The future of work in 2019 and beyond

By Ross Sedgewick, Digital Workplace and Team Collaboration Expert, Unify…

It has been said that as a species, we humans first shape our technologies, and then our technologies shape us. When we consider this idea in the realm of how we work and the future of work, it seems the impact of changing work tools has never been greater.

With that in mind, we are considering how trends and technologies will influence how we work in the near and mid-term future.

Let’s take a closer look at some of our predictions:

1. Artificial intelligence (AI) will positively impact jobs as a knowledge worker

Artificial intelligence and robots aren’t likely to push you out of your job, so no fear there. In fact, AI may make you happier, less burdened, and more productive in the workplace. As a result, you will have more time for things that humans do best – problem solving, creativity, and innovation. You may soon work with ‘co-bots’ that provide automation and machine learning, and get better and better at tactical, repetitive, and structured tasks (e.g. transcription, distilling information, translations, note taking, managing to do lists and work assignments). You may even have your own bot attend meetings and take notes for you when you are double booked.

2. Augmented reality (AR) will change the way employees experience interactions and collaboration

Virtual reality and augmented reality can put you side-by-side at the table with your remote colleagues. No matter where you are, you can sit together at the same table. Because of augmented reality, training, demonstrations and simulations can be truly immersive and interactive for workers. Sales and marketing teams can offer virtual “test drives” of almost any product or customer experience, from anywhere. You can even customize your workplace. If you like working on the beach, or maybe near a relaxing waterfall then with AR you can; and what’s more you can take that workplace with you when you hit the road.

3. Gig economy growth rates will slow down, while the perception of employee value will shoot up

The on-demand gig economy will continue to grow, but the rate of growth will slow, and stop short of dictating how we define full time employment models and organization structure. Employees will still dominate the mix, while employers will increasingly appreciate the cumulative experience, loyalty, and continuity that employees bring. And through legislation, we will continue to see gigging contractors being treated by the law as employees in terms of rights, practices, and taxation. Therefore, in some ways, the gigging trend may come full circle.

On the other hand, modern team collaboration tools (for example, those that provide content and file sharing, multi-media conferencing, and group chat) will quickly allow freelancers to onboard faster from any location and participate effectively with existing employees on project teams.

4. Humans will need to learn new interaction skills to achieve desired results as bots become more prevalent in our lives

Over the previous decades, technology users have progressed through punch cards, command lines, and graphic interfaces. Now, both personal assistant bots and customer service bots provide new types of user interfaces to learn. Even with natural language recognition, you may invoke confused, frustrating, and/or useless responses. Sometimes customer service bot responses are programmed to placate, mollify, or provide perfunctory responses, or incorporate poorly designed first-generation algorithms that are not refined enough to be truly helpful or resolve problems. Therefore, people will need to learn to how most effectively communicate with bots to receive useful information, achieve a resolution, or even ‘game’ the algorithm to provoke a human intervention in hybrid customer service situations that combine the interaction from bots and humans.

5. Your own personal ‘digital twin’ will support your optimal well-being at work

Intelligent, connected wearables, biometric sensors, and smart watches combined with personal health analytics will create your own ‘digital twin’ that senses and monitors a wide range of health metrics while you work. These provide motivation and feedback to overcome a sedentary work lifestyle, encourage healthful consumption, and even direct you to attend to live social interaction (for example, go to a co-working space). Apps will let you know when it’s time to change posture, eat, drink, move, take a break, or even meditate by moderating your schedule to allow for optimal balance of sedentary work and stimulating activity.

So, what does this mean for business and industry?

Clearly, digital transformation within the workplace is moving at an incredible speed – although the ‘ideal’ balance depends on the type of business and how it ideally needs to manage its workforce. Finding the right balance will be the biggest challenge for businesses in 2019, as they look to improve productivity and efficiency without adversely impacting workplace engagement and happiness. If done correctly, then companies stand to make large-scale improvements.