What is the Future of Work? The Top Future of Work Concepts

Headshot for CareerFoundry contributor Gareth Coetzee.

In today’s uncertain workplace, finding certainties to plan around is like seeing a lighthouse piercing through the fog. 

Whether protecting yourself against a potential recession, planning your next career move, or deciding which skills are worth acquiring for your role, understanding the future of work is critical. 

By considering the effect that technology, the knowledge economy, demographics, social changes, environmental shifts, and globalization have on the world, we can try to understand the impact it will have on our work. 

In this way, businesses and other organizations have a chance to adapt, and you can shift focus, secure your own future work, and ensure you’re ready for whatever the future may throw at you. 

This article will unpack where the future of work lies and identify the top future work concepts.  

Let’s dive right in and see how the future of work might look. 

  1. What is the future of work?
  2. The top future work concepts
  3. Jobs of the future
  4. Key takeaways

1. What is the future of work?

Let’s get straight to it: Tech, and working in tech, is still undeniably the future of work. 

The innovations that drive new ways of doing business continue to be based on technological advancement and application. 

Top of the list, is of course artificial intelligence (AI).

While fears about the impact of AI may make one think twice about shifting their career into tech, that would be based on some inaccurate assumptions. The rise of AI actually means that in 2024, tech jobs will be in higher demand than ever; they’ll simply require some level of AI expertise. 

And then there were the tech layoffs of early 2023. Fortunately, the statistics showed those layoffs were a tiny proportion of the companies themselves. A New York Times study showed that the layoffs amounted to just 1.2% of Amazon’s workforce, 4.5% of Microsoft’s workforce, and 12.6% of Meta’s. 

Most importantly, the outlook is bright: the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report estimated that 97 million new roles may be created by global technological development by 2025. 

The future of work is already here, and as it has been since the first caveman picked up a rock and used it as a hammer—it’s tech. 

So what does this mean, practically?

It means tech is driving, or being driven by, what we’ve identified as the top shifts for future work: the AI business model, the flexible work model, the rising gig economy, the need for continuous improvement and upskilling, and a greater emphasis on workers’ mental health.

2. The top future of work concepts

Let’s dive into these future-of-work concepts and investigate how tech will interact with our future work prospects:

The AI business model

For most companies, AI and automation are an easy win: good for efficiency, productivity, and the bottom line. 

It was projected that more than $500 billion would be spent globally in the AI market in 2023, and AI’s share of U.S. startup funding doubled in 2023.

That doesn’t, however, mean you should be worried about being made redundant. 

While large language models can generate well-written SEO articles and powerful magazine cover illustrations, put together evocative marketing pitches, and write code, many believe the trend is less toward replacing humans in the workplace and more toward helping us do and be better. 

While anyone offering skills that can be automated can be forgiven for worrying, finding ways to move with the tide will help you thrive in the future workforce. 

How can these tools help you with your own skills? Or how can what you know about UX design, data analytics, and so on improve these tools? 

Read our guides on the top tools for some of the most popular tech careers:

AI like chatGPT is considered the future of work

The flexible work model

Made possible by the advent of new approaches to working, new communication technologies, and economic globalization, a flexible or hybrid work model will continue to be the best choice for managers and workers alike far into the future.  

According to Zippia, 27% of U.S. employees worked remotely in 2023, 16% of American companies already have completely remote workforces, and 15% of new job ads are for remote positions. The stats indicate that by 2025, roughly 36 million people will be working away from the office.

But tensions between what employees want and what employers remain, and for the foreseeable future, a hybrid model is the most likely arrangement for future work. 

Point of fact: statistics show that an incredible 74% of U.S. companies are using or planning to implement a permanent hybrid work model.

Through the hybrid concept, employees work remotely part of the time while going to work for the rest, with the actual division depending on any organization’s personalized policy.

And while it might, on the face of it, seem like a hybrid model is skewed toward meeting employer satisfaction, advantages like continued socialization and in-person communication mean that it can create the best of both worlds for the employee, too.

But don’t give up hope if you’re set on 100% remote; as the statistics show, it is headed that way.

If you’re interested in finding opportunities in this space, try our article on the best work-from-home jobs.

The gig economy

The gig economy concept describes a market where temporary and part-time positions are filled by independent contractors and freelancers.

In a way, this idea springs from the first two on our list. Flexibility and work-life balance create the need, and AI and automation help make a gig economy possible and viable. 

Gig economy platform Upwork says that almost 58 million people freelanced in 2022, which is expected to grow by another 30 million people over the next five years.

While initially conceived to be the arena for Lyft drivers, TaskRabbit services, and Airbnb hosts, the gig economy has evolved to include the highly skilled. 

UX designers, web developers, business consultants, and strategists embrace the side hustle. And this is what will continue to mold the gig economy over the next few years.

