Forget the rigid corporate ladder.
Today, the most attractive and best places to work allow free-flowing ideas and career paths.
In the industrial age, businesses were built on strict hierarchy.
Today, in the digital age, we are witnessing a major shift.
As thought patterns, economic times, and digital technology evolves, the traditional work environment is growing, changing, and emerging with the times.
The future of work is a lifestyle of personal preferences, personal development, and personal responsibility.
The future of work means fewer hours spent on-site, locked into a cubicle, and punching a time clock tied to a rigid set of hours and rules.
It means remote teams, separate but collaborative teamwork, and working around one’s lifestyle.
This is evidenced by the growing number of specialized business consultants, the prevalence of freelancers, and the continued emergence of the gig economy.
Today, businesses are learning to adapt to the creativity and flexibility of the modern worker and the modern workplace.
As employees learn to embrace a shared vision for the companies they represent, a new culture is being created and established.
Increasing digitization, the rise of digital natives and productivity pressures are causing businesses to rethink everything.
The future of work is creating and defining a new company culture, a new office norm, and a new organizational success.
As this new workforce emerges, it brings with it a new way of meeting the needs of the corporate and small business world.
In the future of work, creativity still rules
Our future economy will be built on creativity and technology.
The digital revolution won’t render people obsolete.
But it is a paradigm shift.
There will be immense opportunities for people who combine creative, technical and social skills — skills that are resilient to future automation.
When individuals work separately, then come together to create a whole, they bring increased innovation and originality to the table.
New ideas are more readily introduced and embraced when creativity and imagination are allowed to flourish and thrive.
Employees feel most appreciated when they’re given creative freedom and viewed as valuable resources as opposed to being seen as dispensable.
The workplace of the future must adapt and learn to trust employees to manage their own time, productivity, and personal development.
Not only does that lead to a happier, healthier, more productive workforce, it frees upper management to focus on other critical tasks, obtain and nurture and new and existing clients, and foster greater company growth.
As companies define the work they need done and the projects they need completed, they create new teams and departments.
They key is in understanding how those teams and departments come together to create a company-wide whole.
When several freelancers, contractors, consultants, and gig economy workers are collaborating on a singular project, they become a de facto team.
Contemporary and emerging technology means these teams might work together without ever seeing each other face-to-face.
These alliances are integral to the future of work as video conference rooms, screen sharing, and time tracking unites teams and builds partnerships in a new, tech-based way.
The future is flexible and adaptable
In the past, flexibility was seen as a perk, not a necessity.
In recent times, flexibility at work has become more common and acceptable, with the advances in technology making it a whole lot easier to work remotely and stay connected to your team.
More and more companies have been adopting a flexible approach to work — permitting work from home, offering unlimited or fleixble vacation, and even swapping cubicles for different types of workstations.
According to a recent Upwork report, the workplace of the future is very likely to look like your home office, or the coffee shop around the corner, or that new shared working space downtown.
Flexibility and adaptability allow companies to move beyond mere proximity and create a global workforce that naturally gives way to cultural and relational diversity.
Because of differing lifestyles and time zones, work can now take place around the clock eliminating the limitations and time constraints of the traditional eight-hour work day.
As each moving part of a company’s team takes on projects, the company will begin to see its workforce spread far and wide.
Companies must begin to reevaluate how they interact with their in-office and outsourced staff.
Executives and small business owners must learn to balance the workload between both types of team members.
The future will benefit from diverse talent pools
By opening its doors to the gig economy, where workers with varying degrees of experience, skill, and talent come together to form a unit, today’s businesses benefit in big ways.
With less overhead and a larger pool of qualified candidates to choose from, it’s easier for a small business owner or corporate executive to identify and locate the specific skills and talents they require at any given point in time.
The ability to pick a desired gig economy worker for their specific skill and return to them on an as needed basis means less overhead, fewer expenses, and improved productivity.
This talent pool means communication is essential, benchmarks are met, and quality is at the forefront of production and output.
All the creativity, flexibility, and humanity the future of work is creating relies heavily – and perhaps ironically – on the innovations, trends, and changes of technology.
Without the technology that lets us share screens, host multi-person conference calls, share files, and send and receive email, the workplace might have remained largely in a central location.
The ability to move from cue cards, storyboards, and in-house design departments to freelance copywriters, graphic designers, and production partners wouldn’t be possible without current technology.
How ironic is it, then, that the technology that makes it possible for workers around the globe to work independently is the same technology that brings those workers together?
Rather than a single office or complex, the future of work is a series of single-person homes, home-based offices, and co-working spaces where teams are remote but connected.
Even today’s fully staffed corporate offices have seen a shift from three-piece suits to shirts and ties to casual Fridays to week-long casual dress codes.
From traditional gray cubicles to banks of offices to remote offices, the office environment, itself, is changing.
Colorful offices with relaxed, playful furnishings, bright, colorful walls, and comfortable seating are replacing traditional work spaces and conference rooms.
The workplace of the future is learning to value people in an entirely new light. It values human relationships, places importance on creature comforts, and is open to new levels of innovation and change.
Workplace flexibility allows individual team members to make time for family and social obligations creating a more pleasing and appealing work/life balance.
The future of work is creative, flexible and guided by human aspirations in a way unrealized by previous generations of workers.
At the same time, some workplace truths and necessities remain unchanged.
Companies and organizations will always be reliant on effective communication, financial efficiency, cost-effective productivity, and team collaboration.
These trends, changes, and workplace adjustments make the future of work creative, flexible, human, and possible.
The future is up to you
The future is yours to shape.
You have the power to change and adapt your skills to stay relevant and indispensable.
You need to start spending time preparing for the future even when there are more important things to do in the present and even when there is no immediately apparent return to your efforts.
If you find yourself trapped for the foreseeable future because you are stuck in a soul-crushing job, remember, you always have two obvious options: settle or plan for a career change.
Don’t be afraid of the unknown if you decide to pursue your life’s work, because everything is unknown.
And if you decide to do work that matters to you, don’t stop because nobody’s buying it, sponsoring it or sharing it yet.
Show up everyday and work on your most important life work. It matters that you show up.
Whether the outcome is magnificent or eternal, whether it changes people’s lives, changes the world, changes you or groundbreaking, it matters that you show up.
If you pursue your dreams long enough, compounding takes effect.
Momentum will surge.
Most people can’t show their most amazing work to the rest of us because they fear criticisms. They feel inadequate.
They are scared people will think it’s not good enough. Others are living in their comfort zones because of fear.
But remember everything great happens outside your safe zone.
Choose to reinvent you career and make the most of the exciting, and promising future of work.
If you’re not sure what you want to do next, yet you know you want a change, you should go ahead and get started, with a focus on strengthening your core skills.
Excerpted from my recent book, Working in the Gig Economy: How to Thrive and Succeed When You Choose to Work for Yourself. It’s a guide to successfully navigate the new flexible and changing world of work, and pitch yourself as an indispensable expert in your industry. It contains true stories of successful freelancers who have reinvented themselves by choice.
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This article first appeared on Medium.