The Ultimate Guide to the Future of Work

10 years ago, Genentech and Wegman’s were the top companies to work for. Facebook had just opened itself to anyone with a valid email address, including businesses. Email and IM were starting to overtake phone calls and meetings as the top form of business communication. Needless to say, a lot has changed since 2006, and the next decade will bring an equally dramatic transformation. 

So take a few moments to stop worrying about today's work and take a peek into the future — you don’t want to let these big trends sneak up on you!

The Line Between Home and Office Will Blur

The Line Between Home and Office Will Blur

Remember offices that resembled Dunder Mifflin or Initech — hives of cubicles and harsh fluorescent lights? Now, open floor plans and standing desks are becoming the norm. So what will the office look like 5-10 years from now?

Office Buildings are Going Extinct

Monday mornings will find you working at your home office, library, or local coffee shop. Time says technologies like Dropbox, Skype, and collaboration apps mean the traditional office is disappearing, making way for the wave of freelancers, independent contractors, and remote teams that is growing exponentially. Businesses see the remote work benefits of a workforce that doesn’t need to commute two hours every day to an expensive office, and workers are embracing the ability to work from anywhere, leading to the emergence of second-tier cities like Austin and Atlanta.

Your Favorite Armchair Will Be at the Office

FastCompany notes 8 top trends in office design, including bringing in natural and “homey” elements like fireplaces, comfortable armchairs, and designated lounges to make the office cozier and less stressful. They also predict the end of cables, cords, and other visual clutter, along with multi-purpose, modular workspaces that can be easily reconfigured or adjusted for height. ACI UK predicts health-conscious furniture that promotes movement and proper posture, branded decor, and hybrid open office plans with designated quiet zones.

Workspaces Will Be Personalized 

When you picture your office you can likely visualize its layout pretty clearly. But that will change, says futurist Jacob Morgan. He notes that businesses will begin treating physical space like software that requires constant updates and iterations, rather than investing in extensive, long-term remodels. Organizations will also look to technology to personalize every aspect of the office, including open work stations that will be “beamed” a worker’s lighting and temperature preferences, as well as their contacts, projects, and work files, so employees can easily move around. 

Offices Will Be Less Expensive to Maintain

Emerging Internet of Things technologies will measure foot traffic and daily activity to turn off lights and A/C in empty rooms, tell cleaning crews not to bother with an unused conference room, and make offices more efficient

Technology Moves from Tool to Strategic Advantage

Technology Moves from Tool to Strategic Advantage

Advances in technology will continue to be a huge driver of change. How we interact with our colleagues, clients, and employers is about to see a radical shift thanks to the prevalence of mobile devices, social media, and wearable tech. 

You'll Join a Social Workplace 

Although there was once a pronounced line between your life on social media and your life at the office, that line has blurred in recent years and will start to disappear completely as companies start implementing internal social networks like Slack and Facebook At Work. 

Your Smartphone Will be One of Your Most Important Work Tools

Today, 44% of people check or use their mobile devices for work more than 20 times a day, and 70% believe they'll use it even more in the future. This widespread mobile usage will help us establish a healthier work-life balance: 69% of those who use their mobile devices for work say doing so either has no impact on, or improves, their work-life balance. 

There Will Be Professional Rules for Your Personal Devices

With 62% of people currently using their own mobile device for work, both companies and employees will be faced with the tricky task of implementing policies and measures to protect sensitive work data on employees’ personal devices

More Collaboration Tools Will Be Adopted

Collaboration apps, along with the remote teams they support, are here to stay, and more companies are using them than ever before. But in order to spur adoption of these tools among their teams, businesses will start emphasizing the benefits for individual employees (schedule flexibility, better recognition for achievements, etc.) over benefits to the company (greater innovation, productivity, etc.).

Your Own Personal JARVIS is Coming Soon

Smart assistants like Siri and Cortana are going to keep improving, to the point where artificially-intelligent assistants will be running in the background at work, learning our patterns in order to anticipate and provide the information we need to improve our productivity and work performance. 

