Four Work Trends Set to Boom

More ways to earn and learn will be positive for workers

This article is from the Workforce Futurist Newsletter please subscribe if you haven’t already.

It’s New Year’s Day and I wake with a clear head.  2020 is now behind us - which is a relief and I look forward to the future.  Here are four work trends that will positively impact work in 2021 and beyond. 

Work Trend 1 – More Ways to Earn

A job contract is not the answer for every worker or employer as industries restructure in the Digital-Covid Age. Many people have found new ways to earn using platform-based work from Chefs to Gamers and Teachers to Pet Caretakers and freelancers paid in crypto.  

Ali Abdaal, a Doctor, publishes YouTube videos on learning and productivity and has 1.3 million subscribers.  The top YouTube earner in 2019 was a 9-year-old kid earning $30m year reviewing toys.

Passionate platform investors call this the ‘Passion Economy’. In an era of emergency helicopter money, most just want to make enough for their primary passion - caring for their family.

I highlight how work is being reframed by the playbourers, exhibitionists and data labourers, in my essay, Unleashing the Decentralised Workforce.

Work Trend 2 – More Ways to Learn

According to Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO,

“We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months.”  

With schools and campuses emptying overnight, we have seen an amazing effort to teach students online.

This poses a question for individuals considering a degree, would you be OK paying $54,000 for Zoom classes?

Taking a 3-year degree in one city, when you’re 18, makes less sense when you are likely to be working for another 50 or 60 years.  Nobody can predict what skills and education will be useful as work changes radically in a decade, let alone a lifetime.

$54,000 buys a lot of eLearning and the global education market is estimated to be worth $7 trillion in 2025.

As education is reimagined, we will see new models emerge with a big input from the technology industry. The entertainment industry will also have some creative ideas.

Innovation will be needed to support lifelong learning. For example, Lambda school will teach you in-demand technology skills – learn now and pay later when employed.

We now have proven technology and there will be a massive investment to reskill hundreds of millions of people globally. 

Work Trend 3 – Fairer Equity for Workers

In 2020, Zoom shares rose 422% - a healthy return. The shares of the freelancer platform, Fiverr, rose by even more, 717%. Their shareholders were financial beneficiaries of the pandemic, but what about equity for workers?

The U.S. securities regulator proposed a pilot program to allow platform workers to pay gig workers up to 15% of their annual compensation in equity rather than cash.  Awarding shares to employees is a well-developed reward mechanism.  New solutions, such as Fairmint, are being developed to enable programmable equity to be extended to contractors, and also suppliers and customers.  

Regulators are beginning to adjust to the gig economy.  This doesn’t provide workers with equity, but in some cases, a fairer deal compared to employees.  In the UK, Just Eat, the food delivery platform, agreed to pay couriers hourly rather than pay-per-job plus pay pension contributions, holiday pay, sick pay, and maternity or paternity pay.

Global demographics might push the power pendulum back to workers, according to Charles Goodhart and Manoj Pradhan in their book, “The Great Demographic Reversal”. Wages in the west have been suppressed since the 1980s, with 600 million Chinese workers joining the global workforce. They argue this trend will now reverse with an ageing population and decreasing working-age population. In theory, with less labour available, workers might have more bargaining power.

Work Trend 4 – A Creative BOOM!

One result of new ways to earn and learn is that we will see a Creative BOOM!

Bloggers learned to write directly to an audience of readers without the need for traditional publishers.  And now podcasters, musicians, gamers, and photographers can do the same. With intermediaries removed, anybody can entertain and inform billions potentially - the long tail means you can make a living if you find your niche audience.

You own ALL the equity in ME Inc.

Hugo Amsellem does a great job of mapping the infrastructure to support the creator economy with new communities developing, for example, indie hackers.

I will be researching and supporting these powerful inter-related work trends this year.

One way you can support me is to subscribe to the Workforce Futurist Newsletter, and share it with others who are building a better world of work.

With more ways to earn, learn, and create, we can recover strongly from the pandemic and build a better society.

Wishing you all a Happy and Healthy New Year!