Despite all of the predictions of a futuristic workplace we all seem to inhabit vastly different offices and factories. So will there ever be a workplace where everything is ideal? What actually will the workplace of tomorrow look and feel like? The answer is probably not because of the compromises that must exist but it is likely to offer flexibility and empowerment to the people that work within it. Such a place must try to accommodate the requirements of the business (usually in line with commercial stakeholders) and those of employees (and social stakeholders).
These fall into 3 main areas:
1. The organisation, Leaders and Managers
3. Working environment
Leaders and Managers will find their roles changing, they will be the ‘senior citizens’ of the organisation and will no longer exert influence through power and hierarchies. Influence will be through their experience, knowledge, wisdom and vision for the future. These senior citizens may very well have portfolio careers (a term used often by Charles Handy) and work for more than one organisation. They will exert influence but with less cost than the full time management of old.
Employees are the citizens, still able to contribute knowledge and experience but not to such an extent. Contracts of employment may very well be zero hour i.e. employees will not be contracted for a minimum period of employment per week. Instead, their efforts will be summoned on demand. Perhaps 30 hours one week and 40 the next (or none). This will give businesses flexibility but could also leave employees some freedom to create valuable IPR in their time off as a trade off for the new contracts.
The working environment is perhaps the thing that we are currently closest to. Efficiency dictates some sort of hot desking, perhaps hot desking with feeling so that the immediate working environment is not sanitised and can be decorated or personalised. With a distributed workforce, a certain amount of sickness absence and site visits, we no longer need the amount of office space that we did in the past. Making such environments ‘modular’ also means that we can add or subtract capacity easily.
The name of the game in the future is compromise and flexibility on the part of all parties.