What Will the Workplace of the Future Look Like?

The evolution of the workplace hasn’t seen this much flux since machines replaced people in manufacturing, during the first Industrial Revolution. How work gets done, by whom and where are all changing at an unprecedented rate. The only response is for people, and companies, to adapt to these changes. Not just adapt to them, but embrace them.

Companies need to stay ahead of the curve to remain competitive, and staff members need to be willing to be champions, rather than impediments, to change. In my 18 years at David Aplin Group, I’ve been witness to several levels of evolution in the workplace, but what’s more interesting (and equally important) is what’s coming in the not-so-distant future.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its impact on the workforce

Technology in the workplace is ever evolving, intended to aid the worker in their efforts. Efficiency and productivity have been among the key reasons to use technology, all in the service of a company’s bottom line. We’ve come a long way from the beginning of the information age (circa 1999), and we still have further to go.

AI brings a new element to the table. While ostensibly intended to continue to aid employees, there is a genuine and not unrealistic fear that artificial intelligence will supplant employees, over time. It’s the Industrial Revolution 4.0. In many areas, including manufacturing and complex science, humans will still be needed to intervene. But there are roles that will, as AI becomes more sophisticated, be impacted; typically, we’ll see the effects most in those roles that are informational in nature—paralegals and fact-checkers, for example.

The changing nature of work and human resources

The days of working for 30 years at the same company, patiently waiting for that gold watch at retirement, are over. The ‘gig economy’ has taken hold of many organizations, where employees work on a contract basis and they fully expect to change companies, and even careers, multiple times during their working years. For many, the flexibility of this kind of work is about lifestyle choices. A recent study by Intuit Canada and Emergent Research projects that, by 2020, 45% of Canada’s workforce will consist of freelance, independent contractors and on-demand workers.

The implications for businesses in terms of human resources strategies are important: CEOs and human resources departments are going to need flexibility in their hiring processes to ensure that they find the right people when they need them.

Where employees work is also changing

In conjunction with the notion of the ‘gig economy’ is the fact that where employees are working matters, too. Arriving at your cubicle at 9 am and leaving at 5 pm each day are in the past. Employees want to control not only when they work, but where they work.

For employers, that means less dedicated office space and more flexibility in terms of management practices. While a person’s ‘productivity’ used to be based on hours spent in the office, managers now have to leverage technology and better project management practices to ensure that work is getting done, even if the staff aren’t in at the office. This is a big shift from traditional management thinking, but it’s important for leaders to adapt or risk losing very talented staff.

So you can see that the future is here and it’s all about adapting. I challenge you to ask yourself what you and your organization are doing to stay ahead of the future world of work.