The future is always on the business radar—for example, the economic future, the market future, the regulatory future. But the idea of forecasting the future in the context of work and how it gets done—what we’re calling the “future of work”—is new. The model of a predominantly onsite 40-hour work week has been in place for such a long time that most companies didn’t question it. Granted, in the last decade or so some enterprises have made changes in their work models, but until recently they were outliers.
The disruption of the COVID lockdown really shook things up across the board. Leaders who had asserted that remote work was impossible up until that point found ways to make it work. Many workers learned that they could be more productive in settings outside the company building. And many of those workers decided that they had a better chance of achieving their life goals by going independent.
The genie is out of the bottle, and even though there has been some degree of return to the traditional work model, the chances of a full return to the way things were are very slim. When we talk about the “future of work”, we look at how work is shifting and forecasts the impacts those shifts could have in 5, 10, or more years. There are steps that enterprises need to be taking now in order to be competitive in a new world of working.
Two Future-of-Work Focus Areas for 2024
If you haven’t already done so, make 2024 the year you begin incorporating future-of-work strategies into your business planning. Two areas that are foundational to the future of work are:
- The fully remote/hybrid workplace
- An optimized workforce
The good news is that you’ve made at least a beginning in one or both areas, you can build from what you have.
Fully Remote/Hybrid Workplace
The remote/hybrid work model is not a flash in the pan. It is here to stay and is, in fact, expanding to include digital nomads.
- Where are you in terms of technology and policy to support a remote/hybrid workplace?
- Are you including digital nomads in your calculations?
- What opportunities will be available by making remote/hybrid and digital nomad models an integral part of how work gets done in your business?
- What barriers exist to that accomplishment?
If you have not yet started to optimize your workforce, 2024 is the year to start. Achieving a strategic mix of employees and independent talent in your workforce—for example, a 70%/30% mix—is a must to maintain a favorable competitive position in the years to come.
- Based on your current population of contractors and their roles, where can independent talent make the most difference in the business?
- Are there other roles that are better suited to independents than to employees?
- Conversely, are there roles that are better filled by employees?
- What is the optimum percentage mix of employees and independents?
Put the Right Actions into Your 2024 Plan
Determine where the company needs to be at the end of 2024 in terms of one or both areas. Map out the tasks, initiatives, and resources that will get you there and incorporate them into your annual plan. Then, by this time next year, you’ll be ready to take the next steps toward a work model that will work in the future.