Business leaders are always looking into their crystal balls to predict the next big trend as office workers continue to adjust to newer ways of working, following the rise of hybrid models. Given how quickly and constantly the workplace is changing, leaders must stay ahead of potential trends, and forecasting when new technologies emerge that will help knowledge workers become more effective and productive.
It’s not enough to just have an opinion on what the future will look like. So, Jabra set out to find the most accurate predictions for the scenarios of the future of work. By analyzing over 100 trends in society Jabra narrowed it down to 11 macro trends that affect the future of work. Building on this, a holistic, in-depth survey with 76 academic and industry experts was conducted, ranging from business management and evolutionary writers to work psychologists, finding the most prolific and trust-worthy scenarios for future working. Shaped by the implications of a mixture of macrotrends, and involving a vast number of expert input, Jabra designed six potential Work Futures scenarios over the five years that will have an impact on the four core pillars of businesses, employees, workplace and technology.
Work Future #1: Focus on Employee Wellbeing
Employers are mindful of their duty of care to employees, striving for their well-being at work and beyond. Recognising that peak performance stems from overall wellness, technology will be at the heart of this Future. Technology like AI and automated solutions integrated into workplaces to monitor and enhance employee health and wellbeing.
- Increased visibility with employers resulting in happier and healthier employees: Employees’ productivity will not only be better recognized by employers, monitoring and diagnosis of potentially overworked and stressed employees will lead to greater employee satisfaction and a more positive working environment.
- Mental health a key business driver will lead to greater involvement from leaders: Ensuring employee wellbeing will become a part of broader business strategies. No longer solely HR’s responsibility, it will form a key part of managerial duties where provision of self-help resources and implementing measures that ensures work is a non-toxic and inclusive environment is crucial.
- Emotions and data will evolve the workplace: Data from biosensors alongside automation will create optimal working environments. Emotion-based working spaces will come to the fore, incorporating a mixture of closed and open spaces, where different color palettes and lighting set-ups are likely to be used to accommodate different emotional states or personality-based needs too.
- Tracking and diagnostics with technology: Tools such as AI therapy chat bots, health tracking platforms, and wearables, will allow businesses to track key signs of burnout, guiding them to act before a crisis.
Work Future #2: Agile Superteams
The corporate business model is evolving with cross-company platforms promoting collaboration. Smaller core teams rely on a flexible partner network from diverse backgrounds, necessitating data security solutions. Breaking down communication silos enhances data access and enables AI-driven tools for efficient online collaboration, fostering a novel ecosystem.
- Portfolio experiences make for effective members across teams: Individuals will demonstrate their expertise through a portfolio sprinkled with experiences. Team building will become even more important, the ability to switch between projects, client preferences and languages will be key to employee success as effective members of multiple teams.
- Smaller fluid teams will require added focus on company culture: Business models will shift from having a large core team to a smaller core with a mix of partners. Known as a ‘Hollywood’ working model, the best people will be selected for any given project, meaning companies will have to work harder to promote and maintain their cultures.
- Collaboration in neutral and secure office rooms: Private spaces for freelance partners will be needed, in addition to universal compatibility of work devices. Offices will need more streamlined security measures to manage the increasing number of short-term employment contracts.
- Flexible BYOD: Employers may no longer be required to provide tech for employees, so work resources will need to be cloud-based and accessible from any device. A seamless cross-platform connectivity and cloud-based storage and access will be crucial to accommodate those working for multiple companies at once.
Work Futures #3: Sustainability at the Heart of Business
Amidst escalating climate change concerns, businesses are embracing environmental responsibility. Business travel decreases, sparking innovation in communication technology. Eco-friendly travel and local, sustainable manufacturing gain importance. Energy conservation becomes a priority, challenging the balance between automation and electricity use. Tech companies thrive by refurbishing and reselling goods in a sustainability-focused world.
- Better employee understanding the impacts of sustainable living: With a heightened awareness of sustainability issues, employees will better understand how they can make a difference at work. Employees may be rewarded for choosing sustainable options like cycling or walking to work instead of other forms of transport.
- Sustainable practices in focus: There will likely be more stringent environmental policies that’s more transparent and robust. Businesses will focus on reusing and recycling materials, updating products, rather than constantly creating new ones, increasing reliance on local partners to reduce carbon footprint in their supply chains.
- Smart and sustainable building designs: AI and automation will use data to ensure buildings are energy efficient by monitoring temperature and automating power supplies. Offices will also be built using more sustainable practices, like modular construction, having the planet in mind, e.g., bike friendly offices, renewable materials, collection of rainwater.
