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​Future of Working: 5 ways work will change in the future

11/04/2016 Sophie

Looking back over the past couple of decades, the way we work has adapted and become accustomed to the rapid rise of technology. Therefore, it will come as no surprise to hear that technology is set to play a big part in the future of work too.

However, it may be a shock to find out that other more accepted and established aspects of the daily routine will also change or undergo a transformation. Accordingly, your business will need to be ready or quickly adjust to the following:

1. The disappearance of hierarchical structures

In the opinion of Cathy Benko, co-author of The Corporate Lattice and vice-chairman of Deloitte in San Francisco, the ‘corporate ladder’ model that exists today dates back to the industrial revolution, when business were built on economies of scale, standardisation, and a strict hierarchy.

This rigid form is no longer relevant or practicable in today’s digital society, with a more open ‘lattice’ framework, which allows for free-flowing ideas and flexible career paths, taking its place.

“I would argue that [the lattice model] provides more opportunity and more possibilities to be successful,” says Benko. “In the lattice organisation you can find growth by doing different roles, so you have new experiences, you acquire new skills, you tap into new networks.”

2. The growing capabilities of artificial intelligence

Some believe that artificial intelligence (AI) could spell the end of mankind as we know it. But for the time being at least, computer systems with an all-encompassing mental capacity will simply render entire professions obsolete, as they can offer greater productivity, more convenience, and fewer errors.

Although not all occupations are at risk, a 2013 study by the Oxford Martin School estimated that 47 per cent of jobs in the US could be susceptible to computerisation over the next two decades.

“If you’re digging a ditch or painting a house, laying pipes or setting bricks – anything that involves basic hand-eye co-ordination – there will be low-cost, efficient mechanical devices that can do that work,” notes Jerry Kaplan, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and AI teacher.

3. The rise of the human cloud

Even if cloud computing has boosted workplace efficiency and increased collaboration among colleagues at your business, the human cloud could be even more attractive and advantageous in years to come.

Essentially, the human cloud is an extensive global pool of freelancers who can work on demand from remote locations on virtually any task imaginable. But the availability of cheap, willing talent could also lead to lower wages and greater inequality.

Guy Standing, professor of economics at SOAS, University of London, believes that the human cloud is an emerging global class with no financial security, job stability of the prospect of career progression. Their inexpensive rates will consequently have a knock-on effect for traditional employees.

4. The ability to monitor employees

It might sound rather sinister, but thanks to emerging technologies, employers now have the power to monitor their staff in order to find out what they are doing and how they are feeling.

Look at low-cost GPS systems, which are already being used to record the progress of delivery drivers. Looking forward though, more intimate details about personal health and wellbeing could become commonplace at work.

“What impacts on your performance at work is not just what you do at work,” notes Chris Brauer, director of innovations at Goldsmiths, University of London. “In our early stage studies, we find strong, clear correlations between sleep patterns and concentration, between levels of anxiety and stress outside the workplace and performance inside the workplace.”

5. The end of retirement

Since 1990, life expectancy at birth has increase globally by six years according to the World Health Organisation. Therefore, people that live longer are expected to work longer too.

Matters aren’t helped by the fact governments now struggle to afford increasingly large pensions, while workers must stretch their retirement savings further than ever before. So, retirement could soon be a gradual process rather than an abrupt stop aged 65.

“A certain type of older worker with sought-after skills can manage transitions from one job to another easily enough,” cites Matt Flynn, the director of the Centre for Research into the Older Workforce at Newcastle University Business School. “For them, a cliff-edge approach to retirement is probably going to be a thing of the past.”