are the top five trends she predicts will grow over the next 20 years:

1. You will change roles and employers more frequently.

"Gone are the days when people would spend most of their productive lives working for one company and retire 30 years later with a gold watch," Wilen-Daugenti says. She expects workers in the future to have serial careers, and average at least 10 different employers.

"The proliferation of virtual organizations will accelerate this multiple-job trend, as more people join workgroups from remote locations or choose to work as contractors."

2. A greater number of small businesses will provide niche services.

Using the Internet, businesses are now able to easily find skilled people from all over the world, Wilen-Daugenti explains. As a result, more people will become self-employed and focus on "microwork" - freelance or contract work that produces niche services or products, such as graphic design or custom painting.

3. Learning foreign languages will become even more important.

Since technology is bringing globalization to the forefront of business, it will become increasingly important for workers to be able to relate to diverse cultures and to communicate with people from around the world.

"Our research indicates that employers predict a growing demand for workers who can do business in Spanish, Chinese, Russian and Arabic," says Caroline Molina Ray, executive director of research and publications at Apollo Research Institute and an MBA program graduate from University of Phoenix. She suggests that anyone wanting to get a leg up in the international marketplace should study these languages.

4. Even more people will work remotely.

Although some workers will still go to formal offices, a growing number of people will come together in informal settings and work from home more often.

"The nature of work has changed due to the popularity of virtual work and an increase in collaboration," Wilen-Daugenti says. "People no longer have to migrate to a physical location except for important meetings."

For many of us, this will mean the end of cubicles and office potlucks. People can expect to find themselves working together more often in local cafés or hotel lobbies, or setting up informal communal office spaces where people can share resources such as Internet connections and printers, rather than working at home or renting formal office spaces.

5. There will be a more level playing field.

In the past, companies were structured around hierarchies, where a boss was in charge of several levels of employees and had little interaction with, say, an entry-level employee. But hierarchies will become less formal, Wilen-Daugenti forecasts.

"Tomorrow's firms will be more interested in hearing ideas from everyone in an organization," she explains, "in order to harness the collective intelligence of all their employees and develop new innovations, better products and services."

-By Jenny Jedeikin
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