The Future of Work

Sandeep Goyal
Contd from previous issue
Much like my nephew.
This is visible both in falling office-vacancy rates, rising residential rents and soaring real estate prices.
We could also witness the arrival of a work-from-anywhere model in which employees could live wherever they choose.
Some companies are considering a more distributed footprint, with smaller offices and satellite locations closer to where people live, to reduce commute times.
Concurrently, more and more corporations plan to use more automation and AI as they re-imagine the next normal. That includes digitisation of employee interactions, including remote work, but also a big uptick in the digitisation of consumer channels and supply chains. The biggest categories to be hit in terms of the sheer number of jobs lost will be customer service and sales. Continuing automation in factories and warehouses will also eliminate jobs. Food service is another likely area of decline.
We have not seen much automation there, but the pandemic has had a number of knock-on effects, such as people not going to the office and out for lunch and not traveling for business. Food-service demand is generated by travel and being away from home. This is a danger domain, therefore. People in these declining occupational categories will need to retrain into some of the newer growing occupations.
The challenge is not only the large numbers, but the jumps that will need to be made are much higher than in the past. Traditionally one could jump from a food-service job to a hotel job and then maybe to a retail job. But that would now mean moving from one declining occupation to another. Workers of tomorrow will have to figure out how to help themselves transition to different career pathways.
This will unfortunately most disproportionately affect women -- four times more than men, according to global research -- and those without college degrees, as well as younger cohorts. The biggest negative impact of the virus has been the surge in 'ageism' --discrimination against older workers. Never overtly stated, but commonly implied. The shared belief is that older folks are technologically challenged and digitally inert. Hence, not relevant any longer. They need to make way for younger workers. Unfortunate, but true. When offices slowly re-open, many in the 40+ age-group (yes, 40+), who are currently content (even happy) to be working-from-home, may find they are just not being invited back to what they once called office.
Sandeep Goyal is managing director, Rediffusion