What will the workplaces of tomorrow be like? When, where and how will we work? Then there’s the even bigger question: why we will work at all. For this report, created by Kjaer Global and Unily, we explore and imagine work in 2030+.
The future snapshots and scenarios are underpinned by knowledge culled from analysis of white papers, media and reports – alongside ‘deep dive’ interviews with a diverse group of visionaries, experts and industry leaders. Findings are considered through the lens of the emotional, physical, smart and purpose-driven dimensions of tomorrow’s workplaces.
“[Gen Z] will put value on experience […] and
they will probably be the most inclusive
generation in history, that we’ve seen so far.
They will have grown up witnessing things in
the world and will have very little patience with
a world that doesn’t accept, and also reflect,
diversity. In this sense, they will push and
challenge the organisations and raise the bar.”
Chief Human Resources Officer, L’Oréal USA
1. THE EMOTIONAL WORKPLACE
Inclusivity, trust and focus on wellbeing define tomorrow’s workplace culture. Innovation culture happens when people connect and collaborate; and challenge existing norms. Emotional intelligence, advanced problem-solving and creative thinking are key soft skills.
“The hard work is to build culture by making non-
economic decisions […] Who do you celebrate,
what do you reference when you talk about
things? What is it like around here, and too often
old-school companies forget that they need to
invest in culture, they don’t just get to take it.”
Author, entrepreneur, marketing & business expert
People want to join organisations that reflects their own values – they expect leadership on ethics and positive change. With an increasingly liquid workforce, culture is a top priority, allowed to develop from bottom up but require consistent vision and behaviours to communicate company values and traditions. Emotional intelligence, self-regulation and self-awareness are prized attributes with more people working remotely or on a project basis.
“By including people that are neuro-diverse
and people within the autistic spectrum to
the workplace, we can start to look at how
the workplace allows us to be more inclusive,
and that means assistive technology. The
great thing is that once you elevate your
workspace for the people that might be
the most vulnerable, you’re also increasing
the comfort level for everybody else.”
Cognitive neuroscientist and co-Founder, Centric Lab
Automation help us play to our strengths, supporting with admin and reducing ‘noise’ while enhancing innovation capacity and productivity. AI and emotive intelligence suggest breaks, tailor nutritional boosts and offer guided workouts or meditation as part of everyday physical and digital working landscape. Flexibility is the new currency as variable work patterns – including shorter working hours for some – benefit wellbeing, inclusivity and productivity, will lead to workplaces adapted to suit dynamic schedules. Organisations contribute to employee wellbeing; this includes their financial stability, since unstable finances are a major source of stress.
2. THE PHYSICAL WORKPLACE
Tomorrow’s workplace is characterised by a human-centric understanding of the employee’s needs. Head office will change from a statement of corporate power to a social hub for unique employee experiences, cultural cohesion and values sharing.
“The head office and physical workplaces
will not go away. The headquarters will
always be there, like a family home, a place
to meet and share value and experiences.”
Corporate Systems Business Partnership Manager, Mars
Head office has moved from statement of corporate power to social hub for cultural cohesion and values sharing. Workplace design is optimised and characterised by a human-centric understanding of the employee’s needs. Physical offices are dynamic spaces that facilitate organic interactions, cross-disciplinary collaboration and personal wellbeing. Biophilic offices mimic natural environments, while outdoor workspaces help redress the nature deficit. Walkshops and standing meetings are still popular, direct human interaction will always prevail. AR and VR are the new ideation tools – a team brainstorm on Mars, the floor of the Pacific or the plains of Patagonia never fails to inspire.
“If you’re a very large institution you want a way
of incubating and transmitting your culture.
What will become more important is that you
have a string in globally significant cities, and
you want a global culture with local flavours.”
Strategist & Honorary Senior Research Associate UCL (AOT)
Neuro-diversity is recognised, and welcoming people on the whole autistic spectrum and those with special needs broadens the talent pool – and benefit everyone. Concentration rooms and quiet times have become as vital as social meeting spaces. Employees use them to nurture creative skills or as a space to think, catch up with family or take a nap.
