This is just a sneak peek from Anne’s feature in SCENARIO 6:2013. If you are not a current subscriber to SCENARIO or a member of The Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies, then subscribe or get in touch with us here.
A new report from the Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies puts a spotlight on eight challenges for future work, labour and workplaces. Read about what challenges companies, managers and employees will face as soon as the next few years.
Companies and their managers can look forward to both threats and opportunities in the global labour market over the next five to seven years. The report ”New Ways of Working – Introducing the Workplace of the Future”, which has just been developed by the Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies for ISS, focuses on eight concrete challenges. How these are tackled will determine the difference between success and failure for many companies.
The basis for the report’s focus on the eight challenges is among other things four general trends that will characterise the future labour market, namely digitisation, automation, sustainability, and increasing demographic variety in the labour force.
In the fact box on page X you can read more about the methodological basis for the report, while you below can read about the concrete challenges, which we will discuss one by one.
The challenges tell us about the future development of work (challenge 1-3), labour (4-6) and labour market (7-8), but they are also indicators of more sweeping social developments – among other things because our work to a large degree shapes our identities.
1. Constant adaptation
Societies in the developed world have moved from the industrial society to the innovative society. Towards 2020, companies must focus on improving the productivity of knowledge workers, e.g. by assigning routine tasks like registration and information seeking to non-knowledge workers. In this fashion, all employees will experience increased specialisation or more outsourcing.
Companies that outsource more tasks will get increased focus on value networks instead of value chains, with the creation of value not necessarily tied to a single organisation or physical place. Instead, value is increasingly generated in a network of organisations, companies, customers, negotiators, freelancers, and more. The company’s establishment of external relations is more important than ever before. Many expenses can be transformed from being fixed to variable through outsourcing and more collaboration; and through reducing fixed expenses and adapting faster to market shifts, companies are better able to thrive in the accelerating, hectic and energetic competition that characterises the new, innovative society.
The physical workplace continually represents brand and organisational culture – it is a manifestation of a company’s DNA. Tasks, however, can be handled almost anywhere; from home, at a café, or somewhere else. Hence, companies must change and rethink their understanding of the role that the workplace has in value creation.
The increasingly flexible and individualised work becomes a particular challenge since many good ideas and spontaneous meetings take place at the water cooler or during coffee breaks, in the many informal situations that also establish the employees’ social relations and create the feeling of belonging at a workplace.
2. New technology breaks down barriers
New technology changes the very nature of work. Technological advances allow us to work outside the physical workplace and at all hours, which as described above has its issues, but also creates opportunities. Flexible employees can work more innovatively and surrounded by a lot of external input in e.g. a café or in a lunch meeting with contacts from other companies and industries.
The omnipresent mobile technology in particular moves and expands the physical boundaries of the company and leads to reconfiguration of many types of companies. An ‘office’ will increasingly be seen as a network of people rather than one or two fixed physical places.
Cloud technologies will similarly break down barriers both within an organisation and between organisations. All data can potentially be accessed from anywhere and through all sorts of internet-connected devices. This makes work more mobile and flexible, and data storage can be outsourced to companies that offer cloud solutions – such as Microsoft, Google and Amazon – something, however, that challenges organisations’ abilities to direct, control and analyse data flows.
Technological progress is seen by the respondents of the report’s survey as the most important and most influential megatrend for the way people will work in 2020. Particularly the development of information technology happens exponentially and will in just five years be 10 times as good as today, and in 10 years most likely 100 times as good.
3. Intelligent cities and the future of work
After the massive migration to the suburbs in the last half of the 20th century, cities have returned to be the primary breeding ground for creativity, innovation and growth. Some cities are well on the way to becoming intelligent cities. Sharing information and resources characterise future intelligent cities, and companies and offices will increasingly be integrated in the local community and become part of the intelligent city. Hence, the city will greatly influence the development of new office designs that are integrated with the environment. Particularly the rapidly growing Chinese megacities have the opportunity to rethink ‘the city’.
Intelligent cities and networks between organisations create opportunities for several types of outsourcing. Companies integrate in networks that exist both physically and virtually. An example is the concept Zipcars, where companies increasingly use car-sharing schemes. It is also possible that companies in the future will share employees in order to balance the employee’s need for both job security and flexibility. Companies will enter into ‘’symbiotic’ relationships through promoting closed cycles of service symbiosis between companies.
4. Polarisation of the workplace
A strong growth in temporary employees, together with automation and globalisation, will lead to polarisation of the future labour force. On the one hand, talents will get greater opportunities for self-actualisation and hyper-specialisation. …