The future of work
In George Orwell’s classic titled “1984,” he describes a futuristic society with “telescreens” and “speakwrite.” At that time, in 1949, these farfetched technologies were only viable in a futuristic dystopian society. Today, cameras watch our every move at stores, at our front door, and even as we drive. Amazon’s Alexa can help take care of our shopping – even unwanted shopping by our kids. Siri can make calls and dictate our speech into text. Google can sing us Happy Birthday and even “self-destruct” (really, give it a try). His prediction of screens monitoring our every move and reporting that information to “Big Brother” or an automated text transcription of our words seemed outlandish – even crazy. Today though, these things are a part of our normal lives and are widely accepted.
If we put on our Orwellian business hats, what does work look like in the future?
Google, Microsoft, Twitter, and many others have either extended their remote work policies for a period of time or indicated support for indefinite Work From Home (WFH) policies. Many local companies, like mine, transitioned their entire workforce from entirely office-based to entirely WFH in a matter of a few short days. The migration to WFH policies and the systems required to sustain such an environment have positively moved the needle for many different businesses (Zoom, Amazon, etc.) while severely damaging others (hospitality, retail, etc.).
As we look more into the future, what changes will be in effect? Here are five of my predictions for the future of the business world:
Global wireless connectivity
Say goodbye to fiber. Efforts are already underway to increase connectivity by making entire cities “wireless” and I believe that our shift to remote work will not only increase the urgency of this but will also increase the reach. I see a globally connected wireless network that will allow you to work from anywhere – no cable needed). This will allow businesses to attract top talent from around the globe as talent acquisition pools will no longer be restricted to geographical areas.
Virtual management is here to stay
As our workforce has more options to be remote, management styles will also have to adapt and change. Weekly standing meetings with your executive team? Zoom. Training, onboarding, and day-to-day sync-ups? Zoom. New ways to measure productivity and monitor your workforce will emerge. Next generations of collaborative video technology will emerge to support these changes and being an early adopter of these systems will surely make a difference in future success.
Employers will become wellness pros
The overall wellbeing of employees will become a priority and a standard across companies through HR practices and health benefits. In order to attract and retain talent and increase employee productivity, the workplace will include wellness options to help employees navigate external pressures. A stronger emphasis will be placed around the physical and mental health of employees.
The world of online shopping
Amazon has shifted the paradigm on the retail experience and recent health scares are causing in-person retail experiences to plummet. I don’t think this is the end of the brick and mortar retail experience, but I think AI will begin to replace cashiers (like we see at McDonald’s) and more retailers will move to a predominantly – if not exclusively – online experience.
A cashless society
Yes, I said Cashless. When was the last time you pulled cash out of your wallet? When was the last time you carried a wallet? Currency exchange has evolved from cash to checks to credit cards to touchless pay using our phones. Venmo is ahead of the pack and businesses will need to adapt to emerging technology that will become the norm for all consumers.
Whether we are driven by pandemics, our thirst for improvement, or market forces, we are in a stage of rapid innovation and overnight pivots. As we begin to settle into a new normal, some aspects of our businesses will look like they did in 2019. But just as Orwell envisioned an almost unimaginable future, we have not only achieved his predictions (fearful to some) but have innovated past them. Our pace for introducing new technologies and adapting our businesses is faster than ever and I believe that we are in a workplace revolution that makes the future seem much closer than it appears.