People with the proper knowledge and skills are becoming the most in-demand, which means more shifts in what companies and governments might offer these “giggers” in the future.

And with the gig economy making up an ever-increasing size of the global work economy, governments and industry leaders are looking for ways to nurture it by supporting those working within it differently. 

While the gig economy can still be challenging for those relying on it, there are ways to ensure the outcomes you’re after.

In time, as a gigger, you may be entitled to some benefits from companies you work for, and, thanks to new retirement laws like the new Secure 2.0 Act in the U.S., you might even be able to retire more comfortably when your gigging days are done.

If you’re considering freelancing, have a look at our article on how to become successful at it

Upskilling and reskilling

Learning something new or improving on what you know is vital if you want to stay an asset far into the future of work. 

Over the next few years, there will be a greater push within enterprises to give employees the skills they need rather than make new hires or bring in consultants. 

It’s less expensive and companies then hold on to the knowledge that would otherwise disappear into other organizations when they lose employees.

Companies will also continue to shift their thinking regarding hiring, with skills becoming as attractive as credentials. 

This skills-first model is emerging on LinkedIn, with a quarter of all job posts in the U.S. no longer requiring a degree. It might be worth rethinking how you structure that resume

The World Economic Forum has been reimagining the future of education, or as they refer to it, Education 4.0, and thinks it should include skills like creativity, data analysis, critical thinking for problem-solving, as well as communication, persuasion, and conflict resolution for collaboration. 

Students of Education 4.0 will also need to be armed with resilience, buoyancy, and self-regulation to be able to adapt to sudden shifts in the workplace. 

But to invest in a secure future, balance technical, role-specific skills with softer ones

Having this balance and a natural leaning toward life-long learning is essential to navigating the changing employment landscape and securing your future work.

Luckily, with the incredible amount of free bootcamps and online learning available, there are any number of choices available for you to stay ahead of the curve. 

And, of course, institutions like CareerFoundry offer a job guarantee, a definite positive when you’re worried about what the future of work might hold. 

Read our guide on some of the best online AI courses in 2024.

Health and wellness

Is mental well-being a consideration for the future of work? 

Well, considering that the global economy takes a knock of $1 trillion annually due to 12 billion working days being lost to anxiety and depression, and the World Health Organization has found that every dollar spent on mental wellness buys four dollars’ worth of improved productivity… the answer is a resounding “yes”.

With levels of burnout, depression, and anxiety at record highs, and companies feeling the impact of it, mental health programs and policies will surely become more entrenched in the workplace over the next few years. 

So expect to see companies trying to help employees feel more fulfilled, happier, and less stressed. 

How will they go about this?

That’s where the tech comes in. In light of remote, hybrid, and work-from-home work policies, both businesses and individuals are turning to apps as a cost-efficient but effective way to improve mental health. 

The rising popularity of mental health apps and programs shows how valued this approach has become: Headspace has downloaded 70 million times and Sanvello is currently at three million users. 

Even for remote and freelance workers, wellness apps offer an effective way to navigate the anxieties of modern working life without the threat of burnout. 

In addition to the increasing investment in health and wellness apps and programs, this concept may impact the future of work in other ways. Some businesses will likely bring in the four-day workweek to improve work-life balance, reduce stress, or boost job satisfaction. 

Others might offer access to mental health services as employee benefits and experiment with the aforementioned hybrid working model. 

In the face of the increasing complexities and challenges which future work might bring, finding a solution that meets your unique needs should be your first priority.

3. Jobs of the future

In late 2023, tech jobs trended at a yearly high, with the rise expected to continue through 2024.

If you’re concerned that your current role doesn’t answer the needs of the future of work, investing in a career change or specialization is the obvious solution.

Specific roles and areas are well-suited to the future work we’ve described and can better navigate uncertain times.

Review your existing skills, consult experts, set reasonable goals, and execute them with flexibility.

Here are four of the top upcoming roles of the future:

Our article on jobs of the future goes into greater detail on what these jobs may look like and how you can set yourself up for them through tech bootcamps and online learning.

Key takeaways

The workplace of the future can be confusing and offer little certainty.

But as new types of work gain traction and older roles shift to suit the developing tech landscape, consistencies like continuous learning and the importance of upskilling remain as relevant as they did 50 years ago. 

If you’re interested in moving securely into the future of tech, try one of CareerFoundry’s free short courses or read these articles for more information:

What You Should Do Now

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  3. Talk to a program advisor to discuss career change and find out which fields are best for you, or check out recent graduate Tanimara’s successful career-change story.

  4. This month, we’re offering a partial scholarship worth up to $1,365 off on all of our career-change programs to the first 100 students who apply 🎉 Book your application call and secure your spot now!

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