The world is changing all around us. Even the seemingly little things, like how we wake up in the morning, how we get a ride downtown, and how we pay for goods and services, have all dramatically changed in the last few decades.
Similarly, the world of work is also changing. In a recent session at the Smartsheet ENGAGE customer conference, Alan Lepofsky, VP and Principal Analyst at Constellation Research, spoke about workplace change – in culture, technology, and processes – and what it means for employees.
To give a glimpse into what the future might hold, Lepofsky shared how the who, what, where, when, why, and how of how work is changing, and what that means for us.
The “Who” of Work
We’re seeing a shift in who is working. Lepofsky wasn’t talking demographics here, but the rise of the gig or freelance economy. Workers are not necessarily full-time employees anymore. Lepofsky predicts we’ll see more of this in the future as the number of temporary workers and contingent labor increases.
The “Why” of Work
Lepofsky also discussed the growing importance of purpose at work. Employees want a sense of purpose and meaning from their work. Why are they going to work (besides a paycheck)? Why is what they do important? People want to be fulfilled by their work, and Lepofsky predicts this will become increasingly important in future generations.
The “When and Where” of Work
With mobile and cloud capabilities, for many employees work can now happen anytime, anywhere. “Mobility isn’t about a device. It’s a style of working,” says Lepofsky. Employees don’t have to go into the office to work or be supported. Whether they’re full-time employees or members of the gig economy, they can work from their home, a remote office, while travelling, or in a coffee shop.
The “What” of Work
The type of work we do is also changing. While there is fear around job loss due to automation and technological advancement, Lepofsky doesn’t see it that way. Rather, the jobs that will be available are changing. For example, drone operator has only recently become a job someone can do.
The “How” of Work
Perhaps most significantly, the how of work in changing. For most employees, work is constantly coming in faster and from more places. We’re overloaded with too much information, coming at us from too many places, from too many people, interrupting us too often, asking us to do too much. The future employee will be juggling an even greater volume of work.
With the volume and velocity of work, information, and interruptions increasing and accelerating every day, employees need help getting (or staying) focused. Technology can help employees focus their time and efforts through analytics and quantified work–in this way they can see which efforts pay off, and which aren’t the best investment in time.
Platforms that help organize work and create structure can also help employees focus on which efforts matter most. “[Smartsheet] is all about organizing and structuring work,” says Lepofsky, “so they’ve done a really good job there.” He imagines a future where a work management platform could serve up a dynamic, prioritized list of tasks to help employees stay focused without losing sight of the overall fast-paced work environment.
Technology Will Augment, Not Annihilate, Work
Lepofsky paints a much different picture of the future than a robot army taking jobs from humans. Instead, technology will augment work to help employees accomplish more. How we visualize and interact with our work will change dramatically thanks to virtual reality, advances in tangible telepresence, and other technologies that promise to help employees work at the speed of thought.
Biometrics is another area where workers may see big advances managing their workload. Lepofsky cited this example: imagine that a sensor could tell if you were stressed based on your blood pressure readings — and then sync with your other devices to put a hold on email for the next hour. Lepofsky argues that using physiological and psychological data this way could help us work more effectively.
Ultimately, Work Will Be Creative
Employees of the future will be more creative as a result of this focused, augmented way of working — and thanks to technological advances that enable everyone to be a creator, a storyteller, and a producer, according to Lepofsky. Not only will employees have more time and focus to innovate, but perhaps they can start to imagine a world in which technology is useful and beautiful.