In the last decade, the workforce has changed in ways many business professionals never could have imagined. The ubiquity of smart devices and internet connectivity means that more companies than ever are hiring from a national, and even global, talent pool, as people can do their jobs from anywhere in the world. Rapidly-changing technologies have also revolutionized certain outdated hiring processes and HR functions, leading to a workforce that's simultaneously distributed and constantly connected.
As we approach the new year (and the new decade), many leaders are speculating on what might change about the current workforce and how we think of employment. We asked a panel of entrepreneurs to share their top predictions for the way work will look in 2020 and beyond. Here are the things they believe will change, and whether they see them as positive or negative transitions.
More remote work options
As technology and industries change and evolve, more people have the capability of working from home or off-site -- and employees will want that flexibility, says Leila Lewis, founder and CEO of Be Inspired PR.
"If companies want to stay competitive with attracting the most skilled candidate for a job, working remotely, at least part-time, will have to become a necessary part of the employee package," Lewis adds.
Greater dependence on technology
Technology has become an essential component of virtually every single business. Bryce Welker, CEO of Accounting Institute of Success, believes technology will become even more deeply embedded in business processes and work duties, especially for younger workers.
"Generation Z has only lived in a world dominated by technology," says Welker. "As a result, they will approach tech as a native, but will also suffer when faced with non-tech related work duties."
Increased awareness of mental health
Mental health awareness is growing in the workplace. Thomas Griffin, co-founder and president of OptinMonster, says more companies will realize the importance of mental health in 2020.
"Companies are starting to realize that good mental health equals better performing employees," Griffin says. "I think more companies will offer 'mental health days' to their employees so they can rest and recharge."
The business world is buzzing about Microsoft's successful four-day workweek experiment in its Japan office this summer. With the impressive productivity increases, Nicole Munoz, founder and CEO of Nicole Munoz Consulting, Inc., suspects more companies will adopt the same structure.
"It will increase the remote and mobility potential of employees, and reduce the amount of time wasted in meetings," Munoz says.
More diversity within organizations
With the increase of remote jobs, Blair Williams, founder and CEO of MemberPress, believes there's going to be a corresponding increase in diversity within an organization. This, he says, will impact how businesses communicate, especially internally.
"This is a positive change and will make employees feel more welcome and comfortable," Williams adds. "It will also impact how businesses interact with customers and will build a good brand image."
A bigger focus on improving the overall office environment
Stephanie Wells, founder of Formidable Forms, says 2020 will bring a greater emphasis on feeling comfortable, reserving resources and being more environmentally conscious overall within the workplace.
"People in the workforce are starting to place more importance on the environment at the office," Wells explains. "More companies are gearing toward less plastic and paper use and implementing sustainability programs that help the planet."
Increased use of artificial intelligence
The growing popularity of AI for business shows no signs of slowing down. Jared Weitz, CEO of United Capital Source Inc., says this technology is going to step up more as a key player in the workforce.
"Careers such as research analysts, proofreaders and receptionists are slowly making an exit while AI improves," Weitz says. "This is only going to continue and expand into other jobs while robots become more proficient."
While AI represents a positive change in terms of efficiency and productivity, Weitz notes that it can also be viewed as negative because human capital loses value.
The disappearance of 'corporate ladder' aspirations
Decades ago, most employees aspired to join a company and climb the corporate ladder there throughout their entire career. According to Solomon Thimothy, president of OneIMS, this concept is slowly dying as people’s attitudes toward work change.
"You can’t expect your employees to treat your company as their only chance to make it," says Thimothy. "Your workers will have side hustles and it’s totally fine. I think it’s a positive change and we need to encourage personal growth."