Expect IoT and Wearables at Work

Routine, mundane tasks like starting a fresh pot of coffee or turning on lights will be taken care of by IoT devices, freeing employees to focus on more creative and complex tasks. Wearables will tell employees when to take a break and which foods to avoid for better energy and focus. And companies will collect that data on employee activity, mood, and habits and start to experiment with people analytics in order to determine how best to support employee performance and satisfaction — without looking like Big Brother.

Work Management Will No Longer Be Ad Hoc

Work Management Will No Longer Be Ad Hoc

It’s not just the tools and technologies we use that will change; our attitude towards work and how we approach getting it done is shifting. Over the next several years, organizations will embrace new management techniques, values, and standards. 

There Will Be Three Spheres of Business

In PriceWaterhouseCooper's recent report on the future of work, they identify three "worlds" that businesses of the future will belong to: the Blue World of capitalism, where profits and market share are top priority; the Green World, where employees and customers demand that companies foster sustainability, greater well-being, and make a positive difference in the world; and the Orange World of small businesses, freelancers, and entrepreneurs, where lean, agile practices dominate. 

Expect Smaller, Flatter Organizations 

More new ventures will keep it small, with a core group of founders and key employees, and they'll hire freelancers from around the globe to fill the other necessary roles. Meanwhile, larger companies will minimize hierarchy and embrace flat management styles like Zappos' “holacracy, giving workers greater ownership over their projects, freedom from rigid job titles and descriptions, and more input in the company’s direction.

'Entrepreneur' Will Be Redefined

As the way we take on new projects changes, so will our concept of entrepreneurship. The word will no longer primarily refer to someone who invents a new product or launches a business; it will come to include independent freelancers who team up with other freelancers, forming a temporary group to take on bigger, more lucrative projects than they could tackle individually

Experimentation and Iteration Will Be the Norm

Companies will start to see themselves as laboratories, focusing less on refining the same standard processes and products, and instead prioritizing experimentation and constant innovation. 

Slacking Off? You Won’t Have to Hide It

Businesses are coming to appreciate and encourage “off times” when the brain is able to wander, explore, and later make interesting connections that lead to new ideas. Companies like Google have long encouraged and made time for employees to pursue side projects and indulge their curiosities, and that attitude will spread to companies looking to keep their employees sharp and engaged. 

Cross-Functional and Soft Skills Dominate

Cross-Functional and Soft Skills Dominate

As new tools and technologies open up fresh possibilities and modes of approaching our work, the skills we'll use to succeed will become more unconventional, and soft skills will be highly sought after. 

The Gig Economy Will Bring New Opportunities

Some of the most in-demand skills for the next decade revolve around the emerging "gig" economy, like Personal Brand Coaches who help freelancers and consultants market themselves, and Tribers, people who work with companies to assemble the perfect teams for specific projects. Even teachers and professors will go freelance, choosing to work for one of the many on-demand, online learning platforms. 

You’ll Be Updating Your Resume More Often... 

The days of spending your entire career at one company, painstakingly working your way up the ladder to the corner office, are gone. The next generation of workers is expected to change careers at least 10 times before the age of 40. The new norm will be to work for a company for a handful of years, gain experience and skills, and then move on to a new opportunity. It'll no longer be enough to master one skill and use it throughout your career — you'll need to master several and be able to switch between them. Highly specific "nanodegrees" that take a year or less to earn will become increasingly popular, and both companies and employees will learn to adapt to higher turnover rates. 

.. And You'll Include "World of Warcraft" Among Your Work Skills

Collaborative decision-making, especially with distributed team members, will become increasingly important — something traditional business schools rarely teach outright, whereas players of MMORPGs and other online games have mastered the skill

You'll Need to Know IQ, EQ, and CQ

Increasing globalization and a growing emphasis on diversity means, in addition to IQ and EQ, cultural intelligence (CQ) and sensitivity will be a must for effective leadership and collaboration. 

You'll Need to Master Remote Work

You'll Need to Master Remote Work

You’ve seen the statistics — with 80-90% of the workforce stating they want to telecommute at least part time, and 50% stating they already do, remote work is here to stay. But over the next several years, we’ll refine our approach to remote teamwork in order to better recreate the genuine social connections and collaboration that, as of now, we can only get at the office. 

