How we work has changed so drastically in the past three years that one can only wonder what the workplace will look like in five or even 10 years. Dhaval Gore, G-P’s Director of Partner Communities, tackled this and many other burning questions at the recent HR Connect Live event in London. Gore harnessed his talk on key themes, including employee disengagement, the ascendancy of millennials and Gen Z in the workplace, and the rise of AI tools like ChatGPT.

The remote versus office debate

Since the pandemic, employees are looking for more meaning in their lives and, consequently, their jobs, as this is where they invest most of their time. As Gore sees it, remote work is a means to give employees some control over where, when, and how they work.

“The debate between remote work versus office work has been one of the hottest topics for a while now,” Gore said. “I found Twitter’s recent decision to shut its Seattle offices as a cost-cutting measure and have those employees work from home an interesting development.” This decision came after Elon Musk famously attempted to muzzle remote working by stating that Twitter employees would only be allowed to work from home once they had completed at least 40 hours a week in the office.

Gore cited office vacancy trends in the heart of big tech, San Francisco, as a clear sign of the continuing rooting of remote work in the business world psyche. At the end of the first quarter of this year, the vacancy rate in San Francisco reached 29.4 percent, significantly higher than the pre-pandemic rate of 5.7 percent.

“Remote work will remain a permanent fixture because it is what the workforce wants,” said Gore, who based his claim on data collected by McKinsey in partnership with Ipsos. Their survey found that when offered, almost 87 percent take the opportunity to work flexibly.

Tackling employee disengagement

Despite the many upsides of flexible working, Gore highlighted that the issue of employee disengagement remains a growing concern.

“Consider this,” Gore explained. “Last year, Gallup reported that only 21 percent of employees felt engaged. Moreover, the same study found that 44 percent experienced stress daily. This was the highest that figure had ever been.”

Employee disengagement not only causes workplace stress but can also be detrimental to a company’s profitability and productivity. This, in turn, can snowball into missed deadlines, reduced output, and lower quality of work. According to the American Institute of Stress, the total economic impact of stress on US-based employers was estimated at USD 300 billion.

The next generation of workplace game changers

Although employee engagement poses a true challenge to employers today, the population of remote workers continues to grow. This seemingly contradictory phenomenon may be due to a generational mindset.

“People who could but don’t work flexibly tend to be older,” Gore noted. “Almost 20 percent of 55- to 64-year-olds offered remote work don’t take it.” Gore believes that “the fact that millennials and Gen Z will be the largest workforce of the future will cement remote work’s place.”  As millennials and Gen Z ascend to the majority workforce, so will their values.

But what are millennial and Gen Z’s values? For starters, both generations grew up with technology and expect to use it in the workplace.

They prefer email, texts, and messaging apps instead of phone calls and face-to-face meetings. “Millennials and Gen Z are used to having tailored suggestions that best suit their needs. Based on their search history, platforms like Amazon, Netflix, and Spotify curate recommendations of what to buy, watch, and listen to,” Gore explains. “This could evolve in the workplace, personalizing where people work, what schedules they operate from, how they receive training, etc.”

Crucially, for these generations, remote work isn’t considered a perk. “They see work as something that can be done anywhere, not just in a traditional office,” said Gore. ”Millennials and Gen Z are more likely to prioritize mental health and wellbeing than previous generations. These generations are likelier to set boundaries between work and personal life. They may be less likely to respond to work emails or messages outside work hours,” he concluded.

The disruptive powers of ChatGPT

Naturally, these tech-savvy generations have facilitated ground-breaking advancements such as ChatGPT and other generative AI tools. According to a McKinsey survey from December 2022, AI adoption has more than doubled compared to previous years.

Although content creators are most obviously associated with ChatGPT, several industries are mastering the tool. In healthcare, it can assist with accuracy and updates to medical coding and billing and quickly summarize patient data.

In finance, it can generate reports, process transactions, provide customer service, and evaluate customer service. In automotive, it can help troubleshoot customer service inquiries, process sales transactions or parts orders, generate repair reports, and provide real-time assistance during maintenance or repair. The 2023 Q1 CFO survey conducted by Deloitte revealed that respondents were almost evenly split between those who believe AI will increase jobs and those who anticipate a decrease in jobs over the next five years.

Gore believes that although jobs may be displaced, new ones can emerge. “I believe that those who understand the fundamentals of AI will use it to outperform those who do not. For example, although ChatGPT could replace present-day writing jobs, it could also create jobs such as AI content writers who need to understand how AI works and how to structure content easily digestible for machines.”

Pioneering the future of remote work

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