Here’s what employees think the future of work will really look like

Given rapid advancements in tech and pandemic-driven transformations in recent years, much has been said about what business leaders think the future of work will look like. But what about employees?

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To celebrate its 30th anniversary, recently polled workers to see how they think the next three decades in the world of work will play out. Researchers found employees to be optimistic on some fronts but concerned on several others, highlighting opportunities for employers to proactively support their workforces in the coming years, experts say.

Trends employees think will define the future of work

Among the takeaways of the survey was widespread pessimism about the economy’s impact on employees: Sixty-two percent of workers believe that wages, in comparison to the cost of living, will worsen over the next 30 years.

“[That] echoes our data from last year, when workers indicated their annual pay increases were not on par with increases in cost of living,” says Monster career expert Vicki Salemi.

Despite that less-than-rosy outlook, employees anticipate relatively high rates of employer loyalty. For instance, in the next 30 years, 22% of workers think they will be at the same company; 48% predict they may move around two or three times.

“That seemed surprising since one of the best and fastest ways to boost pay is to land a new job,” Salemi says. In the past few years, job hopping has become more commonplace, with many Americans holding two or three jobs in just a handful of years. “So, this data point regarding loyalty seemed high since it covers over 30 years.”

Employee sentiment is mixed when it comes to retirement: About 18% of workers expect to retire at or before the age of 60, while 28% expect to work beyond 70.

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As average lifespans increase, it’s understandable workers are thinking about a future of work with longer careers—and, Salemi notes, employees’ concerns about long-term financial success are likely driving more to continue working as they get older.

However, she predicts that over the next few decades, ideas about retirement may become less traditional, with older workers gradually moving out of the full-time workforce and into part-time positions.

Flexibility to remain top of mind

No matter how many hours employees work, they expect increased workplace flexibility will be a “given” over the next 30 years. In fact, just 12% of workers believe the traditional 9-to-5 schedule will remain the standard.

That demonstrates just how quickly the future of work can be redefined, Salemi notes; looking back three decades, to 1994, few would have predicted the transformation of that typical schedule.

“Here we are in 2024 with countless employers operating successfully in hybrid and remote environments,” Salemi says.

While the pandemic fueled rapid, almost overnight, changes to ideas about the future of work, Salemi anticipates such concepts to continue to be refined over the coming years.

“It’s an interesting space to continue watching as the definition of the workplacewhere and when [people work]continues to evolve,” Salemi says.

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Tom Starner
Tom Starner is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia who has been covering the human resource space and all of its component processes for over two decades. He can be reached at [email protected].