A lot is at stake in 2024. Key among the biggest conundrums, often seemingly out of our control, is the US presidential election, a pivotal event set to shape the nation’s political and economic future. Meanwhile, geopolitical conflicts are intensifying across various regions from the Middle East to Europe and India, teetering on the edge of escalation. And let’s not forget the pressing issue of global warming, which continues to be a major concern as the world grapples with rising temperatures.
In addition to the government decisions that impact our world, the choices of our employers will greatly affect our lives. From health benefits to work location, company leaders can dictate the quality of our everyday experience. As workers and citizens, it’s important to keep abreast of what’s going on and what’s expected to come so we can maintain control through informed choices—from how to fix up your resume to which candidate to vote for.
While we can’t tell you what state the planet or its nations will be in come December, we can give you expert projections of what’s to come in the world of work—and it’s not all AI and burnout. The ‘quiet’ work trend is evolving from quitting to managing. The importance of college degrees is declining. And middle managers will… well, we’ll let you read the rest.
1. Skills will matter more than degrees
Certified training and higher education won’t be completely thrown aside, but skills will matter more and more as the ‘paper ceiling’—the barrier keeping workers without degrees from landing jobs—gets torn down. Many HR experts feel an increased focus on skills can help eliminate bias and increase mobility for employees within a company. This doesn’t just refer to employees learning to code in their spare time—soft skills are expected to take precedence as automation increases, and those who work well with others become a prized part of the workforce.
But businesses won’t just prioritize skills as a DEI effort—it’s a smart business move for companies looking for talent to keep them afloat and competitive. Between a tight labor market, fewer undergraduates, and big shifts in major industries and the economy, Gartner predicts atypical career paths will become mainstream and alternative credentials to a college degree will be highly valued. A report by Deloitte found employers that focused on skills-based hiring were 107% more likely to effectively place talent and 98% more likely to retain their top performers.
2. Stress and burnout will remain big problems
Anyone in the world could tell you stress increased since the pandemic, but here are some statistics that sum up the current state of things:
- Employee stress across nations remained at an all-time high in 2022, according to Gallup’s latest State Of The Workplace Report.
- In 2023, a weighty 77% of the workers surveyed by the American Psychological Association (APA) reported work-related stress had plagued them within the past month, and one-third (31%) felt it caused emotional exhaustion.
- Meanwhile, 62% of respondents to Ipsos’ World Mental Health Day survey say stress had disrupted their everyday lives, and 39% reported taking time off work due to stress.
- The TIAA Institute found that American adults spend over eight hours a week on financial problems—which is an entire work day.
The stress is projected to stay. Eighty percent of the 675 senior risk professionals surveyed by International SOS, a health and security risk management firm, think burnout is going to significantly impact business in 2024. These leaders named political instability, climate change, and AI-generated medical and political fake news as some of the factors contributing to heightened stress. Some companies are working hard to find solutions, and 77% of employees told the APA they felt ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ satisfied with their employer’s mental health support. However, only 41% of the experts surveyed by International SOS feel their company is prepared to manage this mass wave of exhaustion.
3. Managing will still be a difficult job
In general, middle managers had a hard 2023 acting as the diplomats between the company leaders slashing budgets, remote work, and the employees who were quietly quitting or loudly fighting back. Glassdoor found a big decline in work-life balance for middle managers, even though senior and junior employees didn’t see much of a difference. And Gallup reports that last year, managers’ perception that their employer cared about their well-being went down. They’re also more likely to be burned out and job hunting than other employees.
Glassdoor argues that although middle managers are “skilled operators that navigate the murky decisions between high-level business priorities and brass tacks technical implementation,” their tough situation may not get resolved in 2024.
4. Hybrid work will stick around
The great debate over where employees should work continues—although now employers are well aware of how much time and money it costs employees to haul themselves into an office, as research touting the benefits of remote work has been widely disseminated. Workers save an estimated two hours when they WFH, and spend a reported $51 per day when they work onsite.
