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IT, News, Tech June 21, 2020

New skills for 2021

The accelerated digitization of business functions is driving many companies to close (physical) shop and operate almost exclusively remote.

That typically calls for some adjustments to corporate practices, IT infrastructure, and communication systems to accommodate a dispersed workforce. At the same time, it may also require employees to upskill or reskill to remain operational and productive.

While some of the rapid changes we are witnessing may fade once a new equilibrium is established, others are there to stay. It is up to companies to reform and restructure to embrace the new realities that will shape the future of work.

Employment trends

Among many, the following factors have the highest chances to trigger widespread transformations across industries.

Working from home

As of today, roughly 40% of US jobs could be potentially done from home. However, the percentages vary substantially depending on the job category, with groups such as service and sales workers (29%) or craft and relate trades workers (21%) way below the average.

On the contrary, the number of people who find distance working agreeable is on the rise.

A recent US survey of 1,000 full-time employees found that 69% of people enjoy working from home more than they expected to, while 54% say they are more productive at home than in the office.

Appreciation for telecommuting practices comes from all over the world. Up to 76% of global office workers would be keen to continue working from home – at least weekly –  when social distancing is no longer compulsory. The latest projections show that a fair 25%-30% of the US workforce will be working from home multiple days a week by the end of 2021.

Whether or not these estimates are going to be confirmed in the future, the new “work-from-home paradigm” will play an important role.

That may also be true for reasons that go beyond the mere benefit of employees, such as:

  • Reduced traffic congestion;
  • Lower greenhouse emissions (as a consequence of the reduced commuter travel); and
  • Decreasing corporate expenses for rent, office space, and utilities such as security and maintenance.

Remote working and gig economy

“Remote working” and “working from home” are often used as synonyms. In fact, they are not.

Working from home may be seen as a “subcategory” of remote working – which definitely requires much more structure but allows for greater flexibility as well. What the two practices have in common is their most visible outcome: working in a setting that is different from the office space.

The first image that comes to mind when thinking about remote working is an individual before his or her laptop, holding a cup of coffee, and taking advantage of Starbucks’ free internet connection.

When the individual happens to be part of the infamous tribe of the so-called “digital nomads,” chances are that the image involves an exotic background too. The truth is that working remotely requires a solid entrepreneurial attitude, a thorough self-organization, and huge time management skills.

Not to mention a certain dose of tech-savviness. That is essential. Working from a distance implies setting up and running technological equipment in off-site facilities and does not allow for rushes to the IT department when something breaks down.

Such an amount of independence and flexibility will be crucial to navigate tomorrow’s job market as companies and prospective employers are expected to rely more on gig workers, such as contractors, on-demand workers, and freelancers.

That comes as a consequence of three main factors:

  • Gig-economy workers make up an estimated 20%-30% of the working-age population in the West (Europe and the US), and the category is expanding;
  • Freelancing and flexible working arrangements have been trending, and are projected to keep growing;
  • Changes that involve the society at large. A mix of economic factors, reinforced telecommuting frameworks, and companies’ requests for more flexibility in their workforce may be the final push for the gig-economy to soar.

Accelerated digital transformation

Innovation is fast-tracking digital transformation within the business world. Companies will increasingly rely on new technologies to become more flexible and resilient. These include artificial intelligence (AI), big data and data analytics, advanced robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT), as well as strengthened cybersecurity.

Moreover, a distributed workforce will require investments in virtual workplace solutions – such as cloud meeting and team collaboration providers – to help teams to communicate, collaborate, and operate as usual.

At the same time, workers will need to make themselves familiar – and comfortable – with these tech tools as to work with them effectively. That will in turn prompt surge in demand for training and development programs, most of which will be run in a distance learning fashion.

Growing in-demand tech and digital jobs

Against this background, some roles are likely to become the most in-demand going forward.

  1. Cybersecurity specialists: Information Security Analyst & Blockchain Developer

The massive move to an ever more digital world and the “work-from-home culture” may profoundly impact the cybersecurity sphere. That is because of the following trends:

  • Recurring remote access to corporate networks via private (and less protected) home connections;
  • Higher number of online transactions and digital payments;
  • Greater importance of big data.

All that calls for more advanced systems and expertise to combat cybercrime and protect companies and their clients from data breaches.

  1. E-commerce Specialists

E-commerce has recently skyrocketed. Old shopping habits have been put on hold, and chances are, people will stick to online shopping in the months to come.

That will plausibly make a lot of new categories of products available online, fuelling e-commerce growth and requiring additional expertise to keep up with this expansion.

  1. Data Analysts, Data Scientists, Data Engineers

Data and data analytics have become one of the pillars of the XXI century world economy.

Predicting how the future will look like might prove cumbersome, but reliable data and insights can support companies in shaping successful future business strategies.

Analysts and experts who can convert data into simple and accessible information will be in high demand to help leaders to make informed decisions.

  1. Architects & Interior Designers

Words such as “social distancing” and “physical distancing” shape our daily talks – and behaviors. Standing 1.5 meters apart is now the rule in most urban spaces, and may become the custom for offices and commercial spaces alike.

That would require a widespread rethinking of public and corporate spaces, therefore creating new opportunities for designers and architects.

  1. Online teachers and tutors

Education has been and will continue to be dramatically affected by recent events. Distance learning and e-learning are now the norm. Many educational institutions have already made the necessary transitions from offline to online to keep up education, while others are catching up. Demand for flexible and tech-savvy teachers who are able and willing to adapt to the new teaching standards is likely to grow going forward.

No wonder work will no longer be the same in the future. As always when dealing with changes, some disruption is inevitable. However, new opportunities lie ahead. It’s up to us to seize them.

By Nadia Musumeci
Creativity, accuracy, and passion

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