With the onset of the novel coronavirus in late 2019, there has been a disruption in the way we have been going about our work globally. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO) , the first half of 2020 saw real unemployment figures jump to an average of 6.6% in quarter 2 of 2020. With so much disruption being brought about by the pandemic there has been a rapid shift in consumer behavior. Business models are seeing a rapid shift, mobility patterns and trends are undergoing a transformation and the way we communicate professionally is seeing a shift as well. Keep in mind that this transformation happening in real time with a lot of trial-and-error scenario planning needs to take precedent across organizations. To give some context to this transformation, “The Accenture Future of Work Study 2021” interviewed more than 9,000 workers around the world and 83% of the workforce stated their preference for hybrid work models. 85% of people feel they can be productive everywhere and also stated that they plan to stay with their company for a long time if given this freedom. To enable the continuation of a new normal, the hybrid work model is expected to continue in the near future. Another piece of research by McKinsey, highlighted that 20 - 25% of individuals in developed economies and 10% of people in developing economies would be working from home 3 - 5 days a week. This eventually will have implications on transportation demand, people accumulating in city centers, restaurants and retail spaces. With the increase in e-commerce retail and food and beverage coupled with the reduction in brick-and-mortar spaces, low-paying jobs at physical spaces will be replaced by jobs in the logistics and last-mile delivery sector. To accommodate this preference of employees, effective scenario planning requires considerable foresight, assumptions and leadership by top management. The change is already unfolding and various models are still being tried and tested by organizations. Let us see the trends we can expect for the near future with multiple contingencies arising over the last two years. Let us now look at the engine room that is driving this huge transformation.
Digitization: It is an enabler which is turning knowledge and physical goods into data which helps in prediction, analysis, knowledge sharing and replication by means of modeling. All of this at a low cost.
Automation: Technology today is completing tasks and even making changes when it comes to people responsible (eg: self-service checkouts, AI-enabled bots and autonomous vehicles).
Recruitment: AI-enabled hiring, monitoring and workforce management (eg: optimization, scheduling and monitoring).
Brokering: Technology today is providing effective mediation between the end user and the multiple service providers (eg: Uber, ebay, amazon)
With these engines driving the future of work let us look at the four probable scenarios for the workforce with reference to the Futures Cone:Potential futures: This section categorizes any type of future, including those that have not yet been imagined. This is usually a dark zone lying outside the main futures cone where everything is dark and unknowable, while the futures cone is like a car headlight, illuminating the way ahead. AI technologies for example can enable a smoother workflow or lead to more invasive strategies being implemented by organizations. Preposterous : This can be defined as the type of future that can be considered 'ridiculous' or 'impossible,' but that could still be useful to explore. The Covid situation falls under the preposterous section as no one could've predicted the scale and magnitude of the impact on the world but scenarios are still worth exploring to enhance preparedness. Probable: What is likely to happen? Some probable futures are more likely than others, and the most likely to happen is sometimes referred to as 'business-as-usual.' Hybrid work models for example can be categorized under the probable section as this scenario is “likely to take place”, usually based on current trends (in many cases, quantitative). This may turn out to be the new business as usual scenario for a long period.Preferable: With current trends, decision makers can make certain assumptions when it comes to predicting futures. For example, the preference for less mobility to the workplace to prevent CO2 emissions. This transition can be implemented by means of traffic demand management and off-peak incentives mobility incentives by the workplace can be a preferred norm by employees.
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