The Delphi Study of Work 2050 can be seen as a sober read for those of us working in workplace culture.
As well as predicting an unemployment rate of around 24 percent of the world’s population by 2050 due to the convergence of technology, it talks about how we will be both virtual and metaverse-centric or living in a collective virtual world.
There is no doubt that the impact of the next round of technology advances will be profound. We are already going from ANI (Artificial Narrow Intelligence), where machines can learn a specific task, to AGI (Artificial General Intelligence), where they mimic humans, to bordering on the ASI (Artificial Super Intelligence), where machines’ abilities and functions become superior to that of humans.
What this means for the workforce is that the nature of work has changed. Today we are multi-local and mobile. By 2050 we will live and work in a collective virtual world. No longer ‘jobs for life’ – there will be fewer permanent contracts, more patchwork careers, and a need to invest in long-term learning.
By 2030, digital assistants will guide us through our day, connected to our schedules, aware of our preferences, and with the ability and knowledge to book our favourite restaurants, plan routes, and arrange transportation for our travel. Keyboards will be a thing of the past as interaction with devices will be via speech and gesture, and everything will be connected – by 2030, 20 percent of the world’s electricity is forecast to be used by the billions of connected devices.
We will of course be driven to work by our driverless car, which will be enabled by 5G, that it is predicted will have over two billion connections by 2030. And we will have less days off sick – a combined result of working on freelance contracts with no sick pay and the fact that our health will be monitored through our wearable devices.
So what does this mean for those of us working in workplace design and culture? How do we attract people to a workplace when we know the future is about designing for the tech rather than the talent?
We know that all businesses will need to be digital – to embrace digital transformation within their workforce. We also know that the human aspect is often what puts the heart into our businesses and gives us our point of differentiation from our competitors. So, how do we design the space that brings digital transformation into our workplace yet is attractive to those who will work within it?
Flexibility in the workplace
Firstly, we need to create flexibility in the work environment to help teams work in a more agile way. Work will more organised around project not function and this can be challenging to accommodate in a fixed space. People need to be able to move from project to project and the technology and space needs to accommodate this seamlessly without causing delay or disturbance to those working agilely.
We all know that real estate is expensive and therefore the tendency is to cram people into the office space and ‘agility’ becomes another word for too many people in too little space. Digital teams, such as developers, also tend to be office-based rather than flexible workers, so the challenge is to create clever collaborative spaces where teams can get together on an hourly, daily, and weekly basis to discuss projects and progress, but also have space for concentrated activity.
The space needs to be attractive
To attract and retain good people you need to create attractive workplaces. We all have seen on YouTube, or at least heard about, Google’s offices complete with slide, putting green, and revolving bookcases, and although most of us don’t stretch to that level of innovation or budget, we do need to make our workforce proud of the space they work in.
The 360 degree work we live and work in means that we share far more of our lives on a day-to-day level. This includes our life in the office. Workspaces need to reflect the brand – so what you are externally saying to customers, internally lines up with your staff. This isn’t just graphics on the wall, but how the brand is lived and demonstrated within the workplace, including what food offerings are available, what rest and relaxation areas there are, how wellbeing is being addressed, and so on.
Ability to engage all
Ensuring that your frontline staff – for example those working in retail or those in the field – are delivering your brand and feel their workplace reflects them too is key. For example, getting feedback from these frontline staff in real-time or even delivering internal and external communication strategies in 3D and on their own mobile devices, can be a way to excite them about product launches, educate them about brand values, and make them feel that they know – and understand – what is going on within the company.
Culture comes from people, not brands, products, or robots. Every workforce needs a culture and therefore needs to place their people at the heart of workspace they are working in, whether this workspace is in the office, in the field, or virtual.