Trends and challenges in the digital working world in the third decade of the 21st century

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The rapid growth of digitalization has been ongoing since the invention of the Web in the 1990s, changing peoples’ everyday lives. Ones and zeroes have altered the way people communicate with each other, how they travel, learn, shop and even their workplace. Many companies and small businesses have gone through a significant digital transformation in order to keep up with new trends and adapt to the significant changes in consumer behavior. As a result of the digitalization of the working world, employers must learn how to meet potential challenges and keep up with new trends in an effort to operate more efficiently while providing the best services to their clients. The following blog post aims at examining the opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the workplace. In addition, we will also look at the evolution of digitalization as well as what the future might hold for the digital working world in the next ten years.


A historical timeline of digitalization

Living in a fast-paced and ever-changing environment suggests that people should focus their attention on the future and strive to find ways of making it better. Although this may be the right attitude in many situations, it is also important for people to consider the events that took place in the past. Understanding how certain things emerged and learning from them is significant in the attempts of making things better in the future. Digitalization is undoubtedly one of the most powerful forces in the 21st century that has affected almost every aspect of peoples’ lives. In order to appreciate its role and importance for the evolution of society, we will trace the development of digitalization back to its very beginning. Below we will also explore how digitalization has changed the working world throughout the years.


1947 – 1969

Digitalization as a concept was first introduced to the world with the invention of the transistor in late 1947 by John Bardeen, Walter Brattain, and William Shockley. A small device that would, later on, change the world forever, making it possible for people to use all types of electronic devices, mainly the computer. Although the computer had already been invented, the birth of the transistor made it possible for smaller versions of computers to be produced, which tuned out to be ideal for commercial uses. Such computers became really popular from the 1950s onwards as they were much more affordable and quite helpful with business data processing. Some of the first clients to use transistor computers were the Manchester University, the US Navy, several laboratories, aircraft companies and, towards the ends of the 1950s, banks, phone companies and other enterprises. The main purposes of these devices were simple arithmetic and data handling, the large scale of the computer market was yet to expand with new innovations changing the way people interact with computers. The development of the ARPANET in 1969 was another breakthrough for this time period as this network placed the foundations of the Internet.


1970 – 1989

Now that the digital revolution was already taking place, more and more people started utilizing digital technology even in their homes. Governments, organizations, schools and businesses from all over the world were also taking advantage of computers, which in turn led to the creation of new jobs such as data entry clerks who had to convert analog data into a digital one. New inventions such as the first email that was sent out in 1971 or the first laptop computer that was born in 1981 would have not only major societal impacts but also economic ones. This resulted in much more efficient business productivity than ever before. New technology like robots, automatons and microprocessors changed the industry significantly while giving rise to an era of high production. The Information Age marked the beginning of an era where digital technology would facilitate every aspect of the lives of future generations.


1989 – 2000

1989 was another pivotal year for the rapid advancement of technology when Tim Berners-Lee introduced the World Wide Web that we use to this day. The years after 1990 marked a rapid advancement of technology thanks to the Internet that also changed entirely the way people communicated with each other, worked and basically lived. Almost every year until the beginning of the new millennial introduced new updates or technologies that were meant to facilitate society’s way of living. Commercial dial-up internet, smartphones, social media sites or the Bluetooth technology have all been made with the purpose of allowing people to consume and share information while interacting with each other on a whole different level. Technologies changed also the way many companies worked at the time as they adjusted their businesses to new or existing software.


2001 – 2019

When people stepped into the 21st century, societies all over the world saw a huge rise of social media and other communication platforms. Changing trends could be observed not only within the way people interacted with each other but also within industries and businesses. Organizations had to adapt to the new trends and therefore underwent some significant changes in the nature of the workplace. Over the years the employment opportunities have also evolved with the creation of new job roles requiring analytical and social skills rather than physical skills. Company leaders have also changed the way they perceive their workers by having creates new ways of engaging them in the working process.


Current challenges and trends in the digital working world

Digitalization is inevitable, especially in the 21st century. Business owners, leaders and HR managers must rethink strategically their priorities and plan a smooth transformation to a more or fully digitalized workplace. Many enterprises commit to digital transformation since a successful business requires them to stay ahead with the fast-developing digital world that surrounds them. Furthermore, nowadays people, and millennials in particular, are showing the world’s most powerful consumer behavior and therefore can be perceived as the ‘core’ of many businesses, as suggested by Alan Jope, CEO of Unilever. With technology being so deeply integrated into peoples’ lives and habits in general, enterprises and organizations of various kinds must take advantage of the emerging trends and tailor their businesses in accordance with consumers’ demands but also the needs of their employees. Yet, achieving a digital working environment and keeping up with new trends may lead to a lot of obstacles. This section will look at the current challenges as well as trends that companies must take into account when considering a digital transformation for their business.



Updating a given business technology to the latest trends is certainly not enough in the long run. Business leaders must always seek other practices, such as digital transformation strategies, that will prove to be much more sustainable. Below you can find a list of the most common trends that have proven to be quite successful in attracting new customers and keeping employees satisfied and happy with their workplace.