3. THE SMART WORKPLACE
Technology is enabling new business models, ways to work and employee experiences. The smart workplace is an empowering partnership between people and tech, bringing out the best of both. The sum is greater than its parts.
“We don’t need more education, as
the song goes, because education is
about power and control and tests.
What we need is learning, and learning
is about incompetence and failure.
The only way to learn something is
to embrace that you are incompetent
the moment before you get better.“
Author, entrepreneur, marketing & business expert
The smart workplace is a human/tech partnership where the sum is greater than its parts. Organisations are usingbest practice from business schools and start-up incubators to focus on autonomy in the innovation process. Employees are allowed to ‘think and do’. And forget 20% time – a winning pitch is supported for as long as it takes to make it fly. Now that workplaces and the workforce are more fluid, human resources operate rather like the circular economy of material resources. Boomerang employees have become a valuable part of the mix – leaving for a while to explore different avenues then returning to share knowledge and re-energise their colleagues. The ability to calibrate the right, diverse teams is essential to address problems we don’t know yet – challenges of the future.
“I foresee in the future that hubs of multi-creativity
– or multi-skilled, hyper-specialised
hubs, will be connected to each other in
trusted ways that will boost productivity.
Anthropologist, futurist and strategist
It has been recognised that imagination, relationship skills and creativity – as well as willingness to take risks – underpin innovation and this is fuelled by smart tech. Continual learning is vital to address change, but the focus is on ‘learning to learn’. Knowledge is delivered in intuitive, bite-sized and tailored portions. Employees are supported by AI, with PDIs (personal digital assistants) mentoring and coaching them for new roles – even facilitating ‘brain dates’ between employees.
4. THE PURPOSEFUL WORKPLACE
Successful leaders nurture mindful and emotionally intelligent organisations, characterised by passionate, engaged employees and a purposeful vision. Betterness is good business, so impact investments – designed to bring measurable societal benefits alongside financial return – have gone mainstream.
“The mistake that is made all the time is that we
measure things that are easy to measure, rather
than things that are important to measure.”
Author, entrepreneur, marketing & business expert
Companies now fulfil roles traditionally managed by policymakers (health, learning, sustainability) and are forging cross-industry alliances. Gen Z – now an influential part of the workforce – demand action, that organisations ‘walk the talk’. As digital natives, they love the novelty of IRL (in real life) experiences, meaning they favour organisations with great cultures, spaces and locations.
“A meaningful and authentic environment
will allow people to ‘work out loud’, ‘think
out loud’ and work with a clear purpose
to bring value to both business and the
wider society, while learning and evolving
new skills to keep up with the change.”
Digital Employee Experience IT Manager, Shell
Rigid and complex hierarchies have been swept away, with leadership redefined as a more relational role. Key functions are to drive purpose, inspire employees and keep strategy agile. Management is flatter, with power devolved to fluid teams and networks. This autonomy is underpinned with clear and transparent rules and expectations that link back directly to the organisation’s purpose and vision. In other words, people, internal and external – know what their company expects without having to look it up in a manual.
“Tomorrow’s leaders will place meaningful
engagement on top of their agenda and dare
to say: ‘I don’t just want to be best in the
world, I also want to be the best for the world.”
ANNE LISE KJAER
Futurist, author, speaker and entrepreneur
By 2030, workplaces will be defined by personalised solutions, wellbeing and a focus on culture, autonomy and inclusivity. Work is already being untied from space and time and, while this freedom is liberating and empowering, there are challenges ahead. In particular, how do organisations inspire a sense of belonging and respond when walls between physical and digital have disappeared, the workforce is more disparate and demanding than ever and the new rule is to expect change and keep on learning? The answer is to keep the core principle of purposeful leadership at the heart of everything. Future workplaces require visionary leaders, and they will be those people who want to be not only ‘best in the world’ but ‘best for the world’.
IMAGES + INFOGRAPHICS
All visuals: Unily
Anne Lise is a futurist and keynote speaker working across the world
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