Fundamentally, the work environment has not changed much over the last 100 years, and I believe we are on the verge of major changes and disruptions. These changes are deeper than the issues that COVID raised. Even if remote work is here to stay, this development does not impact many industries, such as the service industry, sales industry, and hospitality industry. Moreover, how open states are to these changes will drastically shape the legal environment and how fast these and other changes will take place. I make the following five predictions that I believe will change the work environment over the next decade:
1. Shared workforce among multiple employers.
Currently, each company is independent and is a silo by itself. I predict that employers will utilize technology to create a shared workforce between multiple companies. There are benefits for the employees and the employers in setting up a shared employment arrangement. The gig economy is just a start of this process, and companies are recognizing the efficiencies in utilizing a shared workforce. For employees, some benefits include more predictable, consistent work, as well as less risk because the employee will not be reliant upon only one company. Employers would benefit from a more stable workforce, the ability to attract a more skilled worker by guaranteeing more hours, and recognizing efficiencies in hiring by sharing this cost among multiple employers.
Sharing of employees could also be utilized in industries that require the employee to be physically present, such as a restaurant. Local restaurants could coordinate where the employees are needed on certain days. Obviously, this will be limited to a smaller geographic location, but technology could make this a possibility.
A key concern employers would need to navigate is potential joint employer legal liability by utilizing the same employees. However, future legislation and indemnity agreements between the employers could potentially address this concern.
2. Automatic time clocks.
For hourly, non-exempt employees, the time clock has not changed much over the last 100 years: the employee waits in line to clock in and out on the employer’s time clock. For some employees in the office setting, they may track their own time on a computer, spreadsheet, or some other digital format, but the fundamental process has for the most part remained the same. With technology developing to recognize people more easily through facial recognition or other means, companies will be utilizing automatic time clocks that will be more accurate, harder to defraud, and could provide video evidence of the actual time spent working by the employees should it be challenged in litigation.
3. Daily pay and use of cryptocurrencies as a form of payment.
Some employers have already started paying employees at the end of each day as a benefit to employees. With payroll technology advancing, processing payroll can be done on a daily or more frequent basis. While employees are paid faster, the technology would also save administrative time for processing payroll, if done properly.
4. Resumes on the blockchain and work credentials.
Blockchain technology will likely have far reaching implications, especially in employment and human resources. There are many applications in human resources, including the use of the blockchain to digitally record and prove employment history through an on-line resume. Moreover, employers and employees can record digital certifications required by law (such as sexual harassment prevention training, or other industry specific certifications) on the blockchain. This can act like LinkedIn but will provide a more accurate record and is less susceptible to be manipulated.
5. Increase in privacy concerns.
With the development and implementation of technologies such as biometrics, facial recognition, and work histories recorded on the blockchain, certain privacy issues will need to be addressed. Some states already legislate the use of biometric information in the consumer and employment context. For example, as I’ve previously written about, Illinois, Texas and Washington have statues that require notice and voluntary consent before biometric information is collected by a private company.
While there are benefits to having certifications and work histories recorded and verifiable on the blockchain, the libertarian in me has some concerns. How are errors corrected? Can employees challenge an employer’s record on the blockchain? And this raises another question: Who manages the blockchain records – the employer, the employee, or maybe a third party?
Recording employment work histories, certifications, and even work performance on the blockchain as a public record could lead to a true “employment file” that stays with the employee as they change jobs. However, there are many concerns and questions that must be addressed as this technology inevitably develops.