The way we work is always changing and changes today seem to come at an accelerated pace
Employees in all fields are seeing some of the foundational elements of working in the developed world being disrupted. Workers are expected to know skills that weren’t necessary in the past, and they’re expected to adapt quickly when new technology comes to the office. Here are a few of the ways work has changed and how it will continue evolving in the future.
Increasing demand in the future work environment will place an even greater demand on collaboration, and tools are smoothing this transition. Cloud-based tools provide an easier means to access programs and work data, and it will be even simpler to track other employees’ progress as more and more businesses more toward cloud-like operations. Increasingly, companies will continue adopting tools meant for intra-office communication as a means of replacing meetings at regular intervals. Studies show that people put in more effort and enjoy work more when they feel that they’re part of a team and that others depend on their work.
Perhaps the most important skill workers need is the toughest one to quantify: Tech fluency. Some specific skills are needed for certain jobs, but the rate of change means workers need to adapt quickly to keep up. Training was previously viewed as a discrete event to get workers up to speed on new software, and it often occurred rarely. Work today demands a more continuous form of training, and having strong instincts with regard to technology is key for keep pace with change. Studies show today’s workers expect change in the office; a recent PWC survey showed that 53% of workers expected technological breakthroughs to transform how they work in the next five to ten years.
The Rise of Artificial Intelligence
Data analysis has long been one of the primary reasons companies depends on technology, and artificial intelligence has long aided companies. Increasingly sophisticated tools, however, will propel AI tools in the office of the future. While some tools might replace certain jobs, AI tools will more often empower employees to make decisions on their own. Furthermore, AI will make certain tasks easier. Microsoft’s Office 365, for example, will increasingly use AI to automate repetitive tasks and even make suggestions. When creating PowerPoint presentations, employees can start with an AI-created outline based on company data. Similar features will come to other programs.
The End of the Office?
Offices remain valuable assets for companies, as they provide a place to meet in person and store supplies and technological infrastructure. The advent of cloud computing, however, means that the benefits of showing up to a physical office have diminished greatly. Telecommuting serves as a win-win for both employees and employers; companies can cut back on their space demands, and employees can work wherever they feel most comfortable. Face-to-face interaction still has some significant benefits, but telecommuting will continue changing how people work. It’s telling that Deloitte, which has access to the best information regarding employee productivity, has long been implementing flexible telecommuting policies for its employees.
Most Helpful Technology
Amazon Alexa and its competitors have proven that people enjoy having digital assistants in their homes. Workers can expect to see Alexa or similar assistants within the office. Alexa itself, for example, has been adding support for Office 365 calendars and other popular office tools, and hands-free interaction can be a great way to help employees stay focused and avoid distractions. One of the challenges of work in the future will simply be staying on top of both personal and work-related demands; digital personal assistants are valuable tools for keeping up. Personal assistance won’t necessarily come through an Amazon Echo-like device; voice-based interaction is likely to happen primarily through smartphones.
Wrangling Ever-Increasing Data
News about technology in the corporate environment often focuses on faster and more powerful devices coming to the market. Perhaps the greatest change to the evolving work environment is on the opposite end of the spectrum: the Internet of Things, which is built out of small and inexpensive sensors and other devices. Part of the responsibility of workers will be handling the ever-increasing volume of data gathered by devices and making sense of it. Fortunately, tools for analyzing this data will simplify the process, but more and more workers will find themselves functioning as data analysts in order to complete their daily activities.
The 24/7 Work Week
Telecommuting and smart devices enable news ways to work, and they mean employees can address issues at nearly any time. However, this technology also has a potential downside: Never being able to shut off. Studies show people need to be able to disconnect from work to relax, but smart devices mean we’re only a few taps away from loading company data. The future of work might entail an environment where people feel they’re never truly disconnected from work, which can lead to stress and cut into time spent with friends and family. Striking a healthy work/life balance will, ironically, be complicated by technologies that create a more comfortable work environment.
According to PWC research, 65% of employees want to work for a company with a powerful social conscience. While the era of spending one’s entire career with a single company has clearly ended, people still take pride in their employer, and employees, especially millennials, prefer working for companies that stake out a responsible position with regard to the environment and social issues. The bottom line is still the driving factor among companies, but social consciousness can lead to a more satisfied workforce and better public relations.
The nature of work has changed dramatically in recent years, and the future of work will be, in some ways, unrecognizable from what it is today. The easiest changes to notice are those that are fairly rudimentary: Replacing typewriters with word processing software, for example. However, technological advances are changing how people view work on a more fundamental level, and companies need to consider making radical changes to make the most of newer technology and work paradigms.