Despite still sounding like a date from a science-fiction movie, the year 2020 is less than five years away. With today’s pace of technological change, much can happen between then and now. So, with crystal ball to hand, what might the world of work look like in 2020? Rounding-up the latest expert opinion, Richard Morris, UK CEO at global workspace provider Regus, reveals some intriguing developments – many of which are already within reach.
Wear your work
Wearable technology has already started to infiltrate everyday life – the launch of the Apple Watch providing a case in point. The processing, display, interface and communication capabilities of such technology will only improve in the next few years, likely surpassing what can already be achieved with today’s phones and tablets.
Analysts consider current wearables as the equivalent of a ‘boombox on the wrist’ – technology that is impressive but somewhat clunky and in its infancy. In other words, wearable tech, will get smaller, less visible, developing into sensor-clad garments that intertwine with the everyday so that getting dressed means getting started.
Smartphone users will be well aware of Siri and Cortana – the voice-activated assistants with a depth of knowledge and a nice line in pithy comebacks. These tools show how far voice-activation has come and its usefulness as a work tool is expected to ramp-up significantly. Certainly, there is scope for such technology to act as a ‘digital secretary’ -handling lists, appointments, translations, typing and more. Relieving the new worker of time-sapping administrative tasks will free the space for creative thinking and innovative development.
Blurring the work/home boundary
Traditionally, any comment about the work/life balance saw these two elements as distinct and separate. In the future, this distinction will continue to blur, with a new generation of millennial workers looking for working environments that include amenities more associated with ‘free time’. Analysts have coined the term ‘worktivity’, which might include anything from running-tracks to social, recreation and eating areas. The idea, of course, is that the future worker will be more inclined to stay on site.
Remote but connected
The appetite for remote working will continue. Thanks to 24/7 connectivity, the 2020 workforce will be more mobile and flexible than ever before and the notion of commuting to a fixed-location, fixed-hours job will seem as archaic as the pre-Internet office. Already, millennials are expecting flexible work options from employers rather than seeing them as a perk.
Remote should not be confused with solitary. In fact, the opposite is true. Whereas today’s workers often work behind partitioned walls, cut-off from colleagues and working in isolation, remote workspaces are populated by employees from several firms – like-minded peers open to cooperation and co-creativity.
The adaptable workspace
The future office must also cater for workers from four generations - Millennials, Generations X and Y, and Baby Boomers in senior management. What drives productivity amongst one group may not necessarily work for another. So already we are seeing the development of workspaces that can shift and adapt to changing requirements. Co-operative workspaces sit alongside quieter meeting rooms and individual workpods, with different areas being populated for different tasks. The environment is geared towards getting the very best from the worker, rather than asking the worker to adapt to the environment.
In many ways, the future is already upon us and we are seeing the foundations being laid for many of these forward-thinking ideas. Everything points to a working culture that does not judge productivity by time spent at a desk, but rather by results – no matter how and where they are achieved. What once seemed a distant date is now nearly upon us. The next few years should be an exciting ride.