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22 January 2020

Just 20 years into the 21st Century, we have already seen remarkable changes that we could never have anticipated. We’ve come up with 20 predictions that explore what the next 20 years may have in store for your organisation.

Prediction 2

In a world where the competition to attract and retain the best people is set to intensify, empowerment and flexibility will be the next battleground for talent.

Work is no longer confined to traditional hours; rather, many people are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But in this environment, employers must invest in the tools that make it possible for employees to do their jobs more easily, enabling frictionless work and reduced administration.

Moreover, employees will increasingly expect more empowering work. They will want to see their labour have a clear impact not just for the business, but also on society more widely. Employers will need to ensure their wider strategy encompasses a social purpose.

The culture of the workplace will be revolutionised. Transparency of information will not be enough to underpin this shift. Employees will also want to participate – they will demand a louder say on the direction of their organisations. This will mean that businesses become less hierarchical; flatter structures will become the norm, regardless of the size of the organisation. Successful companies will be innovative and open. Agility will continue to be key to competitiveness, leading to more firms assembling teams based on appropriate skills and experience for short-term problem-solving on projects, resulting in more flexible or contract work.

Elsewhere, while the boundaries between work and personal life are dissolving, many workers are having to move away from cities to find affordable accommodation. For the millennial generation, ultra-flexible work will be commonplace. Employees will work more remotely, to highly flexible schedules, and pursue ideas such as compressed work weeks and job sharing.

The reduction of face-to-face contact may have a detrimental impact on collaboration, connectedness and productivity – and the occasional video-conference call will not be enough. This is where the augmented workforce could come into play.

Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) headsets – and as the technology develops potentially even contact lens-type interfaces – as well as holograms, will help deliver the benefits of teamwork. Members of the team may be in different locations all over the world, but they will continue to interact, as if they were in the same place. This will make it possible for researchers across the world to virtually work on scientific experiments and come up with the next big discovery.

Trends about flexibility and empowerment in workplace culture

Impact

Internationally-dispersed teams will become commonplace, even for smaller organisations, enabled by collaborative communication technologies such as augmented and virtual reality, with both positive and negative effects. Some workers will enjoy the additional autonomy, but others will miss regular face-to-face contact with team members.

The demand for centrally-located commercial real estate will fall, impacting property prices and the pressure on urban transportation systems should decline, particularly at peak times. There is potential for growth in localised co-working spaces.

However, there is a downside to increased flexibility and remote work. Loneliness is already on the rise in the workplace as more companies take up agile working. As reliance on technology grows even further and people do not physically meet, this will impact well-being and motivation.

The rise of flexible, contract and task-based work will mean the end of traditional role clarity and a dismantling of career pathways, which will impact both businesses and society more widely. Businesses will need to look into ways to identify the skills they need for particular projects – and ensure that individuals know where to go to find job opportunities.

Additionally, there will need to be a radical rethink of how mortgages are approved and taxes are processed, to name a few examples, to reflect the changing nature of work.

Curious to find out what else could happen between now and 2040? Read our other predictions

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