3 Biggest Challenges for the Future of Work

It’s fair to say that the pandemic has wreaked havoc on businesses and operating models around the world. Workplace disruption has been colossal – from the whirlwind move to remote work to the rapid rise of new technologies, the 2020’s has been a time of extraordinary change. And it ain’t over yet. The challenges that lie ahead are immense… but so are the opportunities for those brave enough and clever enough to take them.

What will it take to achieve success in our rapidly evolving world? According to Nils Vesk, Australia’s pioneering ‘Innovation Architect’, it will take an adaptive mindset and truly innovative ideas. And to create these ground-breaking ideas, Nils believes we will need to consciously ‘un-think’ how things used to be done, then rethink how things ‘need’ to be done – as he says, only “by doing the unthinkable can we go from ordinary to extraordinary” in the future of work.

Businesses must adapt and innovate to meet these three major challenges if they’re going to thrive in the new world of work.

1) Managing a hybrid workforce

According to a McKinsey survey, while 99% of executives expected employees to spend more than 80% of their time in the office before the pandemic, that perspective is now shared by just 10%. Workers are on the same page, with Accenture’s Future of Work Study finding that 83% now prefer a more flexible hybrid work model.  

Flexibility is good for business too. Gartner’s 2020 ReimagineHR Employee Survey found that when organisations shifted to an environment where employees had a choice over where, when and how much they work, 55% of employees were high performers compared to 36% in the standard office environment.

It seems hybrid work is here to stay, so how best for businesses to manage their workforce?

LinkedIn Learning’s 2021 Workplace Learning Report revealed that communication and emotional intelligence ranked as two of the most important skills required for today’s business leaders.

In a fragmented work world, it’s more important than ever for Managers to set clear roles, goals and milestones, check in regularly with team members, offer support and ensure that workloads are manageable. It’s also critical for Managers to empower their teams to develop a common vision and goal that enables them to work together – especially while apart – to solve problems and find solutions.

2) Getting the company culture right

The pandemic changed the way we viewed the world, and our place in it. Given time to contemplate during lockdowns and restrictions, many have emerged looking for more meaning and a different way of doing things.

In April 2021, a study of more than 30,000 workers worldwide revealed 41% were considering changing professions or quitting in the coming year – this is The Great Reset, and workers are in the box seat.

We have a need for human connection like never before. Without the water cooler check-ins, lunch dates and breakroom chats of the office environment, cultivating a good culture and a sense of belonging in a hybrid working environment is a major challenge.

The younger generations in particular miss the face-to-face connection of the office environment, with research showing that 95% of Generation Z and 93% of Millennial workers struggle with the isolation. It’s that next wave of workers – according to Ashley Fell, social researcher, TEDx speaker and Director of Advisory at McCrindle Research – that value workplace culture above all else.

The 2020 Future of Jobs Report reveals that about one-third of all employers expect to use digital tools to tackle the wellbeing challenges posed by remote work, and to create a sense of community, connection and belonging among employees. Is a digital solution enough though?

The office is where employers really need to define their value in a hybrid arrangement, according to leading media commentator, business analyst and demographer Bernard Salt. He believes that “the office will become the place for learning, ideation, client meetings, socialising, client schmoozing, collaboration and celebration.” Businesses need to make office time count in the culture stakes.

People are also drawn to companies that stand for something greater than profit. Purpose-driven organisations that recognise the importance of aligning their goals with their employees’ purpose will thrive. As Holly Ransom, globally recognised speaker and disruption strategist, says “Knowing your why is one thing, knowing their why is everything.”

Phill Nosworthy, renowned futurist, executive advisor and speaker, also advocates for the importance of meaning and purpose – the ‘why’, not the ‘what’. He believes “Your brand wins when you have people addicted to coming to work because that’s the place they know they can make it count.”

The message is resonating with corporates too. According to PwC research, 79% of business leaders agree that their purpose is central to success going forward.

With businesses competing heavily for talented workers, employee initiatives that place emphasis on personal development, freedom, wellbeing, growth and autonomy will be critical for recruitment and retention success.

While remuneration is also important, innovative non-cash incentives like a shortened work week may need to be considered too. Trends forecaster, business strategist and award-winning speaker Michael McQueen talks about a host of successful worldwide experiments into the 4-day work week, citing improvements in productivity, employee satisfaction and inclusion. He believes “Not only will it give us more time for the things we enjoy, but it will improve worker satisfaction, productivity and environmental sustainability as well.” Something to consider!

3) Reskilling / upskilling the workforce

The 2020 Future of Jobs Report revealed that 84% of employers are set to rapidly digitalise working processes, including the potential to move 44% of their workforce to operate remotely. The same report also inferred that 43% of businesses are planning to reduce their workforce due to technology integration.

This rapid digital transformation poses a great challenge to businesses, with a significant proportion of their workforce requiring additional skills to help them navigate towards the ‘jobs of tomorrow’. The Future of Jobs Report showed that employers expect to offer reskilling and upskilling to just over 70% of their employees by 2025.

Although 85 million jobs are expected to be displaced by machines by 2025, the flip side is the projected emergence of 97 million new roles. Employers believe the most in-demand skills will include critical thinking, analysis and problem-solving, as well as skills in self-management such as active learning, resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility.

The traits that make people human – empathy, connection, imagination, negotiation, storytelling, creativity – can never be replaced by technology. So while there’s no doubt that the digital revolution will require reskilling and upskilling, thankfully it seems it’s human traits that will grow in value as digital integration escalates.

The degree to which businesses are able to meet these challenges will directly impact their ability to flourish in the future of work. Digital transformation, reskilling and upskilling needs to be embraced as an opportunity, and focus placed on building purpose-driven, people-first cultures. Above all, businesses need to be adaptable and open to change – after all, it’s the only thing that’s inevitable. And as Lao Tzu so eloquently put it, “Resisting change is like trying to hold your breath. Even if you’re successful, it won’t end well.”


The future of work poses some of the greatest challenges organisations have ever faced. We have some of the best minds in the business, including Nils Vesk, Michael McQueen, Phill Nosworthy, Mark McCrindle, Clare Madden, Ashley Fell, Holly Ransom, Future Crunch and Bernard Salt, ready to share their incredible knowledge and unique insights to help your team navigate them. If you’d like us to introduce you, simply get in touch with us for a chat!