UVU Prof, Global Thought Leader on the Future of Work Shares his Thoughts on Workforce Trends that will Dominate the Future

If anyone can tell you how the traditional office experience could change over the next 10 years, it's UVU professor Jonathan Westover.


Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the landscape of work shifted faster than anyone could have imagined. Instead of office boardrooms being filled with employees, they are largely empty as employees have gone home and are attending meetings through a screen. Chances are while reading this article you are probably doing so on your mobile phone, laptop, or tablet — and that is exactly the kind of change that will dominate the future of work, according to UVU professor and No. 1 global thought leader in the future of work, Dr. Jonathan Westover.

Westover, chair of the Organizational Leadership Department, was recently ranked as the No. 1 global thought leader and influencer in human resources, innovation, and the future of work by Thinkers360. His involvement at UVU extends well beyond the classroom as he oversees 400 service-learning courses as the academic director for the Center of Social Impact and serves as a faculty fellow for the Center for the Study of Ethics.

The UVU professor has been studying the future of work and innovation for some time, forging the path for him to become an expert in the area. In 2007, he started his own consulting firm, Human Capital Innovations, and has been doing consulting work on the side in addition to publishing the Human Capital Leadership magazine quarterly and his podcast that currently has about 370 episodes. In November, Westover published his book, The Alchemy of Truly Remarkable Leadership: Ordinary, Everyday Actions that Produce Extraordinary Results, and it has become an award-winning No. 1 bestseller.

If anyone can tell you how the traditional office experience could change over the next 10 years, it is Dr. Westover — and he shared his top five predictions for future trends in the workforce here. Buckle up… we may be closer to the future than we thought!

1. More virtual work

According to Westover, the pandemic pushed society into the future of work a lot faster than it otherwise would have. The forced distancing from one another led the general population to begin using virtual platforms to complete work. The technology used to work virtually is not new, but the pandemic allowed for those platforms to be used more. This means that in the future, there will be a strong increase in virtual work and work options.

“I often talk about the pandemic as the accelerator into the future of work. Nothing new has happened during the pandemic in terms of virtual work and work-from-home arrangements, as well as utilizing Teams or Zoom. All of those technologies existed before, and we have seen this shift coming for at least the last decade or more, but the shift was so immediate that we needed to utilize such platforms in order to survive. We will never go back to the way that we were before.”

The increase in virtual work also allows for innovative opportunities and more diverse teams. Being able to connect through a laptop means that our work teams can be in various places at once, allowing for a more diverse workforce. Dr. Westover added, “Due to technological disruptions and advancements and the increasingly interconnected world, more diverse workplaces, people in remote teams are working with people all over the world. There is no geographical limit to the workforce anymore.”

Believe it or not, something good did actually come from all this COVID business!

2. More flexible work

With an increase in virtual work comes an increase in flexible work options.

In the future, we can assume that companies will offer a hybrid experience for their employees where they can spend some time in the office and some time at home. “The number of employees who want a hybrid experience will probably be more common. Each organization is going to have to figure out that balance and determine which technologies they are going to be able to utilize to maximize the performance potential of their employees given these new hybrid arrangements.”

“If I am a young person who wants to get a tiny house and travel the world while working and being employed, there are so many opportunities to do that and to be a digital nomad, and I don’t have to be locked into one location. That opportunity today is much greater than it was 10 years ago, and I think in the next 5-10 years it will almost become ubiquitous.”

You can go ahead and add “look for tiny house in the tropics” to your to-do list now.

3. More segmented and contingent work

For some time, the trend of segmented and contingent work has been on the rise. We are seeing this as companies like Airbnb and Uber are becoming more popular, and freelance work is more common than ever before. Project-based short-term engagements will increase as it is beneficial to both employers and employees. “The gig economy is on the rise. The commitment between employee and employer has changed dramatically. The employer wants more flexibility, for an employee to be more agile and adapt to the workplace, and they don’t want to be stuck with high labor costs. Employees don’t want to be locked in and feel tied to a job.”

This changing commitment between employers and employees as contingent work increases also means that the work experience of today’s workers will look vastly different from that of our parents and grandparents who worked for one or two companies their whole lives. People now switch jobs every few years, and many even change career paths several times. Westover says it’s all good.

4. A serious look at legislation regarding contract work

As more contingent and project-based work increases, governments and organizations will have to take a serious look at how to deal with such conditions. Confused? Let’s break it down.

Employees who work for companies like Uber work as independent contractors, meaning that they only work on an as-needed basis. Because of this, they don’t get the full benefits that a regular employee would. In this new gig economy, which just means that temporary positions are more common, these independent contractors are working on a needs basis with major flexibility, but they are pushing for the benefits of being a regular employee. Doesn’t seem fair? That’s exactly what governments and organizations will have to consider as we adapt to this new style of work.

“We are going to see these kinds of issues pop up from a legal and legislative standpoint, and companies will have to look at their business model and determine what contingent work and benefits will look like,” Westover said.

5. Automation and technologically-driven work

It goes without saying that when technological advancements happen in the workforce, so does automation. Don’t freak out — robots are not taking over the world… yet.

While this causes some to lose their livelihoods, it is also a great opportunity for new opportunities within the workforce. “Many of the jobs that will be around in 10 years have not yet even been conceived of yet, and utilizing machine learning and AI to automate more of our work allows us to focus more on the work that is meaningful and unique to what humans bring to the table,” Westover said. 

As we advance into the future of work, Westover says change is inevitable — and leaning into those changes will be more beneficial in the long run. “I think we should lean into change, recognizing that we want to engage with the world and lead the innovations that drive and shape the future instead of being a mere recipient of the new context that is put in place.” 

If change is indeed one of the constants in life, especially in work — you can bet that Jonathan Westover will be tracking it.