The Future of Work – What it will look like in 20 years

Ten years ago, social networks like Facebook didn’t exist. The idea of being able to call your friend using video chat was a dream rather than a reality. Ten years before that, the Internet was still something that no one quite understood. It was a place where the geeks hung out and a thing the nerds played with. Many of you will even remember the days when you would go to work and write documents on a typewriter. Could you imagine walking into Starbucks and pulling out a typewriter? I don’t think so.

The world is changing and it’s changing fast. Thus, it’s hard to imagine what the world will be like in twenty years. If you asked me growing up what the future would be like, I would have said that cars would fly. Today, I’m still optimistic that I’ll get to drive a flying car like the Jetsons but let’s not get carried away.  Technology has drastically changed the world we live in and the shift has changed business. Businesses will continue to see the impact of technology for years to come, which means it will impact employees and society as a whole just the same. Here are three ways that I see technology further changing work in the next twenty years.

Productivity Tracking

In many offices, more time is spent chatting, gossiping and creeping Facebook than actually doing work. In the past, productivity was a difficult (if not impossible) to measure. While many businesses are still wasting millions and millions of dollars every year paying for employee downtime some are striving to change that. Soon employers will be able to track what employees are doing and track exactly how much of their time is being spent productively.

The biggest impact productivity tracking will have on businesses relates to both that companies success and their star employees. The companies tracking productivity will find an increase in efficiency and in turn, an increase in the bottom line. As for employees, if you’re a star employee this is a win-win situation. The more productively you work, the more money you’ll make. Seniority will no longer guarantee you a job and office politics will slowly be thrown out the window.

Telecommuting Goes Mainstream

If you ask ten employees where they find they do their best work. I’d bet that more than half of them will say somewhere outside of the actual office. Studies show that an office space doesn’t always equal the best work. With technology continuing to evolve on a weekly basis it’s becoming easier to communicate with your colleagues without physically being around them. Now don’t get me wrong, I love my colleagues but alone time is without question the period of time when I am the most productive. This is something that is seen in many organizations around the world but is still ignored.

In Real Estate they say it’s all about “Location, Location, Location.” In the future, businesses will have one mindset – “Communication, Communication, Communication.” The companies who are able to communicate effectively through software like basecamp or campfire (37signals.com) will be able to find great success.  Landlines and snail mail will become a thing of the past while the cloud, tablets and interactive PDFs become mainstream.

Free-Time MBA Requirement

Education will continue to play an important role in your ability to enter the work force. However, it will not be the three letters at the end of your signature that predicts your future. What’s going to determine your ability to climb the corporate ladder will be how much time you’re willing to put into yourself. There are thousands of websites providing free content filled with knowledge and advice. Anyone who is not taking advantage of these resources will ultimately be left behind by those who are.

The web has made the concept of informal education to become a phenomenon that everyone needs to be aware of. We live in the information age; in the last five years there has been more data created since the beginning of mankind. The percentage of Canadians attending University and College continues to increase year after year. Yet, many of the lessons these students are learning will have little relevance to the next wave of businesses in 20 years.

In the future we will have more freedom and power than ever before. In the future, the ambitious will consider themselves entrepreneurs and their focus will shift from wanting a pay cheque to wanting to create value. Whether that value is found in community work or creating the next Facebook, our passion to make a difference in the world will define the future. So there you have it, these are my predictions.

Let’s just hope the Mayans were wrong about theirs.

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