The Future of Work: Workplaces

February 26, 2020

Digging into how the future of work looks like in terms of workplaces

We have found a popularly quoted GEM Global Report which states that a whopping 100 million startups are established every year, meaning that about 11,000 new businesses are created every hour. Oh look, six startups were launched within the time you took to read that!

Startups define the future

Startup numbers have been burgeoning in all parts of the world. Based on statistics from the Centre for Entrepreneurs, some 660,000 startups were set up in the UK in 2016, an increase of more than 50,000 from the previous year. Startup activity was much higher in the US that year—the Kauffman startup index estimated that 540,000 people became startup owners every month.

That same year, Indonesia started the 1,000 Startups Movement, a program that aims to grow a thousand startups with a combined value of US$10 billion by 2020. Over in Hungary, authorities are taking measures to turn its capital of Budapest into Europe’s startup mecca.

The Australian Federal government has also been making moves to boost the country’s startup sector. It has in recent times rolled out programs like the Incubator Support Initiative to provide startup founders with advice, and the National Innovation and Science Agenda which helps with funding matters. The New South Wales Government has also created the Jobs For New South Wales project which helps to support the startup ecosystem.

These government initiatives have since benefitted a slew of enterprises, including Sydney-based Ubique Networks Inc. which received a $500,000 loan from the federal government to further commercialise its Swarmio eSports platform. Sydney-based home loan marketplace HashChing and visual effects startup Cumulus VFX are among the other recipients, having to receive $700,000 and $300,000 loans via the Jobs For New South Wales project respectively.

We believe that the global startup population will only continue to grow because of the combination of two factors: millennials value entrepreneurship more than generations, and they will account for 75 per cent of the workforce by 2025. According to the 2016 BNP Paribas Global Entrepreneur Report, the millennial generation are starting their businesses around 27 years old, much earlier than previous generations. Some of the reasons behind this, the report added, is the ease of starting a startup today as well as greater resilience to failure.

So, no, it’s not simply because millennials love to YOLO. And this boost in startup numbers is something to cheer about - it means there will be greater employment opportunities for people.

A 2013 PwC report projected that the tech startup segment alone could help generate 540,000 jobs and account for 4 per cent of Australia’s GDP by 2033.

A catalyst for innovation

Another reason why startups will become more prevalent in the future is their importance to the innovation drive.

Gone are the days when startups and corporations view one another as competitors vying for market share. Today, the focus is on cooperation, according to a 2017 global study by the Unilever Foundry. The study found that 80 per cent of corporate bodies view startups as a positive influence on their innovation efforts. Meanwhile, the majority of corporations that are already working with a startup expect to continue to do so in the future.

The results of this study are backed by similar findings in a joint research report by Imaginatik and Mass Challenge that said 82 per cent of corporations now see partnerships with startups as “somewhat important” or “very important”, while 23 per cent classified it as “mission-critical”. On the other hand, an increasing number of startups now view their larger corporate peers as valuable partners rather than “competitors” or “potential acquirers”.

Remote and freelance work: The new normal

We foresee that working remotely will only become more popular. After all, many jobs today can be performed with just a laptop and an internet connection. 

Millennials also covet flexibility in terms of working hours. The PreparedU Project by Bentley University found that 77 per cent of millennials like this because it helps to improve their productivity levels. Plus, millennials love to travel. And this explains why there has been a rise in the number of “digital nomads”—people who travel while making a living through the use of telecommunications technologies.

The term “digital nomad” has been around since as early as 1997 when computer scientist Tsugio Makimoto and writer David Manners published a book which was titled as such. In the book, the authors predicted that itinerant workers would become commonplace in the future because technology would facilitate such a mode of working, and because humans have a proclivity to satiate their wanderlust. Pieter Levels, the founder of Nomadlist, shares the same sentiment, having said during the DNX Global festival in 2015 that there would be 1 billion digital nomads in 2035, citing factors such as how travel is becoming more affordable, how freelance work is becoming more prevalent, and how internet speeds around the world are getting faster. We’ve also found evidence that suggests digital nomadism is set to remain popular among millennials.

In a study by IPSE, the largest organisation for independent professionals in the European Union, 64 per cent of the freelancers polled said they planned to maintain their lifestyle for the foreseeable futureJumping on the bandwagon

there is no doubt that freelance or remote work is becoming more popular across the world. According to the Hays Global Skills Index 2017, the number of freelancers in Europe grew by 16 per cent between 2011 and 2016 to 9.9 million, while companies in countries such as Singapore and Australia have been spending big on hiring freelance workers.

A report by global workforce solutions provider KellyOCG also states that hiring managers in the Asia Pacific are the most prolific in the world when it comes to utilising remote workers - 84 per cent of them have done so, while 79 per cent said that this would become a norm as companies look to navigate a global business environment that is getting more and more dynamic. The Freelancing in America: 2017 report by Upwork and Freelancers Union estimates that about 50 per cent of millennial workers are already freelancing. The report also points out that the growth of the freelancing population in the US had outpaced the growth of the conventional workforce, growing to 57.3 million in 2017 from 53 million in 2014.

Another telling statistic is that only 27 per cent of millennials spend all their time working in a traditional office space, according to the 2017 Staples Workplace Survey. Fifty-seven per cent of the survey respondents highlighted that remote working allows them to avoid unnecessary distractions. For employers, hiring freelancers presents several benefits, such as cost-savings on employee health insurance and office overheads. Moreover, having a flexible workforce allows companies to quickly hire specific experts for special ad-hoc projects. As you can see, the future of work looks to be all about earning a living on the go, or from wherever you please.

Research by: Alywin Chew


This article is the last in our 3-part series on 'The Future of Work.' Read the first part on The Threat of Automation and the second part on Job Prospects and the Lack of Tech Talent

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