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How will Americans work in the future? A new PBS show sheds some light

The docuseries will follow six Americans navigating the changing world of work.

Allie Nawrat

PBS show gig workers
Credit: ELLE CHIOSSONE via Twenty20.

Unleash Your WorkforceWill the future see more people choosing to be digital nomads and gig workers?

COVID-19 has fundamentally changed the way we work forever. Both employees and companies have made it clear that things will not go back to the way they were.

The pandemic has significantly accelerated trends that were already underway – remote working, hiring from anywhere, work-life balance (working to live, rather than living to work), and the use of innovative tech in the workplace – but what impact will this have on the future of work, particularly in the US?

This is a question that PBS aims to answer with a new docuseries about the future of work, which comes out in September. It looks at the erosion of the American dream and the US’ hustle culture, and what six Americans are doing to navigate the ever-changing labor landscape.

The series will also explore 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.”

WIll we see more Digital nomads and gig workers?

Security and stability are no longer the priority for younger workers; freedom, flexibility and values are becoming more important.

Therefore, it is no surprise that more and more US workers are embracing the digital nomad lifestyle. According to Forbes, there are 10 million US citizens who already have this lifestyle – but MBO Partners estimates this could reach 64 million in the next three years.

This finding is linked to the fact that the pandemic has proven that most knowledge workers can do their jobs effectively from anywhere with an internet connection – so why not work from a beach in Thailand or the Bahamas?

For one episode, PBS follows Annette and Daniel Fortner who became digital nomads in 2017. At that time, they quit their jobs and decided to travel the world picking up odd jobs – like teaching English and video editing – along the way.

Annette told Forbes: “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.” Now the Fortners cannot imagine ever working in an office again.

Another emerging trend is people choosing to work in the gig economy and as freelancers. According to the World Economic Forum, global gig economy transactions are expected to grow 17% a year to around $455 billion by 2023 and it has a growing share of the global labor market.

The beauty of working in the gig economy is that you have total freedom about the hours you work; you are not obliged to work a nine to five, and therefore you can fit work around your lives.

However, both the digital nomad and gig worker lifestyles have downsides – most notably, future career planning, including pensions, health insurance, and other workplace benefits.

But with employees willing to take more risks with their careers, and being more interested in experiences than money, it looks like the workforce of the future is going to be almost unrecognizable to older generations.

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