Newton’s third law of motion states that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. This era’s force of change is the infamous COVID-19 pandemic. It did not just change people’s habits, but their lifestyles as well. Be it school, restaurants, or offices, all areas of life are getting rewired the world over. It is amusing to see that even the people who mocked “technology” are now dependent on it. Therefore, the question is, what is the future of work? Here are three theories or “predictions” of the post-pandemic work style.
The Future Of Work Will Be 'Remote'
Trend: Research conducted by McKinsey validates that 80% of people prefer a remote work lifestyle. The reasons vary from higher productivity to greater comfort and savings. Tata Consultancy Services also said that up to 75% of its global workforce would work remotely by 2025. Remote culture is accelerating at a substantial rate. Skuad’s research recently highlighted as many as 30 interesting statistics that prove remote work culture is here to stay.
Theory: An upside of the pandemic is that it burst several myths around remote working. The coming generation will witness freelancers and on-demand remote workers become digital gurus. The cost-saving benefits would lure organizations to build remote teams. Companies will leverage the idea of hiring global talent. As a result, teams will be culturally diverse.
The situation has already aligned many of us with effective time management. We see a high percentage of the population vouching for the continuity of the remote culture. The freedom and flexibility of operating any time from anywhere are unmatchable benefits. If the future of work happens to be remote, then working styles will surely change. There is a high possibility that co-working culture will witness an upsurge. Likewise, the trend and demand for work-friendly cafes will rise manifold. Libraries would become sanctuaries of remote workers who prefer quieter surroundings. Subsequently, another development would be the need for space for the home office on a house hunter’s checklist. From soundproofing to tempered glass. Better air conditioning systems to huge desktop screens. Smart home technology will enter many households.
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Sitting Together But Apart: Reimagining Office Spaces
Trend: Up until now, ’employee efficiency’ was the guiding force in office design. The arrangement of desks functioned to increase the collaboration between teams. Meeting rooms have conventionally been indoor halls with a one-table seating arrangement. The pantry areas were chilling spots, alternate working spaces, and casual meeting areas. Thus, the question now is whether such architecture follows the new social distancing norms? US-based furniture maker Steelcase released a report-cum-catalogue. The designs are awe-inspiring and meet the latest safety requirements.
Theory: The first theory overpowers this one. But a significant proportion of the population will not be able to operate remotely. It is because some tasks need professionals to go to the office. The report mentioned above also states that “planning paradigms of the past were driven by density and cost. Going forward they need to be based on the ability to adapt easily to possible economic, climate and health disruptions.” Architects will have to shift to “resilient-designing” to cater to social distancing norms.
Quick small-scale solutions could be a restructuring of the office space. This office space change will mean reconfiguring desks and enabling partitions. There could also be a reverse trend of the adoption of the cubicle approach. And it will not be unusual to see group meetings taking place in wide outdoor spaces. Or, face-scanning technologies replacing finger-print driven biometrics to record employee attendance! So, until vaccines become widely available, technology will help employees’ return to offices.
Breaking The Wall Between The Human And AI World
Trend: There are countless predictions that robots will surpass human existence. A TIME’s article reported that “In the U.S. alone 40 million people lost their jobs at the peak of the pandemic. While some have come back, some will never return.” CNBC also stated that companies usually invest in automation to save on labor costs. So we can see the global drive to replace humans with AI and robots. This drive has further accelerated because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Theory: Artificial Intelligence and its products will dominate the workspace. Machines make a man’s existence obsolete. We are already dependent on big and small technologies for day-to-day activities. Hence, the dependence will only increase in the future.
Facebook has been experimenting with futuristic desk set-ups. As a part of its new computing platform, it is trying to combine augmented and virtual reality. The idea is to switch easily between professional and personal. Recent Zaha Hadid Architects’ new headquarters gives a glimpse of the future workspace. To start, it has ‘contactless pathways.’ Motion sensors, facial recognition, and devices operated via smartphone apps are other examples. Finally, the time has come to execute the on-paper blueprints and designs of “futuristic technology.”
It is evident how the pandemic nurtured the growth of remote work the world over. The erstwhile comfortable office spaces are now getting reconfigured globally. There is no sure-shot prediction of what the future of work would look like. But we believe that the “futuristic” invention we saw on shows like Black Mirror will be our reality soon.