What will ‘work’ look like in 2020?


Futurisitic man 300px“What is a weekend?” asks the Dowager Countess (played by Maggie Smith) in an early episode of ITV series, Downton Abbey, set in 1912. It is hard for us to imagine but the office based, nine to five, five day working week has only been a reality since the mid 1920s. Along with electricity, the telephone and the motor car, the idea of a regular paid 'job' was a novel concept to Edwardian England.

Scroll forward to 2020 and we are set to see equally big changes. What will the world of work look like seven years from now? We asked five experts to share their 2020 visions:

William Higham, trends forecaster, Next Big Thing:  We will see more Smart Workers and Intrapreneurs in the workforce: increasingly self-sufficient, IT-enabled employees who will demand project-based - rather than departmental or discipline-based - tasks and responsibilities. Increased digital 'confidence' will encourage an entrepreneurial spirit outside the office, too. Rather than moonlighting on other jobs without their employers’ knowledge, frustrated employees will take to Sunlighting: working on a business or charity one day a week with the full knowledge and support of their employers. Alongside the growth of marketplace services such as eBay, the rise of 3D printing and other new distribution options will create more Tabletop Tycoons - individuals running businesses from their homes.

Karen Mattison, Founder, Timewise Jobs:  We live in an extraordinary age of innovation and possibilities, and are now questioning the boundaries that feel like they have always been there. The modern workplace no longer has a ‘face’ – it could be your bedroom, the garden shed, or a coffee shop. The colleagues that you work with day-to-day could be in Peru, India or Sweden. You could have a job of senior responsibility – and work three days a week. The 2020 workplace will see employers offering flexibility as standard practice, even in roles of high responsibility, and this is something all employees – male or female, young or old - will expect, not simply to fit with family but to enjoy a true work life balance.

David Terrar, cloud computing expert, D2C:  We have three technology disruptions happening simultaneously - and this has never happened before. The shift to Cloud solutions or web based apps is happening at the same time as the shift to mobile and the shift to social. At the same time, more everyday devices will have sensors and radio tags and connections – creating what’s known as 'The Internet of Things' - so everything will become linked to the web, providing intelligence and automating a number of our work and life processes. Much of the 2020 workforce will be contract or freelance, with people working for many different companies during their careers. Organisations will use hybrid workgroups from all over the world and businesses will be able to expand and contract more easily. Although the workspace will be increasingly virtual, some organisations will look to the way companies like Google or Pixar have organised physical space to encourage team and cross departmental interaction, with more creative thought and idea generation. There will be a pull between these two approaches (virtual versus physical), but successful organisations will manage to embrace both.   

Helen Keegan: mobile marketing specialist, Heroes of MobileIt's hard to predict the future of work, and seven years is not that far away. Seven years ago was 2006. I had moved to a Symbian Smartphone - probably the N70 at the time. I was using the odd app and game and had limited use of mobile web. I had started to use Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Fast forward to 2013 and I'm using an Android smartphone with email, web, games, music, alarm clock, messaging, social networking and more. I'm still using my laptop for 'work' stuff but my media consumption is primarily mobile. By 2020, we'll have devices that are lighter and smarter, with better battery life. We may have broadband connectivity across the whole of the UK. All sectors will be affected in some way by mobile technology - whether it's remote monitoring of our health or checking that our washing machines are working properly. People will need to adapt and learn and not be afraid of technology. It should be seamless and invisible to take the fear away and proper respect should be given to privacy and data. Whether we've worked that all out by 2020, time will tell.

Luis Suarez, Social Software Evangelist, IBM:  In the future, work will be more distributed and remote – technology means that people will be able to work from wherever they want to. Work processes will be driven by interactions from workers through networks and communities rather than traditional company hierarchies. Large enterprises will no longer need to exist, because of the nature of the hyper-connected and networked workforce. Trust between workers will be more essential than ever - and critical for success. People will find new meaning and purpose through building strong personal business relationships: the key objective for everyone will be sustainable growth.

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