World Reimagined

The Future of Work: Themes, Trends and Technologies

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It’s no secret that the workplace has been forever changed by the pandemic.

Employers have different expectations of their workers. And employees are demanding substantive changes from their managers. It’s a period of strife and confusion, but one that has a tremendous amount of potential to disrupt the status quo and introduce a model that could provide a blueprint for generations to come.

As companies try to find balance once again, things continue to change. But even as that settling occurs, a number of trends stand out.


Having learned that they can be just as productive at home, workers are demanding more flexibility in their schedules and that’s unlikely to change. Hybrid workplaces are likely to be one of the biggest permanent workplace changes of the pandemic. While some companies will require employees to return to the workplace full-time, those will likely be in the minority (service industries excluded).

The changes could go far beyond splitting your workweek between home and the office, though. An Adobe report found the number of workers who say they want complete flexibility in their working hours has jumped from 17% pre-COVID to 51% today, which could put the traditional 9-5 day at risk. And several companies are experimenting with a four-day work week. So far, the results are promising. A Microsoft study in Japan, for instance, found that productivity went up nearly 40% when that change was implemented. (Energy costs, meanwhile, fell by 23%.)

Mental health

With the devastation the pandemic brought along with the severe disruption to all corners of people’s lives, workers are paying more attention to their mental health than ever before. Researchers estimate that each COVID victim leaves behind 8.9 close relatives. That’s nearly 9 million people experiencing bereavement to date.

Successful companies, moving forward, will have policies in place to assist anyone who’s struggling with mental health issues and help them receive treatment, without any workplace penalty. Employers are being encouraged by the American Psychiatric Association to increase access to mental health options such as therapy, and to encourage employees to take advantage of them and removing any stigma.


Generation Z will be a huge part of the future of work. More than 30% of the planet’s population falls within its parameters and these people, born after 1996, see the world much differently than millennials or Baby Boomers. That makes it all the more important that companies learn to speak their language.

Generation Z workers expect more frequent communication with their manager, perhaps as much as daily, says the Center for Generational Kinetics. That ultimately could be less time overall, though, since instead of a 30-minute shared coffee, for example, a quick one- or two-minute check-in each day could be sufficient.

What’s important for them—and other workers—though is to be recognized for their contributions and to work for an empathetic leader. In a work world where teams are separated, it’s more important than ever that they feel appreciated for their work.

Recognition also extends to acknowledging and accepting underrepresented groups at work, including minorities, transgender people and women, and striving for better diversity in management roles and other high-ranking positions.


The ongoing labor shortage is accelerating companies’ plans for automation to keep their operations running. Orders for robots in North America were up 37% in 2021 from the prior year, according to the Association for Advancing Automation (A3), totaling nearly $1.5 billion in machinery. In the third quarter of last year alone, companies ordered 9,928 robots valued at $513 million.

A McKinsey study, meanwhile, predicts that roughly half of all existing work activities could be automated in the next few decades, with more than 50 billion devices connected to the Internet of Things by 2025. And the World Economic Forum estimates as many as 85 million jobs could be displaced by automation by 2025, but says another 97 million positions will emerge. That looming shift – and the job changes it will entail – is being referred to as the "Fourth Industrial Revolution."


We’ve all learned to loathe Zoom over the past two years, but it’s not going anywhere, especially as the hybrid work environment takes hold. Neither is Microsoft Teams or any of the other teleconferencing software we’ve gotten used to using.

While it might not be as omnipresent in our day to day lives as it was in 2020 and early 2021, expect teleconferencing to take on a bigger role, especially as companies pare travel budgets in the coming year.

The working world is changing, but the good news for employers is that a lot of the skills and trends that will be at the forefront moving forward are ones that they’ve had the past two years to hone, which should make the transition a bit less painful for everyone.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

Chris Morris

Chris Morris is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience, more than half of which were spent with some of the Internet’s biggest sites, including, where he was Director of Content Development, and Yahoo! Finance, where he was managing editor. Today, he writes for dozens of national outlets including Digital Trends, Fortune, and

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