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The future of work and the work metaverse in the post-Covid period in 2022: Quo Vadis?

"The future of work in 2022 presents new changes and trends dominated by digitization, sustainability and the irruption of the metaverse"

The COVID 19 pandemic that seems to subside in recent months, Russia's invasion of Ukraine, underlying economic sanctions as well as rising energy prices, supply chain tensions and accelerating inflation have caused an unprecedented health, political and social crisis that is undermining the prospects for economic recovery in 2022 in all countries.

This new scenario maintains a great economic impact at a global and local level and in the labor markets the game board has been seriously altered and most countries have adopted emergency labor regulations with institutions to protect companies and workers and the jobs charged to the public budget and with significant increases in debt and public deficits.

The future of work in 2022 therefore presents new changes and new trends dominated by the double axis of digitization and sustainability and by the emergence of the new phenomenon of the metaverse.

Let’s see below the main keys and where the future labor metaverse takes us in terms of employment in 2022.

Key 1: Work and society.

In 2019 it was already indisputable that the relationship between work and person was indissoluble and that work cannot be perceived as a commodity, being central in the economic, social and political debate. Technology is already advancing that will destroy old jobs and create new ones or transform existing ones. All countries will be forced to design training policies for their workforce in digital skills.

The pandemic has not changed this orientation, but it has accelerated the digitization of organizations and business models and, in a later phase, has led to a digital transformation that makes it necessary to have upskilling and reskilling of workers and to attract new digital talent.

The continuous present approach remains and it will be essential in Spain that the Government is right in the distribution of European funds Next Generation  and in the new PERTE to contribute to a more digital, sustainable, modern and innovative economy model. It is not a complete reformulation of the productive model, since tourism and services will continue to have an enormous weight in economic growth, but enormous windows of opportunity are opening for digitization and digital transformation and sustainability of sectors and industries (financial; hotels; commerce; automotive; renewable energies; leisure and entertainment; agriculture and fishing; transport; logistics; etc.). European funds should help reduce the digital divide between territories and people.

Covid 19 has also brought about the revaluation of essential jobs for the community that do not have high salaries but have kept the production and consumption circuit of basic needs activated (food, transportation, cleaning, etc.). The pandemic has also meant a redefinition of the importance of labor standards for the survival of companies and workers

At the beginning of 2022, work continues to be a means of obtaining vital income and essential social participation, and employees are already demanding a new type of relationship between company and worker.

Remote work for many months during the pandemic has been an unprecedented success and now, after the successive waves, companies are redefining their hybrid work policies, including new concepts of autonomy, trust and ultra-flexibility at work that make the classic questions of where , when and how they work are in a phase of change and search for virtuous balance to guarantee service and productivity gains.

The motto of work where you want, when you want and how you want seems to emerge strongly and although it will not be possible in all sectors, it will soon reach its next frontier: industry and services, and the international teleworking scenario and the new digital nomads. Work has changed its borders from where (physical offices); when (days and hours); but also how and why (the work purpose). The classic concepts of workplace and working day and hours will tend to be redefined. Workers will be more empowered and will tend to recover spaces of sovereignty over the place and time of work and will take more control of their lives and will be able to be more productive by working fewer hours

Conclusion: work will remain central in the economic, social and political debate and companies must actively listen to employees and move towards new, more flexible jobs with greater openness in the workplace; working time; and the way of providing the services.  

Key 2: Decent and sustainable work

Work will continue to be polarized in Spain between Insider (workers with indefinite contracts and great bargaining power and little mobility and rotation) and outsiders (workers with temporary contracts or discontinuous permanent contracts and unemployed with low bargaining power and high labor turnover).

In this context, the new labor reform approved in 2022 contains relevant changes to reduce this polarization and duality and advance decent work for all, but without abandoning the legal architecture of the 2012 reform with a focus on new rules to limit temporary hiring. promoting the new discontinuous fixed lines; improve wages with the centrality of sector agreements maintaining the application priority of company agreements in other matters; and reinforcing internal flexibility with the new ERTEs and the new permanent RED mechanism.

However, gaps between the unemployed and employed will persist; between fixed and temporary; and, in the future, between fixed continuous and fixed discontinuous. Duality and inequality will be reduced but not eliminated, and unwanted bias and discontinuity will continue to exist.

As far as sustainable work is concerned, the sustainability of labor relations will be a challenge and a desire for the future that will require constant updating and training programs. upskilling y reskilling of workers. It will be important for companies not only to find and attract global talent across multiple jurisdictions but to create and develop available internal and external talent in a flexible manner.

Workers will also demand digital disconnection; conciliation; co-responsibility; work in the sectors that are possible without going to the office and without schedule; and, above all, work with a purpose. The war for talent will return, although only for highly qualified jobs. And demographic and longevity challenges will need to be met as 100-year lives will require longer careers.

In the direction towards decent and sustainable work, the new 2022 labor reform will undoubtedly help, but entrepreneurship and the new emerging ecosystems must be promoted and more youth employment and training contracts must be promoted to reduce youth unemployment and also encourage employment. of the seniors.

