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HR Glossary | What Does “The Future of Work” Mean?

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What does “the future of work” mean?

“The future of work” describes what the workforce of tomorrow will look like. Due to technological improvements and advancements over the past several years, the workplace and how people do their jobs has changed significantly. But the pandemic in early 2020 drove that impetus even more.

COVID-19 impacts on the future of work

The greatest impact on the future of work has been the rapid adoption of remote and hybrid work to address safety needs and concerns during the pandemic. Suddenly organizations of all kinds learned that despite what they and their managers may have previously believed, people can perform a wide range of jobs in places other than traditional worksites. The future of work will continue to be remote in many cases, relying on technology tools to forge connections between employees and their colleagues, customers, vendors, and communities.

Fortunately, during the pandemic organizations were able to quickly shift to remote interactions thanks to the widespread availability of technology.

Technology and the future of work

There have been a wide range of impacts on the workplace driven by technology—including the rapid adoption of robots, autonomous vehicles, commoditized sensors, and artificial intelligence. Technology has impacted many workplace roles but arguably HR functions more than most. These impacts are allowing HR professionals to minimize the amount of operational and administrative tasks they have traditionally performed to focus more on strategic and value-added work.

Organizations will also increasingly rely on data to drive business decisions—AI and machine learning will play an important role here, driving increased use of predictive analytics to make decisions across the enterprise.

Shifts in the nature of work and the impacts of technology are also driving shifts in the types of roles—and leadership—that will be required in the future.

People skills and the future of work

While technology is an important enabler, people and their contributions are essential to the future of work. The skills they need may be different, though, especially the management skills required to manage a hybrid workforce.  

About the author: Linda Pophal

Linda Pophal, MA, PCM, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is the founder and owner of Strategic Communications, LLC, and a marketing and communication strategist with expertise in HR and employee relations. With a background as a business journalist, her writing has appeared in the HR Daily Advisor, Human Resource Executive, and SHRM. She is a lecturer at the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire.

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