Before we begin…

At TrendWatching, we’re all about consumer trends. So at first glance the Future of Work might not seem like an obvious topic. But take a second look! Thinking about work is integral to your success in the consumer landscape.


First, because consumers are workers and workers are consumers. Second, in an era when ethical and sustainable business is high on the agenda, increasing numbers of consumers want to know that your brand is doing the right thing – and that includes how you treat your people. Third, creating an amazing internal culture will allow you to attract and retain the best talent – without which you won’t stand a chance in the race to meet ever-higher customer expectations.

Welcome to the future of work…

Apply for a new position using a biometric CV. Measure adaptability quotients (AQ) instead of IQs. Work a four-day work-week, although if Jack Ma has got his way, it will be 996 (that’s 9am to 9pm, 6 days a week). Consider FIRE (financial independence, retire early) or perhaps even unretirement. In short, you don’t need us to tell you that the future of work is changing fast.

But here’s the thing: yes, the what, who and where of work will continue to be disrupted by AI and robotics. But people are essential drivers of our economy – and that won’t change. What will shift are the types of jobs available and the skills needed for them.

Many employees are more willing to adapt than managers and governments give them credit for – a survey conducted by the Harvard Business School’s the Future of Work and the Boston Consulting Group’s Henderson Institute that spanned 11,000 middle-skills workers in 11 countries found that 46% consider themselves personally responsible for preparing for changes, and 75% report probably or definitely seeing a need to prepare for future work trends.

In this report, we dive into two trends that are reshaping work. You already know about the macro-trends that provide the context here: automation, growing armies of freelance workers, the rise of co-working and the gig economy, and more. But below you’ll find two actionable trends that you can apply today to reshape the way you work, enhance your internal culture, and ultimately serve consumers better.

Ready to start your shift?

Remember, clients of our Premium Service receive the full report featuring all five trends: PUBLIC LABS, GOOD GIG, NEW HIRES, NETWORK EFFECT and 3D STAFF.

In this free version, we’ll look at two of those trends, along with a snapshot of the global innovators who are already applying them.

1. PUBLIC LABS: In 2020 smart brands will truly work in public.

2. NETWORK EFFECT: A new mentorship economy rises!

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2020 Premium Service

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In 2020 smart brands will truly work in public

We’re living through a transparency revolution. It’s upending the rich, powerful and once-untouchable. It’s changing what it means to be a brand. And yes, it’s reshaping the expectations of consumers around the world.

No wonder we see a near-daily tsunami of brand transparency initiatives. Scan QR codes to check your hotel towels are clean! Track our beef steaks on the blockchain!

Don’t get us wrong: more information is good. But taken alone it won’t be enough. Consumers increasingly have zero tolerance for anything unknown or apparently secretive.

Those consumers will take access to key information on your offering as a given. But they’ll also expect to be able to experience aspects of your business that can’t always be neatly summed up via yet another press release, app or platform: your processes, values, and people. The atmosphere inside your organization.

Now, we’ll see rising numbers of organizations responding to these expectations by opening PUBLIC LABS. That means new, innovative spaces and experiences that expose their work – and their staff – to public view.

Once, working in public meant blogging about your progress. In 2020, it will mean opening a PUBLIC LAB.



A steady drip of scandalous news from inside big businesses – witness the recent Boeing safety scandal – continues to drive consumer demand for even more transparency. Consumers will embrace brands that truly allow them a look behind their four walls.


Transparency is turning the walls of every organization to glass. Consumers can see right inside, and as a consequence your internal culture is an ever-more important part of your brand. The logical next step? Knock down the walls altogether, and invite consumers into your working spaces so they can feel what it’s like in there.


Crowdfunding and more kickstarted (pun intended!) a world of co-creation and pre-launch involvement. In a GLASS BOX world, consumers will expect new and innovative ways to influence how you work and what you offer. What better way than inviting them in to a PUBLIC LAB?


