At a time when the world is seemingly heading toward more isolation and protectionism, it is essential to tackle the challenges of the future of work – in other words: we need to collaborate more, not less.

At a time when the world is seemingly heading toward more isolation and protectionism, it is essential to tackle the challenges of the future of work – in other words: we need to collaborate more, not less.


This article was authored by Alain Dehaze, CEO of The Adecco Group.



As the world comes to terms with the economic impact of COVID-19 and the immediate transformation of the way we used to work, we are beginning to see emerging trends that will likely have a lasting impact on all of us. From the gradual shift away from globalization and open trade, the deepening economic and social inequalities, to the acceleration of automation in our workplaces – these past few months have highlighted the underlying shifts that will define the way we work in the coming years.


But while these difficult times may have given the impression that the best course of action is for countries, businesses, and individuals to isolate and lock themselves away from the rest of the world, it is important to address any challenges ahead through more, not less collaboration.


Only when we work together can we tackle many of the big challenges in the post-COVID-19 world:

  • How do we create a hybrid and flexible way of working?
  • How do we embrace Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the workplace?
  • How do we forge a new Social Contract to encapsulate the necessary change?


At the FU.SE 2020 Digital Conference this week, I stressed the importance of collaboration in these three areas:


Collaboration between employers and employees: Building a more flexible workplace


What we know for sure is that the future of work will be flexible. A hybrid model of remote and office work, with the overall split of 50/50, will become the norm. From our research we know that about three-quarters (77%) of employees want more flexibility at work in the post-COVID-19 era. They want to focus on the results they deliver, not necessarily the time they spend at their desks and in their offices.

At the same time, more than two-thirds (69%) of workers, and 76% of executives want work contracts to be based on business needs. Unsurprisingly, we find that these new expectations have also been reflected in the political discourse all across the globe – from New Zealand to Finland – as historic workplace norms are being put to the test.


This debate is not new, of course, but the coronavirus pandemic has acted like a catalyst. What we know for sure is that none of the changes leading to a more flexible future of work will happen without closer cooperation, dialogue and openness between employers and their employees.


Collaboration between humans and robots: Unleashing the full potential of AI


The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the need for AI and the role it plays in the workplace. According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report, the “human” share of labour hours will decrease from 71% to 58% in the next five years.


However, that is not to say that machines will replace humans. Quite on the contrary – 83% of workers surveyed in our recent White Paper believe advanced software could help them perform their tasks more efficiently. Technology is not necessarily here to replace jobs, but rather to enhance them.


But while our acceptance of AI has improved over time, some unease, especially when it comes to the human-machine collaboration, still remains. About a quarter (26%) of workers feel challenged or unable to cope with advanced technology, and only about a third (34%) feel comfortable.


To unleash the full potential of AI and foster a better collaboration between humans and robots, we will need to further boost investment in lifelong learning and skills development.


Collaboration at all levels: Governments, businesses, and workers need a new Social Contract


Two years ago, the Adecco Group launched a campaign #TimeToAct to underline the need for our labour markets’ upgrade for the 21st century. In light of the past developments, including the technological revolution, deepening political and economic volatility, growing inequalities, and more recently, COVID-19, it is safe to say that there is an urgent need for a new Social Contract.


All of us have different expectations of what the future of work should bring. As my colleague Bettina Schaller wrote here, workers are looking for flexibility paired with protection against loss of income. Businesses, on the other hand, are focused on agility combined with economic stability and cost efficiency. The only way to align these objectives and deliver both a fairer world for workers and greater economic gains for businesses and society is, thus, through a deliberate and mindful alignment. That’s why it’s crucial that all labour market stakeholders own up to their responsibilities with the clear ambition to make the most of the opportunities ahead of us.


For that reason, labour market transformation should be considered as a real opportunity for everyone – governments, businesses and workers. However, we will need an open dialogue going forward and most crucially more collaboration across all levels, geographies, and demographics.


To contribute to this dialogue, at the Adecco Group, and with the help of our partners, we have organized a unique 24-hour digital conference FU.SE Digital 2020 that features high-level speakers and aims to provide concrete solutions to some of the underlying challenges above.


Join the global debate, visit the website and re-watch the sessions.


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