Conclusion: work must be of higher quality and sustainable, and employability must be guaranteed to ensure a virtuous cycle of creating more and better jobs with better wages, especially for young people; women; and seniors and promote programs of upskilling y reskilling.

Key 3: The organization of work and production in a digital economy. The work metaverse.

The organization of work will admit more and more atypical forms of work. Remote work and hybrid work such as distributed work across platforms will grow exponentially. Resource-intensive business models (capital and people) will give way to technology-intensive business models, improving quality, profitability and efficiency, and based on artificial intelligence solutions in decision-making. In the next few years, technology will generate more than half of the world's GDP. There will continue to be tensions and friction between reality and labor standards, especially in the relationship between self-employment and dependent work.

Supply chains and logistics will continue to be essential especially in light of the rise of e-commerce; the marketplaces vertical; or the live-shopping although there will be a trend towards less globalization and scenarios of greater protectionism or proximity in the production of goods and services.

There will be more digital nomads and new global jobs ecosystems where companies will increasingly look for talent from anywhere in the world. Spain will compete with other labor markets to attract qualified foreign labor, a key factor for the competitiveness of the new economy. The data economy and the presence of robots and artificial intelligence in all industries and production processes will intensify. Technological specialists will be needed in this new digital economy and Spain will have to succeed in valuing the attractive climate and quality of life of our country and also guarantee legal certainty and a stable horizon for investors.

Companies that do not have ultra flexible labor policies will lose talent or will not be able to attract it or hire the professionals they need. Digital platforms and global ecosystems will move more jobs. The internal templates will tend to be reduced and the formulas of outsourcing.

And, also, the work metaverse will arrive, a new universe in which citizens will be able to consume, work, play, interact and have parallel lives in which the physical world and the virtual world will intermingle. The metaverse will be a revolution for industries and their labor sub-markets: leisure and entertainment; communication; trade; sightseeing; real estate; retail; financial; etc.

The metaverse is a business driven by the technology giants (Facebook – now Meta; Microsoft; Amazon; Apple; Google) and leading companies from different sectors will create a new ecosystem of new jobs and new consumers. It will be a new customer experience and a new immersive employee experience with VR headsets that will sell physical and digital goods. blockchain; cryptocurrencies; or the Tokens or NFT or the Web3 to the parallel universe of the metaverse will require new legal solutions to new problems.

The labor metaverse will be a great opportunity for the creation of thousands of jobs to build and manage 3D worlds, virtual and augmented realities; new interactive customer experiences; and new professions such as data scientists will be created; avatar technologists; IOS or ANDROID engineers; CLOUD architects; graphics and quantum computing designers; etc.

Conclusion: The organization of work and production will evolve very rapidly due to the production of new physical and virtual goods and services, and the labor metaverse will bring new jobs around an increasingly digital economy.

Key 4: The governance of work in a digital and platform economy.

The future of work is all about qualitative change. There will not be fewer jobs... but there will be other types of jobs derived from the digital economy and from some changes in the production model that will increasingly surpass an industrial or Fordist model and move towards a model governed by artificial intelligence and data.

The great challenge will be how these changes and the new work will be governed through regulations and institutions.

In relation to the regulations, it is clear that Spain needs a new digital (and not analog) Workers' Statute and it should probably be a brief regulation that includes only a few imperative rules of the game that are not available and are imposed on companies and workers and delegate a wide field of play to the collective bargaining of the sector and the company. Institutional models of highly regulatory norms are very rigid and should be avoided. And the new digital and open economy will require dealing with regulations and strict compliance with the challenges of cybersecurity and privacy and the protection of physical and digital identity, and there will also be ethical dilemmas that will go beyond mere compliance with the regulations.

In relation to institutions, Spain has an extraordinary asset that is social dialogue and the ability of companies and unions to build spaces for consensus. Of course, the institutions that adopt international (ILO and European Union) and national labor standards will continue to be relevant, as well as the control and surveillance institutions (Labor Inspection and Labor Courts). Public employment services and private placement agencies will need to work together more efficiently because there will continue to be a shortage of work and a reduction in working hours. The public programs of guaranteed minimum work and universal public income will tend to grow and improve. Companies will also have to adapt to govern changes and social responsibility, and the ESG approach will tend to be more focused on personalized policies to protect employee well-being.

Conclusion: The labor market and the digital and sustainable economy need a new, digital and non-analogue Workers' Statute, very brief with less legislative intervention and with greater regulatory tasks for collective agreements and employment or commercial contracts.

In summary, there are many and far-reaching labor changes that will sweep the world in 2022 and technological advances will further transform the labor map of jobs with fewer working hours in the coming years, adding new challenges.

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About the Author

Carlos de la Torre Garcia

Carlos de la Torre Garcia

Attorney Of Counsel of the Labor Department of Baker & Mckenzie. Specialist in labor and Social Security advice for national and international clients.

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