  • TORTOISE — News startup invites members to ‘open news conferences’
    Can you invite consumers into your working spaces and your processes? In an era of fake news, this media startup reinvented the news conference: London-based online news and comment startup Tortoise is built around an ‘open newsroom’ policy. Subscribers to the platform can attend twice- monthly news conferences, called ThinkIns, during which they can talk to Tortoise editors and writers, help shape the agenda and areas of focus for the platforms in the months ahead. Tortoise say the system is part of their project to build ‘a different kind of newsroom’.

  • SHISEIDO — New Tokyo research hub is open to the public
    How about giving consumers a glimpse of your research and development process? Opened by beauty brand Shiseido in April 2019, the Global Innovation Center (S/PARK) is located south of Tokyo and incorporates research laboratories and equipment, a café, a studio, and sports facilities. The center also offers a beauty bar, where visitors can create their own Shiseido cosmetics, and an experience-based museum presenting cutting-edge technologies. In the museum shop, visitors can purchase limited edition products.

  • RIJKSMUSEUM — Museum livestreams restoration of painting
    Leverage technologies to open a virtual PUBLIC LAB and allow consumers to witness your work: In July 2019, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam began livestreaming the process of restoring Rembrandt’s iconic painting The Night Watch. The 11.9 x 14.3-foot canvas is enclosed in a 75.3 square foot glass chamber through which gallery goers can observe the team of researchers, conservators and restorers at work. Dubbed Operation Night Watch, the process can also be seen in real time online and is expected to conclude in 2020.

  • COCA-COLA — Restaurant and retail clients see behind the scenes at beverage giant
    This iconic brand is inviting B2B customers to brainstorm new business ideas with them: In January 2019, Coca-Cola opened a new space for retail and restaurant customers inside the KOlab innovation center at their Atlanta HQ. Inside KOlab, the brand works on new innovations, such as Coca-Cola Clear Lime. Now, retail and restaurant customers will be able to visit the KOlab to meet, and take a look at the brand’s innovation pipeline. A VR experience allows retail customers to visualize Coca-Cola products in store environments, in another area visitors can see the connection between various Coca-Cola beverages and foods.

  • RE:STORE — Concept store includes co- working space for stockists
    Could an innovative new kind of working space allow you to give consumers a sneak peak of your people, values and processes? Re:store, a concept store that allows customers to experience their favorite online brands in real life, opened in San Francisco in August 2019. Re:store brings a range of online and Instagram-based clothes, wellness, beauty and homeware brands together under one roof; brands pay a flat fee starting at USD 350 and 20% commission on sales for a presence in the store. The store also includes a co-working space available to the entrepreneurs behind participating brands.

  • VF CORP. — Immersive brand hub includes showrooms and a design studio
    VF Corp is allowing consumers and wholesale traders to get closer to the brand: In June 2019, VF Corp., the owner of brands including Vans, The North Face, and Timberland unveiled Axtell Soho, a new ‘brand hub’ in London’s Soho. Spanning six floors, the hub encompasses offices, brand experience areas and showrooms, a design studio and a rooftop garden. The building also features custom video walls to immerse visitors in each brand. Axtell Soho was designed to strengthen the relationship between VF brands, consumers and trade and wholesale partners.



One powerful way to ride this trend? Invite consumers into your discussions, decisions and strategy-setting sessions. See how media startup Tortoise is reinventing the traditional journalists’ news conference by inviting readers to attend.


Want to embrace this trend with both hands? How about throwing open the doors to your innovation and development spaces? Look at the way Coca-Cola is giving B2B clients a glimpse of its innovation pipeline – and so helping those clients to plan future business models.


Via technologies, including livestreaming, your PUBLIC LAB can be truly global. What aspect of your work or process would outsiders love to see. The Rijksmuseum is livestreaming the restoration of a priceless Rembrandt painting.


A new mentorship economy

You hardly need us to tell you that the landscape of work has fundamentally changed. Today, more than one-third of the US workforce is freelance. Around the world, 70% of full-time professionals work remotely at least one day a week. In the UK, the gig economy has more than doubled in the last three years and now accounts for more than 4.7 million workers.