  • The Cloud: Nowadays plenty of people’s data is stored in the cloud, a software for storing one’s data on the Internet instead of on one’s computer. Although it is not something new, enterprises must change the way they use it in order to keep pace with the future and develop new innovative technologies. Investing in cloud-based storage reduces infrastructure costs and IT expenses while providing employees with fast and easy accessibility to huge amounts of data, which in turn can boost their organizational productivity. In addition, cloud computing can be tailored based on the needs of each business individually.
  • Personalized apps: Time is one of the most precious resources, especially in such a fast-paced environment. A study by Gloria Mark, a professor at the University of California, found that employees nowadays cannot focus on their tasks for more than eleven continuous minutes without being interrupted or distracted by messages, notifications or updates. As a response, employers have incorporated personalized applications that deliver only the most relevant information to enable one to stay engaged with their routine tasks while making better decisions and finishing one’s work on time. This trend has proven to be efficient by increasing productivity by nearly 45%, which in turn could save companies some 240 hours of lost time per year.
  • Distributed authority: The relationship between an employer and an employee has shifted throughout the years. Many leaders and managers cherish their team members by showing them constant recognition, support, and mostly trust. This is why traditions that involve decision-making actions to be taken only by those with a higher position in the hierarchy are outdated and irrelevant to a modern workplace. One of the many benefits of the digital working world is that it allows for a more distributed decision making, where every employee has the right to express their ideas and voice their opinions clearly. Thus an improvement in employee engagement can be established along with an increase in the overall productivity within the company.
  • Voice-driven search: Virtual assistant technology such as Siri, Google Home or Amazon Echo has been already used by many people who wish to facilitate their everyday activities. Virtual assistant technology has also received quite a lot of positive feedback from the public, which has led to some big companies like Amazon investing heavily in such technology, for instance by implementing Alexa into their workplace. Thus new possibilities for easy search of information have been proposed to employees, replacing old traditional search methods.
  • Embracing deskless workforce: More and more remote workers are coming up to the surface, with some 80% of the workforce being deskless. Although working away from the office might be a great opportunity for people to have a better work-life balance, this phenomenon can also lead to employees feeling disconnected from their job. This is why embracing the needs of the remote workforce has been one of the huge trends circulating around the digital working world since the past year. Many companies and organizations, via built-in video conferencing or specially designed mobile apps, have established a digital workplace in order to improve communication and collaboration between employees and their colleagues. Experts predict that this trend will only continue to grow in the following years, as a response to the growth of the number of deskless workers. 



There has always been skepticism around the role of digitization in society, whether for its ability to deprive people of their physical experiences or the way it makes people communicate and interact with each other. When talking about work, technologies have already replaced certain workers by executing their duties with the same, if not even better, success. The digital transformation that a business or organization might decide to undergo hides similar challenges that need to be observed with utmost attention. Below we will outline the three most common obstacles that many digital workplaces could face.

  • GDPR: In the wake of cybersecurity and data policies, many companies and institutions have changed their policies in order to comply with the European legal requirements for protecting their customers’ and employees’ personal information. Data-driven industries are experiencing the most pressure when it comes to GDPR legislation, which in turn will result in companies changing completely their cultures and methods of working. As suggested above, storing and sharing data on cloud-based platforms will only accelerate in the following years, which is only another reason why businesses and organizations are required to rethink the ways they protect other people’s assets and data. One way to do so is through the adoption of new platforms that would allow developers to store information under customized security models.
  • IT employee experience: Despite the advanced technologies that many large businesses are using, they are struggling with providing a solid digital experience for their employees. This is why IT specialists, HR managers and leaders have come up with a practice known as employee experience design (EED) to help tackle the decline in employee engagement. Today’s digital working world’s top priorities are agility, communication, and collaboration. Therefore adopting a new approach that considers employees’ interaction with technologies would contribute significantly to their relationship with their workplace. Implementing this process requires a deep understanding of its principles and method of working, which is why employers who wish to invest in it must learn about EED before doing so. 
  • Skillful employees: Adopting a digital transformation and implementing technology in the workplace can also pose challenges when it comes to employees learning to use them properly. Although the digital age has been around for quite some time, a skills gap continues to persist with organizations failing to build and retain a skillful workforce. To battle this issue, business leaders must invest in innovative learning solutions that could help their employees improve their technical skills.
  • Costs: Irrespective of the intentions of business leaders to undergo a digital transformation, such modernization might actually turn out to be quite expensive. Companies should come up with a detailed investment plan that will ensure that the value of such an investment will be sustainable. In addition, a well-thought plan of action could also help enterprises predict any complications or hidden costs that might significantly affect their budget.


What will the future bring? Implications for the next ten years

There have been some significant changes in the digital working world so far, so it is a bit difficult to provide exact predictions of what technology will do to the workplace in the next ten years. Every year more and more organizations choose to undergo digital transformation for the sake of their businesses, the wellbeing of their employees and the way they meet the needs of their consumers. Therefore, it stands to reason that this trend will only continue to expand in the following years. Yet, what exactly should business owners expect?

Starting from this year, it is expected that over 50 billion devices will be connected to the Internet. Such forecasts are based on the constant expansion of connectivity and the multiple new advancements in Internet technologies and device portability. In addition, experts believe that by the end of 2020, nearly 75% of businesses will be digital or will have started a digital transformation. However, such predictions do not claim that all of them will be successful in the transition. Another forecast for the digital working world is that it tends to become much more accessible than ever. With employees experiencing difficulties with the usage of technologies in their job, accessibility and making the digital workplace usable by different age groups will be one of the top priorities for business leaders. New channels and services will emerge in response to the need for creating an inclusive workplace that is designated for all workers.

Blending humans and technology, however, might also raise the question that people will be soon replaced by machines. Experts believe that such dystopia is unlikely to unfold in the future. The notion that machines will replace the human workforce has been circulating for quite some time, yet there is still a huge amount of people being employed in 2019. This is why enterprises can confidently invest in hiring new talents or improving the workplace for their current ones, and teach them how to successfully work along with technologies. Speaking of people working with technologies, another prediction results the growing need of skilled workers. Digital literacy is a trend that will expand in the following years, with people experiencing the need to be digitally smarter. Last but not least, mobile working is expected to reach higher peaks than ever before, due to the increasing desire of workers to work remotely. Flexible working hours and location will be amongst the leading things that people will look for when in the search of the ideal job.