When you head to work in 2030, you’ll likely be stepping into an environment that shares very little with the office of today. In 15 years traditional workplaces with their cubicle farms and corner offices will be in the minority, according to global commercial real estate company CBRE and Genesis, a China-based real estate developer.
The two firms surveyed 220 global experts, office workers and young people on what the workplace of the future will look like and discovered that not only will traditional offices be inefficient, most of what we call work today won’t exist any more.
That’s due in part to artificial intelligence, a theme that arose during the information gathering for the survey among those interviewed. Their speculation was grounded in a 2013 report from the Oxford Martin School’s Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology suggesting technology could eliminate nearly half of U.S. jobs by 2025.
Before panic ensues, it’s also helpful to note that future office denizens won’t all be computers and robots. While data in the U.S. indicates since 2000, GDP has outstripped employment, losing occupations simply signals a shift in the type of work that people are doing. After all, someone needs to have creativity and social skills in order to leverage artificial intelligence to gain a competitive edge.
Not surprisingly, the study found that creative, social types need to have a diverse array of work activities and the ability to carry them out in a variety of personal practices in order to stay productive and competitive. Attraction and retention of top talent like this was reported to be the number one competitive advantage in 2030, according to the experts and business leaders surveyed.
Full time staff will represent the majority of these workers, but watch for gains from freelancers. Currently about 45 percent of the U.S. workforce, contingent workers will be feeling the love from employers happy to attract talent that prefers to work with them, rather than for them.
Another striking trend that surfaced in the survey is the need for a new executive in the C-suite. While recent reports of Chief Creative Officers or Chief Disruptors have emerged from the ranks of startups, this study found that corporations would do well if they considered adding a Chief of Work.
The concept behind the title is that this executive would be responsible for aligning technology, talent, and real estate toward a common purpose. Traditionally, this role has fallen partly to the chief operating officer and partly to the CEO. The study indicates that a person in this new position would curate the entire work experience in the physical locations the staff works in (both within the company offices and without, in co-working spaces or coffee shops) as well as in the virtual workplace.
As the study authors write:
In almost every organization today, people already work outside the corporate workplace. These places are an extension of the high performance workplace and have to be deliberately considered as part of the overall work (and life) experience. Community, amenities and places to find solitude and reflection in and around an office building can enhance staff engagement and improve performance.
As work and life continue to intersect in more ways, the study finds, company culture and values can also be supported in the way various workplaces function. The role of the Chief of Work will be to go beyond what Human Resources currently provides in terms of encouraging a company culture. The Chief of Work will also be able to stretch beyond the traditional responsibilities of Shared Services and Corporate Real Estate that only encompass the physical space.
In addition, as part of the executive team, the Chief of Work will have a direct line to the CEO as opposed to HR, which rarely has a seat at the table when the top brass meet to discuss strategy. The Chief of Work (please don’t call them a CoW), will foster an environment that supports the holistic worker.
As Hari Ramanathan, author of ‘Generation Asia,” a study of Asians by Y&R/VML in 2013 and 2014, notes:
Work has become a consumer experience. People seek a holistic life: they want to work with intelligent people on exciting and rewarding projects where they can be creative and left alone to get the job done; values and purpose are as important as money; working for social good is an option; and they want to be a part of ‘the next big thing.’ Not only are youth seeking happiness over money, but study participants reported that a majority of parents now aspire for their children to have happiness over money. Companies that fail to respond to these trends will do so at their peril.