The positive and negative implications of these shifts are well publicized. But one other lesser-discussed aspect of ‘work’ that’s also been fundamentally disrupted? Access to mentorship. In a world of independent work and freelancing, and startups full of recent graduates,how do you find a mentor? What does mentorship mean?

In 2020, remote, freelance and self-employed professionals – along with those inside startups and conventional organizations – will appreciate employers that leverage NETWORK EFFECTS. That is, provide mentorship services that help staff develop their skills and cultivate the emotional resilience needed to navigate the constantly changing world of work.

New networks – of mentors and mentees – will give workers crucial support in an era when conventional office hierarchies have been disrupted, and when ‘a job for life’ is increasingly rare. After all, embracing non-traditional work doesn’t mean overlooking everything that’s come before!



Freelance and remote work comes with many benefits: flexibility, freedom increased productivity. But the grass isn't always greener: 21% of remote workers feel that loneliness is their biggest struggle with working remotely (Buffer, February 2018). Factor in that loneliness is on the rise amongst young people – those more likely to take a chance on remote work – and there’s a clear opportunity to build stronger communities and better networks.


Mentorship has an impact on a worker’s career across several measures. 91% of US employees who have a mentor are satisfied with their jobs, including more than half (57%) who are ‘very satisfied’ (CNBC/SurveyMonkey Workplace Happiness Survey, July 2019). Employees with mentors are also more likely to feel well paid and valued. The desire to feel respected isn’t exclusive to full-time employees – freelancers and remote workers want the same!


For employees in more traditional employment, mentorship isn’t guaranteed. In the wake of #MeToo, 60% of male managers say they’re uncomfortable participating in regular work activities with women, including mentoring – that’s a 32% increase on 2018 ( & SurveyMonkey, May 2019). Yes this will impact workplace interactions, but it could also stop women learning valuable skills and break into senior positions often held by men.


  • BUMBLE — Dating app adds networking and mentorship mode
    What networking (or in this case dating!) apps consumers are already using? Could these offer a new way to connect with potential mentors, or one’s fellow remote mentees? Bumble Bizz is a separate mode within the women- lead dating app that focuses on job seeking, networking and mentoring. Launched in the US, Canada, the UK, France, and Germany in 2017, users’ Bizz profile can include a digital resume, skills and work samples. In 2019, Bumble launched Women in Bizz, a new feature that allows women to limit their professional networking to other women.

  • KRONOS & IBM — AI career coach designed for hourly workers
    Mentorship doesn’t always have to be provided by a human. When it comes to having tricky personal conversations, an AI could be a good alternative! November 2018 saw US-based workforce innovation firm Kronos partner with IBM to create an AI career coach for hourly workers. Using IBM’s Watson technology, the partnership provides employees with personalized advice on training, promotions and raises, and switching positions within their organizations. The chat-based platform is accessible via a smartphone and designed for large companies that can’t provide every employee with a human career-path advisor.

  • ELLEN — AI app helps make mentorship connections across large organizations
    What about a digital service that matchmakes mentors and mentees across large organizations? Launched in December 2018, Ellen is an intelligent mentoring app that matches mentors and mentees within large organizations including Lyft, Splunk and Square. The app, developed by San Francisco- based, processes employee input to make immediate mentorship recommendations and reminds mentors and mentees to schedule meetings. According to NextPlay, over 90% of matches stay in contact beyond their first three meetings and after six months of use, employees had 218% more clarity towards their career path.

  • PLANETARY — Service arranges pizza parties for remote teams
    Food could be a great way to bring remote workers together... especially if it involves pizza. July 2019 saw Planetary, a digital agency based in New York, launch Pizzatime: a service helping companies with remote workers organize virtual pizza parties hosted via Zoom. Attendees indicate their availability and Pizzatime calculates the best date and time, and generates an order link. Planetary staff place the orders and arrange delivery to each attendee. Participants then receive a calendar invite with a Zoom video link to join the virtual party. Planetary charges USD 15 per pizza and a USD 29 delivery fee (for up to 20 people).

