Young workers, new to their jobs and careers, are facing a working landscape that is much different than the one their parents, teachers and professors prepared them for. PBS’ Instagram series Future of Work was created to explore the new realities of work for young Americans just entering the workforce. We hoped that after watching a series that reflected their realities, and connecting with others who have had similar experiences in the comments, that young Americans would arrive at a greater understanding of the major issues at stake in today’s world of work.
The “Future of Work” Instagram series was part of a larger initiative for PBS and public media. “Future of Work” was a three-part national television series on PBS, a 6-episode YouTube series, and a series of engagement events around the country. However, when it became clear that one of the project goals was reaching young Americans just starting their careers, we knew we had to produce something specifically for the platform where this audience is.
“Future of Work” producers at GBH in Boston hired digital production company Spotzen to produce the Instagram series, with input and direction from their partners at PBS. Over the course of four months, Spotzen researched characters and storylines that illustrated different challenges facing young people entering today’s workforce. When the pandemic hit during pre-production, we shifted the series production to be entirely remote: Spotzen worked directly with each character to shoot footage, interviews and B-roll that would become their episodes. As we decided to feature prominent YouTubers as our characters, each had expertise and fluency in production which contributed to the incredible footage we were able to include throughout the series.
Over twelve episodes, the series addressed student debt, managing multiple jobs, burnout, remote work isolation, gig work, the stigma around careers in the trades, the digital nomad lifestyle, and more. Through direct-to-camera, first person testimonials, each episode explored how fundamental shifts in work are impacting young Americans’ well-being, stability, sense of identity and community.
Distributed through the main @PBS Instagram account, the social video series netted over 636,000 views. Based on PBS’ followers, we believe we reached over 275,000 viewers under the age of 35, and almost 100,000 in that critical age after high school and college, 18-24 years old. The series drove thousands of comments about viewers’ current work situations, and incredibly illuminating and thoughtful conversations about the repercussions of the pandemic on viewers’ careers and work situations. In many instances, viewers commented that seeing these stories changed their approach to their work — from letting go of their student debt anxiety to being motivated to try the “side hustle” they’ve always dreamt of.