7 Trends for the Future of Work to 2020


The virtual online workplace becomes mainstream

virtual online workplace

Historically the concept of knowledge work is driving each day to an office, sitting in a cubicle for 8 hours and then driving home again.

This is going to change. A survey by Deloitte showed that telecommuting is second only to salary as the best way to attract top talent.

Jobs with regular telecommuting grew by 73% between 2005 and 2011. Better adoption of broadband, use of collaboration tools and increased acceptance by management are fueling the growth in telework.

Globalization of any job that CAN be globalized

globalization of jobs

Increasingly globalization will move jobs and businesses to look for the best combination of low cost and highly qualified talent, wherever in the world they are located.

After the recession starting in 2009, large American corporations slashed payrolls by a net 500,000 jobs. At the same time these corporations hired 729,000 workers overseas.

In fact this trend started from around the turn of the century. From 1989 to 1999 multinational corporations with headquarters in the US created 4.4 million jobs in the US. After 1999 to 2009 these companies eliminated 3 million jobs in the US whilst adding 2.4 million jobs abroad.

By 2020, as wages rise in Asia this process will slow down. However multinational corporations will continue to evaluate the comparative costs and advantages of labor in different countries. They will choose where to locate their staff based on a rational economic decision of the best combination of talent levels and labor cost.

Increased outsourcing of high level knowledge worker jobs

outsourcing of high knowledge workers

In the first wave of outsourcing we saw manufacturing jobs move from the rich industrialized west into poorer developing nations.

The next wave of outsourcing will be more complex with knowledge and high skilled jobs being outsourced between nations.

For example, skill shortages in China will force Chinese companies to look at the global talent pool. The McKinsey global Institute predicts a worldwide shortage of skilled college educated workers, of over 38 million people by 2020. This will drive up wages in developing countries and will also drive the globalization of knowledge work.

Automation of everything that can be automated

robot cashier - automated worker

Two hundred years ago 70% of American workers worked in Agriculture. Today only 1% are still working on farms, representing the elimination of over 98% of jobs on the farm.

The same trends will continue with many other sectors of work. Every job that can be automated with software, will be automated. Every job that can be performed by a robot will be performed by robots.

The year 2020 will not represent the end of this trend but will be well and truly in the middle of the trend. Robots will become increasingly more intelligent, adaptive and flexible at the type of work they can do. Companies that are basing their manufacturing business purely on labor cost advantages will struggle to compete with well organized automated factories.

Geographic mismatches

increase in remote work

An MGI survey showed that despite large unemployment 30% of US companies had positions open for more than six months.

There will be significant mismatches in skills between regions and countries. Workers with the skills that are needed may be in short supply where companies are hiring, and places with large unemployment will not compensate fast enough with job creation.

The solution to these geographic mismatches will come from both migration and an increase in remote work. Rich countries will continue to restrict employment visas which will force companies that are trying to access the global talent pool to hire and work with skilled people remotely.

Employees taking work home and home to work

smartphones are used to work from home

The boundary between the office and the home will become less distinct with workers often working from home.

Right now, 42% of workers use their smartphone device at home for work purposes. Another side of this trend is that as employees are working harder at home, more employers will allow some flexibility in working hours, and in the ability to telework.

Virtual Collaboration

virtual collaboration

Collaboration software is increasingly adopted by businesses.

For example with Skype growing 48% year on year and already representing ⅓ of international fixed line call volumes. Businesses are increasingly using Skype as a cornerstone of communication when operating virtually.

Over 4 million businesses use Google apps with 40 million active users and the user base continuing to grow rapidly.

About the Author:

Rob Rawson is a co-founder of Staff.com, a global recruitment platform where you can access very talented staff at affordable rates. They also have a technology called Time Doctor which is software to improve productivity and help keep track and know what your team is working on, even when working from home.

Rob resides in Sydney, Australia but can also be found in major cities around the globe, like Paris, Kiev or San Francisco.

Find Rob on Google Plus



  1. Samuel says:

    Awesome article.

  2. Francine says:

    I always used to read paragraph in news papers but now as I am a user of net so from now I am using net for content, thanks to web.

    • Kyana says:

      It’s disappointing how lazy people are now. Why not just go to your mailbox and get the damn paper? It’s (a) better for you and (b) letting you get at least a LITTLE fresh air. I mean don’t get me wrong, I’m a sucker for the internet, I haven’t left the house in 3 days for crying out loud! But, I’m sick. Jesus people just need to get off their butts.

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