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Working the Future

Our future of work blog 

21/01/2017, 23:41



Late last year, the World Economic Forum published an article on its website suggesting that by 2030, the workplace will be made up of predominantly entrepreneurs and freelancers. I don’t disagree with this. The WEF article suggests that the age of full-time employment is over and that as more millennials enter the echelons of mid to senior management, there will be a gradual migration towards freedom and flexible working within the workplace. This is apparently because millennials want to be in charge of their own destiny. I’m not sure it’s just about what millennials want however. I think perhaps there is another matter, far more pressing in UK society today, that will come to bear influence on these changes.

I think the UK state pension is unsustainable in its current format. I don’t believe UK government can continue to sustain it, given the increasing numbers of people retiring and that people are living for longer. We have already started to see retirement ages shift up and the true value of the weekly state pension appears to fall week by week.  With inflation (and potentially stagflation) on the cards as the UK prepares to leave the EU, the state pension will become less a means by which the elderly can support themselves and more a token gesture to a bygone era when the Welfare State was originally crafted.  Even those with private pensions are seeing their retirement pots eroded by ever increasing economic uncertainty.  At some stage in the not too distant future, I suspect politicians will be forced to acknowledge that the UK state pension is no longer sustainable. At this point, I wonder if more onus will be pushed onto the private sector to provide a pension for full-time employees? If/when this happens, this will add considerable cost to the bottom line of running a business, potentially rendering the proposition of having full-time employees far less attractive.

Should the above happen, my thought is that many businesses would be forced, through cost, to engage with freelancers, and that, as is already the case today, the freelancer would then pick up the tab for his or her own retirement costs. 

In this scenario, the would-be freelancer needs to quickly learn (or outsource) a variety of skills. The first is how to self-market skills in a noisy and busy market place. My vote is that character traits like honesty, integrity, and openness will play a key role - reputation and credentials will be key to winning business assignments in the future working landscape. Other skills will include robust financial management - including a revision to old-school habits like saving for a rainy day (retirement in this case), and also, dare I say, making do with less. For many this will come as somewhat of a hard landing as we have been drowning in cheap credit for quite some years now. Nonetheless, for those willing to adapt, the workplace of the future will offer a fantastic opportunity to learn new skills, gain new experiences and meet new people.  All pretty enriching stuff, in my opinion.

Change can sometimes be scary and having to learn new skills takes time and discipline. There are great opportunities to be had though, I believe - for those willing to invest. 

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