Our working lives aren’t what they used to be. How will individuals stay focused, fulfilled and financially stable in the future?
The world of work is undergoing a period of inexorable change as technological and societal shifts rewrite old certainties around jobs and employment. For many, change has come at an alarming rate. There is less security – a job for life is a myth in the modern age. There are fewer boundaries – we answer work emails from our beds in the middle of the night. There are also concerns around a possible future where AI and robotics mean our colleagues – or competitors – won’t even be human.
AUTOMATION: FRIEND OR FOE?
The subject of automation has dominated the discourse in recent years, with many viewing it as the next big disruptor to the way we live and earn. Although the trend of losing jobs to machines is still in its infancy, alarm bells are starting to ring. In the UK, 21% of people in employment are concerned that developments in technology will impede future job prospects, according to PwC. In a similar study in the US, Pew Research found that 70% of people express wariness or concern about a world where machines perform most of the tasks currently carried out by humans.
Although there is a clear risk to some professions, more optimistic voices have described a future where automating low-level jobs or tasks will free up people to engage in lifestyles that carry more meaning or time for leisure.
WORK OR PLAY?
Cran’s prediction sounds utopian, but it may not be as far-fetched as it seems. Already there is evidence to suggest that we are rethinking our relationship with work, and choosing to do what we enjoy over what pays well. In the future, game mechanics could change how it feels to work altogether.
A recent art installation at the Whitechapel Gallery in East London explored how the future of work might look if our tasks were turned quite simply into a game. Play Station by Lawrence Lek, an artist who imagines near-future scenarios in digital gaming art, envisages a technology start-up in the year 2037, where work and play are merged into a newspeak-style activity called ‘PlayWork’. The installation is a VR experience with a story that plays out in the Whitechapel building, which is imagined to be the HQ of an automation company called Farsight.
“If there’s no need for human labour, what will the Labour party represent?” Lek told Dazed Digital. “What politics or employment might have to do is give people some form of meaningful work, even if it is just playing video games; pretending, or at least feeling like they’re employed.”
The work-yourself-to-death mentality that has caused mass burnout in the last decade is being abandoned in favour of working schedules, and office interiors that preserve productivity and employee contentment.
This mentality will become more crucial to attracting the best talent according to a report by CBRE, which finds that 80% of employees say wellness programmes will be crucial to attracting and retaining them over the next 10 years. Further on into 2040, the report forecasts that medical treatment and consultation will be part of the wider European workplace offer.
As well as this, office design is being rethought to prioritise collectivity and collaboration, with many designers and employers creating zones that facilitate concentration and focus. “Shared work environments are associated with increases in distraction, negative relationships and distrust,” says Rachel Morrison, senior lecturer at the Auckland University of Technology.
Today Studios by design agency Accept and Proceed is a co-working space in Hackney, London. The layout is geared towards individual working, whilst the branding is understated and minimal – a decision which is also designed to promote focus.
The future of work is a complex picture. The methods through which we live and earn in 2030 will be unrecognisable in comparison with today. It is clear that the future of work will be about fulfilment and focus as much as remaining financially stable.
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