Older women are set to become the face of the future workforce according to a new paper examining future trends and anticipated changes affecting the way we way.
The report by Deloitte and AMP Capital, It’s (almost) all about me. Workplace 2030: Built for us, finds that tomorrow’s workforce is expected to be older, more female and more ethnically diverse.
“We are seeing a shift in the balance of power,” Deloitte human capital partner Juliet Bourke tells Women’s Agenda. “The balance has primarily been with younger workers rather than older [workers] and with the way men’s careers are fashioned rather than women’s.”
But the status quo is gradually changing. If time proves the predictions to be true companies will be paying more attention to historically marginalised population segments, like older workers and people with disabilities.
In April 2013 the Australian Bureau of Statistics found that the average Australian is now ‘a married woman, living with her husband and two children in a three bedroom house in a suburb of one of Australia’s capital cities’ as opposed to the past ‘Mr Average’, who was aged 29 in the 1960s. Bourke says this indicates the proliferation of older female workers is a continuation of an existing trend rather than a radical new direction.
The shift will require workplace leaders and employers to take a new direction.
“At the moment there is an expectation that people will finish work at a certain age and have certain caring patterns throughout their lives, but these findings suggest there will be a sense of wanting to work differently,” Bourke says. “With a more diverse workforce there will be a number of people working at the same time with different needs and wants. Future workplaces must be more adaptable and less ‘one-size-fits-all’.”
She believes it’s a subject global businesses are keenly focused on. “One of the top ten questions global businesses are asking themselves is around the future of the workplace and what it will look like,” Bourke says.
The report considered the influence of eight mega trends that are expected to reshape the way we live and work including demographic patterns, empowered individuals, global networks of knowledge, the resources crunch and technology.
“We think that ideas will move between people, not institutions. In a borderless knowledge economy, powered by big data and global networks, insight will be the new currency and the concept that ‘time is money’ will be left behind,” Bourke says. “It means that organisations and workplaces will need and want to be different.”
Employers savvy enough to get in front of the curve on these issues will embrace the changing requirements. “The early adopters will be the ones who really understand and value their workers’ diverse needs,” she says. “They will see the differences as something positive rather than a negative that needs to be accommodated which would be a real shift in mindset.”
The challenge for managers will be to create a workplace that accommodates staff and enables everyone to work at optimum capacity. “At some stages some people might want to work closer to home or closer to their childcare, rather than simply assuming everyone will come to an office in a central location.”
Bourke adds that instead of thinking of work as people sitting at desks, workspaces might become more like homes. “Our homes provide a variety of rooms which are used at different times for different things,” she says. “There might be a study for individual reflection, a television room to come together as a family for a joint activity. The hallway is a meeting spot and the kitchen table is for discussion.”
Meanwhile tomorrow’s workers are likely to have more power than ever before as they’re increasingly valued for their connections across businesses, industries and the globe as well as their technical abilities. “Workers will be more empowered and more selective as workplaces become more adapted to meet workers’ needs,” Bourke says.
More diverse but more overweight
The news isn’t all good for the Australian workforce according to the Deloitte and AMP Capital research report. Between 1995 and 2012 the average male and female workers gained four kilograms. If the current trends continues there are likely to be implications for the physical design of workplaces, according to Bourke. “If you think about 1,000 employees each weighing on average four kilograms more than they did, it will impact the amount of space people need,” she says.