We had the honor of being included in Adobe’s Think Tank on the future of work earlier this month. Kate was on the panel with several other thought leaders in technology, HR, freelancing, office design and more. There was a ton of great discussion about what the future of work looks like and well, it’s an exciting time.

Our workforce is becoming more independent, more remote, more focused on their passions and more in control of their career paths than ever. Here are the trends defining the future of work and what they mean for you and your future.

1) Lifestyle as a currency is a top desire

Freedom and flexibility have replaced job security. Matt Dorey, co-founder and CEO of Factory, brought up an interesting concept of how workers want to be compensated today. He called it “lifestyle as currency.” Companies are now accepting that the status quo of yesterday is over. Security is no longer the number one desired benefit of a career for millennials – the largest cohort in the workforce. Instead, training and development is now the number one most desired benefit at 22%, with flexibility following at 19%. 

With companies – large and small – coming to grips with this, it’s now easier for workers to take the risk to pursue flexibility and freedom. It’s no longer frowned upon to be at a job or several jobs for less than a year each. Workers now have the freedom to be more concerned with enhancing our lives through experience rather than salaries. Matt found that his company, Factory Zero can attract top engineering talent from companies like Google and Facebook with the lure of a more flexible lifestyle, interesting technology and remote work. These engineers have even taken up to $50k-$100k in salary reductions for flexibility.

Additionally, people today are focused on a live-in-the-moment lifestyle. They’re less concerned with saving for their future or security and more in the moment – what matters most to the things that make them happy such as family, wellness, travel, etc. They still want to save and retire one day, but it’s less of a concern than it was in the past.

2) Companies are having to work for people

Careers are becoming more like dating. There’s a power shift happening from employer to employee. Individuals are emerging as important star brands, attracting companies with their expertise rather than the other way around. Companies want to hire the top people who are going to have the biggest impact – no matter how much they’ve jumped around. And workers want to have an impact – to make a difference and feel valued. They want to be a part of something greater than themselves.

The concept of this power shift is called “portfolio careers.” But we like to think of it as people pursuing entrepreneurial careers – picking and choosing the companies they work with based on their interests, skills and passions. In other words, the future looks a whole lot like a workforce of freelancers but freelancers working together in networks. Millennials want to learn from their peers and other people with stellar reputations. Companies are best off creating a fast-paced and flexible learning environment to attract young talent.

This concept of star personal brands will become increasingly interesting and complex as Gen Z gets older and enters the workforce. This is the first generation to grow up with computers from day one. They’ve grown up sharing every bit of their personal lives on social media – on the internet. This will either lead to an acceptance of a more diverse array lifestyles in the workforce or this generation becoming increasingly concerned about security and drawing a line between personal and professional personas. Likely the former.

3) We’ll work more, but more effectively on what we want

We couldn’t agree more with Constellation Research analyst Alan Lepofsky when he said, “If history dictates, we’ll not work any less, but hopefully we’ll work more effectively, work on the right things.” He added, “It’s okay if I’m still working 40 or 50 hours a week, but I hope I’m using them better, I hope I’m doing better things.”

The future of work is working more, but on the things we’re passionate about. It’s also about working more effectively. According to Jon Perera, VP of product development for the Adobe Document Cloud, “The companies that are most successful five years from now will be the ones who find a way to scale that up” so more people are engaged on that level.

Research shows moonlighters (meaning people with several jobs or passion projects) in the US are more likely to be happy and optimistic than non-moonlighters. In fact, there is an increasing trend of workers leaving their jobs to pursue happiness. Nearly 60% of US office workers say they’re likely to leave their job for a new opportunity.

4) Technology will enable the lifestyles we want

Manual work gets in the way of the creative process. Although there is some speculation that technology like bots will eliminate our jobs, experts see an opportunity for augmentation, not elimination. Bots will augment our mental processes, not replace them. They’ll allow us to focus on the things we want to focus on – limiting mundane tasks so we can do what we’re hired to do. They will make us better.

The challenge will be for companies and society to train people the technical skills to be successful in the future – to be competitive. The issue lies in our increasing ability to create scale. Technology is getting so exponentially smarter that now one innovation can replace 100 workers, rather than one-to-one or a few like it has been through history – such as the industrial revolution. But as long as we can prepare future workers, opportunities are bright.

5) The tools of tomorrow will finally look different

Over the past twenty years, tools have been derivative of each other – looking generally the same. In the next decade, our tools will look completely different. As the friction around technology like augmented reality reduces, there will be more opportunity for technology to completely change how we live and work.

On the panel, Matt made a great point. It’s crazy that someone might know your relationship status or what you ate lunch, but they don’t know about your values, skills or mission. This occurrence is a direct result of the social graph – of people connecting with people they went to high school with on social media – people they probably lost touch with for a reason.

But we’re beginning to see a shift in technology enabling more meaningful connections. The social graph has become the interest graph, changing the way people connect and exchange information based on what we like. We’re moving towards the intention graph connecting people pushing for the same body of work. One day, there could be an algorithm matching the people who want to be working together. What happens when we leverage the internet to figure out who we should meet and who you should work with?

Final thoughts

We’re excited to see many of the freelancers in the CloudPeeps community at the forefront of these trends. We’re seeing freelancers and entrepreneurs lead the way in this new way of work and life – embracing flexibility and freedom to work on what they want. We hope our community continues to test the waters and have a louder voice in the conversation on the future of work. We think we’ll see freelancers building tools for each other and innovating according to the lives they want to build.

What do you think the future of work is? What trends are you seeing leading the way?