A new PBS series, the Future of Work, starting September, sheds light on the fast-moving trends in the way Americans will go about their jobs. The six episode docuseries delves deeply into the “accelerated pace of change in the workplace and the potential for long-term impact on workers, employers, educators and communities across our country.”
The show will chronicle people who work in a wide array of industries, salary levels and age groups. The documentary will explore topics such as balancing college debt with finding jobs that could pay it off, the gig economy, remote working, digital nomads, the surge in robotics, artificial intelligence, future-proofing your career and other trends emanating out of the pandemic.
One of the most exciting things to come out of the pandemic is that both companies and workers have opened up to new ideas. There is no longer the need to do things just because “we’ve always done it this way.” We’re entering a time period of rapid change.
The Great Resignation has led to millions of workers quitting their jobs to find better opportunities. People are taking greater risks with their careers. The series takes a hard look at the “decline in workers opting in for the stability and predictability of their 9-5 jobs, and a rise of a new precariat – people who live from one short-term job to the next.”
To win the war for talent, companies are starting to listen to their employees and cater to their needs. The hybrid work model, in which employees will go to an office two or three days a week and work from home or remotely the rest of the time, seems to be the consensus amongst businesses.
We are also seeing employees demanding to stay at home, working remotely. They say that they’ll quit if forced to return to an office on a 9-5 and 5-days a week basis. Many folks have decided to get out of their homes and work from different locations. People have taken to doing their jobs at the beach or near ski slopes. Some decided to relocate to lower-cost locations within the United States to save money—while still receiving the same pay. Adventurous types traveled to other countries as digital nomads.
The documentary style programming profiles the journeys of a number of workers. One of the pieces covers what it’s like to live and work as a digital nomad. After going through an existential crisis, Annette told her boss about her bouts with depression. She was fired and felt “dispensable” and “replaceable.” Her husband, Daniel, held a job running emergency rooms. The couple decided to make a big change. They sold their belongings. Dan quit his job. They embarked on a globe-trotting journey leading a “digital nomad’ lifestyle. The couple traveled to Italy, India, France, Malaysia, Cuba, Vietnam and ended up settling down for a while in Thailand.
Annette reasoned “I figured the worst-case scenario is that we travel for a year. The best-case scenario is we make a lifestyle out of this.” They made a living working online doing video editing, freelancing, graphic design and teaching English. It’s estimated that around ten million Americans are currently working as digital nomads. Many are not too concerned with making big money, but highly prize pursuing experiences. The nomads don’t want to be weighed down with mortgage payments that they can’t afford or burdened with permanent jobs.
The digital nomadic experience isn’t for everyone. You need to worry about internet connectivity to do your work, immigration laws, staying safe and continuing to learn new customs. Nomadic workers became a source of revenue for countries, and they welcomed the newcomers. The U.S. dollar carries weight around the world enabling Annette and Dan to live inexpensively in a beautiful Thailand home with panoramic views of the beach and nature. They work to live and don’t live to work.
Over 55 million Americans work in the gig economy. They work for big app-based tech companies such as Uber, Lyft and TaskRabbit. Chloe Grishaw is on the TaskRabbit platform. She sets her own schedule and knows what she’s agreeing to without any long-term obligations. Chloe enjoys the freedom and flexibility, however, it comes with some financial insecurity. There’s no 9-to-5, nor health benefits or retirement plans. It’s going from one gig to another.
These are only a couple of the examples explored in the PBS series. The program will also address important issues and questions such as what jobs can we expect to be automated and which can’t, how to “futureproof” your current job and is the “American Dream” still alive?