- Software updates and data tracking: Data and AI will help in tracking and optimising sustainability practices and company processes. A greater drive for hardware that lasts also means relying on software or replaceable parts for advancements, new features, or add-ons.
Work Futures #4: Office Everywhere
The future office is dynamic, untethered from fixed locations, supported by universal cloud tech and communication platforms. Work happens everywhere – during commutes, on the street, or in cafes. Advanced hardware, with noise cancellation and open-plan designs, encourages collaboration and diverse workspaces, reducing background distractions and fostering social interactions.
- Flexible working could lead to emotional disconnect: With the flexibility to work anywhere, compromise will no longer be necessary in achieving a work-life balance without the need to be in the office multiple days a week. Fewer in-person touchpoints may cause employees to feel isolated, making it more difficult to create and feel a strong sense of belonging at work.
- Diverse talent requires evolved performance management: Organizations can tap into a more diverse talent pool for thinking power, that spans a greater geographical distance, as employees will no longer need to live within commutable distance to work. Businesses will need to ensure that they are able to monitor performance effectively for new roles when employees are working at distance.
- Smaller office hubs with smart features: Smart workspaces and office furniture will be multifunctional and allow for more seamless connectivity, adapting smoothly to in-person, hybrid and remote meetings. Without the requirement to work in-office 5-days a week. Businesses may instead rent a greater number of smaller offices, accommodating a more geographically dispersed workforce.
- Digital dashboards and virtual workspaces: Employees will make situation-based decisions on where they work regularly relying on personal dashboard data such as building occupancy and traffic conditions. Virtual meetings, conversations and training will become more immersive with the help of AR and VR, or just more sophisticated video and audio software integration.
Work Future 5: Investing in the whole employee
Workplace changes are inevitable, and employees seek guidance to adapt. Hardware and software providers can offer valuable insights by utilising data for personalized coaching. This synergy with AI will enhance skills like speech, language usage, and time management, ultimately boosting productivity and employee confidence, benefiting employers with a more efficient workforce.
- Employee sense of belonging and reducing development bias: Employees will likely feel more comfortable being their true self at work, with diverse skillsets and backgrounds celebrated rather than minimized. Employees will feel on a more level playing ground at work, with coaching and skill development reducing bias based on early development and education.
- New understanding of productivity and achievement could improve company image: Particularly for bigger businesses, tangible investments in employees will reverse the shrinking trust in corporations. Productivity will be measured in a way that benefits both them and their employees, while employees’ passion areas will be celebrated.
- Moving the home to the workplace: Employee input into working tools will expand to the office, with employees opting for the equipment and environment they find most comfortable. An increased focus on facilitating movement and regular breaks will reduce health challenges created by sedentary work.
- AI and UX as an enabler: AI will be essential if manufacturers are to be able to use the data that flows across their devices to spot meaningful and relevant opportunities for training prompts. Device manufacturers will need to learn how to prompt users to change their behaviour through training.
Work Future #6: Consumerization of enterprise
The line between work and leisure blurs as employees adopt a hybrid, flexible work style. They expect professional tools to integrate seamlessly with personal life, streamlining tech use. Rigid tech policies yield to personalization, allowing employees to choose their devices and apps. This tailoring, including customized interfaces and AI assistants, enhances productivity and job satisfaction.
- Individual choice and styles: Employees will manage how they work, with devices or software packages that suit their needs, working style, or preference. More variation in devices and software may lead to more variation in deliverables that would need to be reconciled.
- Better employee engagement and larger customer base for tech companies: Improved user experience, enjoyment, and productivity through feeling invested in work tools will add significant perceived value at minimal cost. With IT leaders no longer the sole tech decision makers, tech companies must cater to a wider and diverse customer base.
- Clearer tech benefits and durability: Tech will need to be clearly labelled with feature benefits and uses to ensure consumers buy the right device. Devices also need to be durable to withstand increased usage beyond professional spheres. In addition, interoperability across different devices and operating systems will need to meet new connectivity standards.
Frequently, research highlights the lack of responsiveness from multinational corporations to the People, leading to a loss of trust. In contrast, this study seeks to reverse that by conducting a thorough examination of real-world dynamics. It collaborates with impartial and reliable experts to actively contribute to shaping our future. As businesses embrace this future, they must align with the evolving needs and expectations of their workforce. This includes supporting employee demands for a focus on wellbeing and sustainability, all the way through to facilitating flexible and consumer-friendly working habits. Taking and implementing changes in-line with these trends will be the key to driving success and innovation for all industries in the years to come.