The word myths spelled out on colourful wooden cubes.
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4 myths about the future of work that could eclipse its greatest opportunities

19 Sep 2019

Feeling anxious about what the future of work will mean for your career? Here, we unpack some of the major myths.

Future of Work Week

The future of work is fast-approaching. One of the most hotly debated topics in the working world, predictions about the future are dividing people, whether they’re a certified futurist or an onlooker following trends on Twitter.

Many people are scared of what’s to come, but do they really need to be? With the onslaught of information out there right now, it can be hard to get your head around some of these concepts and find out how you really feel about them.

To help, we’ve done some research on a few of the greatest myths that still exist around what we can expect when it comes to the future of work. Read them below to learn why we shouldn’t be resigned to fearing the future.

1. This is the first ‘future of work’

Actually, it’s not. Look back at pre-industrial careers and you’ll see that this isn’t the first time that western society has done a one-eighty on its cultural idea of work.

Take the cobbler, for example, who would complete every relevant task required to accomplish the desired outcome – a pair of shoes.

It doesn’t necessarily progress that way for many people any more. Today, a ‘job’ is typically a whole host of different tasks that can be unrelated, ever-changing and perhaps not always leading to a single, definite output.

Basically, this isn’t our first rodeo when it comes to work revolutions, and we’re far more ready and adaptable than we think.

Granted, more than half of people surveyed by PwC said they believe that automation will either significantly change or completely eliminate their job over the next 10 years. But on the back of that, 77pc said they would learn new skills or even retrain entirely to improve their future employability.

What that tells us is that workers are aware of the change that’s coming, but they are also determined to rise to any challenges and embrace the new skills they may have to take on.

In fact, this was highlighted in a study undertaken by Harvard Business Review, which showed that employees have a better handle on the future of work than their leaders. According to the research, workers have a realistic and informed sense of how it will look and what the transition will require, making them open to the new opportunities it will bring.

For the leaders who are reportedly less informed, and consequently more anxious, their main area of concern is in the hiring and retaining of staff when the skills landscape won’t seem to sit still. But the human resources sector is also in for a transformation, which will surely help things there.

2. Robots will steal our jobs

When you deconstruct it, the future of work really just means the redefining of work. According to Deloitte, work is being redefined to allow humans and machines to interact in valuable ways, supporting what’s already important to us now, rather than taking over the reigns entirely.

Of course, the available data shouldn’t be trivialised. According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), machines are forecasted to take on more labour as time goes on, until upwards of 14pc of jobs are eliminated and 32pc are disrupted.

But evidence shows that rather than a robotic takeover threatening our jobs, machines will simply augment our labour.

The WEF also reported that while nearly 1m jobs will be lost, another 1.75m could be created. And within those, there will be new skills opportunities. To ensure that we can manage the machines, we’ll need people with undeniably human skillsets.

And perhaps, most importantly, having certain elements of jobs covered by automated machines will free up our personal time, bringing us closer to the coveted work-life balance that can be difficult to achieve in the current working climate.

3. Automation will make us look bad

Hand-in-hand with the idea that robots will steal our jobs is the worry that in the face of automation, humans will fall short.

How can we keep up with machines that are trained with specific skills to accomplish specific tasks, dedicated to their missions from day one? In reality, we’ll likely be afforded more room to shine.

Through getting to work on more than menial, routine tasks, our time will be freed up for ‘wider picture’ projects where we can demonstrate our creativity, problem-solving, diverse perspectives and perhaps aspects of our lives that we never believed we would be able to bring to work, especially not in a way that could help deliver on projects.

4. Soft skills will become redundant

With so much focus on technology transforming the ways that we work, it’s not hard to see why you might think softer skills such as communication and teamwork will falter in demand. In fact, the opposite is likely true.

As machines are incorporated more and more into our tasks, skills that are inherently human will become more valuable than ever, with some newer attributes expected to grow too, such as emotional intelligence.

Companies, for example, won’t just be technology-driven. Even now, many are adopting more contemporary mindsets in the hopes of looking after their staff, with more than half of businesses planning to reboot managerial practices over the next five years to incorporate coaching. spoke to Engage Talent CEO Joseph Hanna about the ways in which people will need to adapt to keep their employees happy, and how technology will certainly help that but won’t necessarily be responsible for it.

“Investing in retention and development starts by understanding the reasons behind any issues you may have and even predicting these concerns well before they impact your people,” Hanna said.

“In the past, companies focused mainly on internal surveys, managers feedback, exit interviews and the like to get insights into people retention and engagement issues. What has been missing from that strategy is collecting and analysing the external market dynamics impacting your people: understanding where you are versus your talent competitors, understand external forces impacting your people, your industry trends and your regional issues.

“That also includes analysing emerging skills and titles that your people maybe excited by, etc. Then using all this intel to focus your retention, development and communication programmes. Innovative new technologies allow practitioners to effectively have a 360-degree view to deliver truly data-driven strategies.”

Looking ahead

Technology will certainly change how we work going forward, but humans will still be at the heart of our innovations.

It’s crucial that we keep that in mind if we are to embrace the exciting opportunities ahead of us.

Lisa Ardill
By Lisa Ardill

Lisa Ardill joined Silicon Republic as senior careers reporter in July 2019. She has a BA in neuroscience and a master’s degree in science communication. She is also a semi-published poet and a big fan of doggos. Lisa briefly served as Careers Editor at Silicon Republic before leaving the company in June 2021.

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