February 25, 2023

The future of work in the Industry 4.0 era

by Jaafar Mohamed

Industry 4.0 has brought about rapid changes to the way businesses operate. The COVID-19 pandemic, for instance, forced many businesses to upgrade their business model, through digitalizing their products and services and implementing IR 4.0 tools and technologies to carry out workplace processes. Video conferencing and virtual events are examples of work-based processes that gained prominence during the pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic won’t be the only significant event that will cause a major shift in the way people work.

Digital transformation is the hype of many businesses that want to set themselves apart from their competitors now, capitalizing on the use of cutting-edge IR 4.0 tools and technologies to market their products and services. With automation expected to replace many labour-intensive jobs previously performed by humans and work flexibility expected to shift traditional work methods, there will undoubtedly be several major cultural shifts in how humans work. Let’s explore some of these expected changes below.

The future of work: 5 trends to expect.

1. Automation will be on the rise.

According to a report published by the McKinsey Global Institute in 2017, research estimates that anywhere from close to zero to 30% of the hours worked globally could be automated by 2030, depending on the speed of adoption. This raises the concern that automation could potentially take over jobs once performed by manual laborers or those working on the production line in factories.

The report further suggests that activities most susceptible to automation are physical ones in predictable environments, such as operating machinery and fast-food preparation. Data collection and data processing are two categories of activities that can be increasingly done better and faster with machines. Automation in collecting and processing data could displace many jobs once performed by humans.

However, the report by McKinsey also states that while some tasks will be automated, it does not mean that employment in these positions will be in decline. Rather, employers will come up with new positions to fill for potential employees who can work around these new IR 4.0 technologies.

2. More roles in healthcare will be created to take care of the aging population.

In the future, the aging population is expected to increase. According to a report published by McKinsey in 2017, it is expected that there will be at least 300 million more people aged 65 or older than in 2014. The need to take care of an aging population means that there will be a significant increase in healthcare spending and other personal services.

A new range of occupations will be required, including doctors, nurses, and health technicians but also home-health aides, personal-care aides, and nursing assistants in many countries. Globally, it is estimated that healthcare and related jobs from aging could increase by 50 million to 85 million by 2030.

3. Many will opt for freelancing jobs.

According to Forbes, more than half of workers in the US will be freelancing by 2027. This will be an upsurge of more than 36% of the US workforce who are freelancers for reasons including autonomy, flexibility, and extra income. Co-working spaces will increase in popularity and are often fully subscribed before opening their doors. Technology has also made it possible for people to work remotely, in the office, or a combination of both (hybrid work). This makes it easier for them to access work resources anytime, anywhere.

4. The four-day work week will gain popularity.

As many organizations are experimenting with the four-day work week to see the long-term benefits it will have on workers’ productivity and work-life balance, this work schedule could be a permanent thing in the future. This is evident based on a 2022 study of 70 firms in the UK that have implemented the four-day work week.

Research findings showed that these companies planned to keep the four-day work week in place. Noticeable positive differences that employees experienced include increased productivity and significant financial savings for employees on transportation and childcare. Many tech workers in agile, forward-thinking companies expect to enjoy the perks and benefits of a four-day work week. However, for employees in professions such as schoolteachers, office workers, or in more traditional companies, this proposal still seems far-fetched.

5. Blockchain will impact society on a larger scale.

Blockchain technology is not only disrupting banking and finance, but it also has the potential to impact many industries and the community. For instance, in the manufacturing process, a digital wallet based on blockchain technology can be installed in the car. According to Matthias Roese, this wallet works by logging all transactions made involving the vehicle, including maintenance, modifications, charging, and filling up gaps, just to name a few. It makes it possible to predetermine the total cost of ownership and calculate the return on investment for the car on a very detailed level.

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