Even in today’s work culture, robots and automation have redefined how humans perform their duties.

In the past five years, it could have appeared insane to think of a taxi without a human driver, as there are with Uber or a newsroom without a reporter, exemplified by Japan’s JX press.

If you are still trying to wrap your head around a newsroom staffed only by software engineers, consider Amazon’s grocery store in Seattle which requires zero human interaction or a five-star hotel in Netherlands without a single beautiful lady at the reception.

Welcome to the future.

If you think your type of job is exempt, you are only deluded. Accountants will be replaced by software and trading robots, banks will be replaced by mobile apps.

Even lawyers will be replaced by virtual legal assistants.

Everything will be ruled by automation and Artificial Intelligence. But there is no need to panic.

Here are 5 things you need to know about the future of work, so you can start preparing in earnest.

1. Thinking & Creativity To The Rescue

In the next ten to twenty years when AI may have taken over the workplace, humans will have only one thing left for them – quality thinking.

So, the good news is, robots cannot think. Humans must do the thinking for them.

“For you to be relevant in the future workplace in Nigerian and globally, you need to put on your thinking cap. Creativity is going to be the lifeblood and in high demand, so you need to think and be creative,” said Oluwabumni Akinyemi while anchoring a panel discussion on the “Future of Work” at the just concluded edition of Techpoint Inspired conference in Lagos.

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Indeed, “the future of work can be scary but at the same time we feel it is an opportunity for people to innovate,” noted Blessing Ayemhere, who is the founder of an online service marketplace called Proville.

According to him, “If you look at trends, what employers are looking for are people that can bring value. Beyond the numbers and just doing the technical work, you also should be able to THINK beyond the limits of traditional working style to innovate, adapt and to also ensure that you are able to meet the evolving needs of customers as it grows.”

2. Death Of Nine-To-Five

A significant feature of work in the future will be its flexibility of working hours.

The traditional working hours of 9am to 5pm as we know it is heading to the gallows.

As technology becomes more prevalent, workers will no longer need to wake early to head to a physically designated building to carry out their tasks.

With a computer device and internet, all barriers to effective work have been eliminated.

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“Increasingly, we are seeing that people are beginning to choose where, how and when they work. And they want to make that choice themselves. The traditional work period as we know is being challenged,” noted Ayemhere.

So, if you are preparing yourself for that cozy office environment, re-strategise, in the future, it won’t be relevant.

3. Future Of Work Is Without Physical Boundary

In the future, you could be a staff of a European or American conglomerate without having to leave the shores of Nigeria.

All you will need is your internet-enabled computer.

You will no longer need to get transferred to a particular region to work from the physical location.

What would be required of you will be the relevant skill set to execute your tasks effectively.

4. A University Degree May Not Be Necessary

That’s correct. This doesn’t in anyway imply that university education will become completely obsolete.

But many more quality skills could be acquired through online education that does not require any formal university education process.

Take for instance, many sought-after software engineers have no university education, but they are highly skilled and therefore earn premium reward for their services.  

“Employers today are not so much concerned about what class of degree you have. More and more employers are looking at the cultural fit and training people for relevant skills,” said Ayemhere.

“So, culture, gender, the growing needs of the people and the disruption that technology is bringing into the workplace is defining more and more the needs and focus of employers,” he added.

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Olufunbi Falayi is Partner at Passion Incubator. In his dealings with several corporate organisations in their hunt for talent, he observed: “Some of the things we are beginning to see, having engaged several corporate organisations, is how do you engage people with data science, artificial intelligence and machine learning skills?

“Some of those skills, most corporate organisations are in dire need of them. And that is why people should be encouraged to acquire these skills. The good thing is, you don’t need to go through the university to acquire those skills. You can actually learn them on your own.”

5. Communication Skills Will Matter

Communication skills include those soft and interpersonal skills.

Perhaps, you never thought any other skills beyond your technical competence were important in your job. Well, in the future of work, how you communicate with your clients and superiors will determine your survival.

Falayi rightly noted that communication skills is the part of skill set that is underestimated.

Narrating his experience dealing with corporates, he observed that, “one of the reasons corporate organisations do not work well with startups or find it difficult to engage them is because people have the hard skills, but they lack soft skills to adapt to the culture of the organisations.

“And without those skills, there will be no alignment. So, it is not always about the hard skills, it is also about teaching people how to communicate.

“For instance, how do you deliver on time? How do you ensure that when you say that you are going to deliver your project on Friday, that you are going to do just that?

“These are some of things that will define future of work. And that is how organisations can depend on you as contingent workforce.”

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And talking about contingent workforce, it is going to be a prominent feature of the future workplace.

Contingent workforce is where people who are not on the organisation’s payroll are employed on contract basis.

In the US, between 2005 and 2014, contingent workforce and freelancers accounted for 35% of net job growth in the country.

“And that is what we are beginning to see even in Nigeria, as this trend democratises opportunity,” noted Falayi.

Already, his company, Passion Incubator is investing millions of naira with Facebook to figure out what the future of work will be in the next 10 to 20 years.

There is an ongoing research about future of work in about 7 countries in Africa. And what they are trying to figure out is what kind of work will be available? How will they be available and where will they be available?

A very important part of their research is how technology in the workplace will affect the education system.

This involves a critical look at what the education system needs to do to prepare Generation Z for the future of work.

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