On the other hand, there’s also evidence that teams are more innovative when they work together in person than online. This past July, WFH Research, the leading group of economists advocating for WFH, found productivity actually decreases for remote workers—although their paper has not yet been peer-reviewed. Of course, the real estate industry and city leaders are also worried about the vacant office buildings that have economically depressed America’s downtowns.
For now, hybrid work seems to be holding up as a compromise. It seems employees are divided amongst themselves about this: a June 2023 poll by Glassdoor found that 54% of workers weren’t comfortable with their company implementing a hybrid policy, while a Gallup poll reported that 52% of remote-capable employees prefer hybrid work. Either way, around 52% of remote-capable jobs are currently hybrid. As HR analyst Josh Bersin told Raconteur, “We’re going to stop worrying about hybrid work so much, and it’s going to go back to just being called work.”
5. AI will change our work even more
Last February, ChatGPT set the record for the fastest-growing user base in history, heralding the age of generative AI. Today, 45% of the US population is using generative AI, according to a Salesforce survey. Most experts, however, still consider these tools unsafe for many work situations.
Will AI steal all our jobs in 2024? A report from ResumeBuilder found one in three companies will replace employees with AI in the coming year, as 44% of the business leaders surveyed say the tech’s efficiency will cause layoffs. Yet, AI is also expected to yield job creation as it permeates our lives. IBM predicts AI will become a national priority for many countries as it’s already a tech war reminiscent of the space race. This will probably result in funding for positions ranging from AI trainer to AI ethicist. Glassdoor predicts that consumers will be willing to pay a premium for human interaction as customer service bots proliferate, indicating that customer service reps who stay employed may make better wages. And, as Gartner argues, AI will “allow employers to reduce time to proficiency with new technology and specializations, easing the need to hire talent already skilled in these areas.”
6. Employees will push for “quiet managing”
“The majority of the world’s employees are ‘quiet quitting,’” announced Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace 2023 Report. Their survey, conducted in 2022, found that 59% of the respondents, hailing from 160 different countries, reported they’d quiet quit their jobs. These employees were disengaged, often burnt out, and putting in zero extra effort—as opposed to the 23% of employees putting in extra effort, or the 18% who were ‘loudly quitting’ by trying to undermine their company. Gallup estimates the low engagement levels among employees worldwide costs a whopping $8.8 trillion—that’s 9% of the global GDP.
The biggest takeaway from Gallup’s report on global work trends, as summed up by the CEO, is “Change the way your people are managed.” The rise of remote and hybrid work led to mass micromanaging and an abundance of meetings, an estimated 70% of which hinder employees from doing productive work. One Forbes contributor predicts this will lead to a call for ‘quiet managing’, where bosses clearly outline priorities, remain available for support, but trust in their employees to get the work done without constant check-ins.
7. The 4-day workweek will continue its momentum
The 4-day workweek burst into the limelight in 2018, when New Zealand company Perpetual Guardian trialed, and eventually adopted, this avant-garde schedule. In 2023, all sorts of stakeholders around the world, in every sector, expressed avid interest in this new form of time management, from the heads of state adopting country-wide trials to the unions making it part of their bargain pleas. Last year saw the world’s largest 4-day workweek pilot program—involving 61 companies and 2,900 workers in the UK—report a resounding success. Nations outside of the Western World, namely Brazil and South Africa, held their own pilot programs.
Dale Whelehan, CEO of Four Day Week Global, the non-profit overseeing the pilot programs in countries like the UK, US, and Australia, told Welcome To The Jungle that 2024 will see large-scale trials in the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Italy, Germany, Sweden and Norway. What’s more, the talent shortage impacting certain sectors may push employers to instate the 4-day workweek as an attractive job benefit. According to Gartner’s predictions for 2024, “4-day workweeks go from radical to routine.”
Photo: Welcome to the Jungle
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