  • LEAPERS — Slack community provides a support
    network for freelancers
    Could you create tools to fill the gaps that exist for freelance workers? UK-based Leapers is a Slack community for freelancers, remote workers, self-employed individuals and people considering flexible work. Leapers encourages members to share advice on anything related to non-traditional work and celebrate their ‘Little Wins’ with the community. In July 2019, Leapers launched ‘How you doing?’: a free guide to help freelancers manage their mental health, the first in a series of tools to fill the gaps created by the new ways of work.

  • QUILT — App facilitates small group meetups out of women’s homes
    This app combats loneliness and allows users to turn their spare space into a way to earn some cash! July 2019 saw US-based startup Quilt launch an app that acts as a platform to facilitate more meaningful connections among professional women and help them host gatherings out of their homes. Small groups gather to share personal experiences around a variety of topics – anything from money to social media addiction. Women purchase tickets for chats (USD 12-30) and hosts receive a portion of sales. Users can also purchase an all-inclusive membership for USD 39 per month.



At its heart, mentorship taps into a fundamental human need: the desire to progress. So look at your own company critically: what resource offered to higher-level employees could trickle down and allow all employees to tap into the needs for progress and opportunity that everyone has? And think about how progress can be a two-way street. What skills could your older employees learn from younger staff? To counter charges of racial discrimination, lecturers at Cambridge University are being mentored by black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) colleagues and students.


As we approach the tipping point where remote or freelance work feels like a necessity and not a perk, employers will have to work harder to attract the very best talent. A mentorship scheme could be one way to stand out! Think broadly about what that could look like: is it a digital service, similar to the one provided by Kronos and IBM? Or is it using tech to facilitate real-world interactions, as Bumble Bizz does?


The isolation and loneliness that’s often a by-product of freelance and remote working doesn’t have to be solved by mentorship. It could be as simple as finding new ways for these tribes to connect with each other (see Quilt) or even with your existing employees. If you have spare space in your office, how about turning it into a communal shared space that can be used both by your employees and from those outside your organization?

Get Going!

The changing nature of work will impact everyone. But simply knowing about these trends isn’t enough. You need to act. Easy for us to say; tougher for you to do. So here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Take these trends back to your team. Unless you have complete control over hiring and internal culture in your organization, you can’t act on these trends alone. So, step one? Take these trends back to your team and use them to spark a discussion. What would it look like if you opened a PUBLIC LAB, or built a NETWORK EFFECT?

2. Context, context, context. Applying a trend well is all about (yep, we’ll say it again) context. That means thinking carefully not just about the trend, but about your organization, the direction you want to head in, your industry, and the expectations of your customers. For example, if you want to apply the trend PUBLIC LABS: which aspects of your working processes would your customers most like to see?

3. Start a movement. If you work inside a large organization, you can’t make real change to working practises or internal culture without buy-in from the very top. But you can start a movement for change. Bring people together, give a presentation (use the insights and examples in this report!) and make your case. Or start small: establish a NETWORK EFFECT mentorship scheme in your team, for example, and then communicate the results to the rest of the organization.

4. Think people power. In an era when automation will replace many roles, tap into the talent you already have and use employees’ unique skillset to supercharge the experience and services you offer. Let your staff shine!

Good luck!

About The Author:



This Trend Briefing has many hands on it. A huge thanks to the team that pulled this together with such positivity and enthusiasm, especially: Vicky Kim and Nikki Ritmeijer (for design!), and also Maxwell Luthy, David Mattin, Henry Mason, Alida Urban, Harry Metzger, Harvey Gomez, Jareth Ashbrook, Jonathan Herbst and Lisa Feierstein, Livia Fioretti and Rosie Toumanian. THANK YOU!