Timeframes for the future of work: trends and uncertainties in this decade and beyond


I recently ran an internal workshop on the future of work for a large company. In the next couple of years it will shift its headquarters into a new building and adopt Activity Based Working across the organization.

The key executives understand that in their planning they need to engage with the broader issues of how the world of work is changing, and not just the immediate issues of office space and workforce structure.

In the first phase of the workshop, before delving into the specific issues for their business, I used my Future of Work Framework to provide a big-picture view of the forces of change and the major shifts in play.

Click on the image to download the full framework.

An executive in the workshop asked about the timeframe for the framework. Did it apply to the present or some future date?

It was an interesting question, as I hadn’t explicitly focused on a timeframe when I was creating the framework.

The simple answer is that the framework highlights long-term trends. As such they are all important issues today, yet none of them are new.

And I anticipate that a decade from now the themes highlighted in the Future of Work Framework will still be prominent and central to the evolving world of work.

If you look back at my older frameworks, I think all still stand up well even after many of years of rapid change in the environment. They are designed to uncover the underlying themes that are shaping change, not describing ephemera.

Since many of the long-term trends shaping the future of work are known, there is much we can discern about how this will pan out into next decade. Yet there remain many deep uncertainties that are not covered in the framework.

The single most important one is simply whether we can maintain sufficient job creation to keep pace with increasing job destruction in coming years.

Another related issue is the degree of polarization of value, as described in the framework.

And there are deep uncertainties in how far changes in organizational structure will go, and the emerging shape of work-related education as traditional educational institutions are challenged.

However we can readily see the central themes for the future of work, for this decade and beyond. We are in the midst of a massive long-term shift that we must engage with and respond to, today.