Companies Will Be Remote by Default

Instead of established companies embracing some remote teams, or employees telecommuting occasionally, companies will be built remotely from the get-go. Everyone meeting face-to-face will be the exception, not the norm, as companies embrace the technology that allows them to hire talent wherever it happens to be located. 

You'll Redecorate Your Home to Accommodate Work

Many homes have an open floor plan, which isn't usually conducive to focusing and getting work done. With more people working from home, telecommuters will start creating spaces within their homes for work. 

The Office Will Only Be Open for Collaboration

Offices will get rid of single desks or cubicles and be solely collaborative spaces, since people will only come to the office in order to work together in groups. 

Culture Will Define Company Success

Culture Will Define Company Success

Flexible hours, remote work, and the need keep talented workers engaged over the long term will lead many organizations to spend more time and resources creating a company culture that makes employees want to come to the office. 

Colleagues Will Become Members of a Community

In a time when more than 70% of workers in the US (and 87% worldwide) admit that they’re not engaged at work, the question is more commonly not how to hire the best talent, but how to keep them. Companies will focus more effort on creating a tangible and genuine sense of community, one that excites its employees and compels them to stick around. 

Circular Evaluations and Feedback are Coming

Performance reviews are going away as companies phase them out in favor of more flexible means of giving and receiving employee feedback. Organizations will place greater emphasis on coaching, skills development, and letting employees set their own goals, as well as gathering internal feedback on an ongoing basis so that everyone in the company is focused on improvement, from the CEO on down. 

And Don't Forget: New Employee Perks

While health insurance, paid vacation, and other typical benefits won't go away, more companies are adding personalized perks that stress their company's unique culture and their employees' personalities. They're rethinking standard benefits to provide what their workforce really wants, like paid parental leave, ongoing learning opportunities, and helping employees repay student loans

Organizations Will Prioritize Diversity

Facebook and Pinterest require that at least one woman and one underrepresented minority is considered for every open senior position, and Twitter and Pinterest are making their hiring goals public for greater accountability. More companies will follow suit, as they become increasingly intentional about , and they'll implement measures to counteract unconscious bias, like “blind” interviews where candidates and interviewers can’t see each other or their voices are masked. 

Hiring Managers Will Look for Culture Fit...

For your next job search, experience, diplomas, and GPAs will start to take a backseat to your drive, goals, and willingness to learn. Essentially, do you fit with the company culture? You also may be able to BYOP (Build Your Own Position) focused around your specific interests and industry, developing a relationship with a company first and then creating the right role from there, rather than applying for a specific open position. 

... And You'll Be Choosier About Accepting Jobs

Compensation will no longer be the top consideration. As people look for jobs that fit in with their lifestyle, values, and professional goals, organizations will adapt by fostering a sense of purpose for employees — although what that looks like can be difficult to discern (and even more difficult to deliver). 

We'll Finally See More Women in Management

Studies show that, in general, women's management styles are less competitive and more collaborative, emotionally intelligent, and focused on the long-term. With a looming talent shortage, the fact that women earn the majority of college and advanced degrees, coupled with the fact they control 83% of consumer purchases, all mean more women in business, working with and selling to other women. 

You'll Still Be Working Long Hours

Although it’s proven very successful in Sweden, the six-hour workday probably won’t come to the US any time soon. Not because it doesn't work, but simply because voters have proven resistant to government mandates on business practices in general. It just goes to show that although work is evolving in a myriad of important ways, some things never change! 

Your predictions for the future of work?

Although these are sweeping trends, the future of work ultimately looks different for every single company — which is why it’s so important to constantly evaluate what’s working best for your organization and your employees, and watch for ways to improve with the times. 

Thousands of you expressed your opinions on the future of work by taking our recent surveys. Download the work management and mobile productivity survey reports to find out what your peers believe are the most important changes coming to the workplace, then share your own predictions for the future of work in the comments below.

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