THE FUTURE OF THE WORKPLACE: CRYSTAL BALL TELLS ALL

These past few days, I’ve enjoyed reading articles and watching movies describing the predictions made many years ago about how our society would look today.  For example, Back to the Future 2, which takes place in 2015, got a few things right (even if not many of those “predictions” dealt with the workplace – fax machines and teleconferencing notwithstanding).  A 1967 article in U.S. News & World Report made some wacky predictions, like computers in the home and a “checkless” economy in which people would tell their banks who to pay.  Not bad, but the article also predicted we would be a more ocean algae consuming society, too.  Now, the prediction that laundry rooms would be a thing of the past, replaced by a unit that would intake soiled clothing and emit ready to wear clothing out its other end, is one I’ve still got my fingers crossed on as I make my workplace predictions for 2025:

  • The “workplace” will become a thing of the past. Once today’s generation enters the workforce, they won’t even know what it means to gossip around the water cooler. Technology has made our offices mobile, and that will continue to improve. Telecommuting will become virtual commuting, shrinking the sizes of our offices and our workplace footprint in general.
  • The number of engineers will skyrocket. This prediction is based upon the belief that computers and bots will take over a growing number of duties in many industries that are currently manpower heavy. I can’t quite bring myself in line with the futurists who predict that cars will be driving themselves in the next ten years, thus eliminating delivery drivers and cabbies, but I think the numbers of bots and computers will continue to grow in the manufacturing and the energy settings. Tasks dangerous to humans will be delegated to bots. We will need engineers to design, operate, and repair our future automated workforce. We also will need technicians proficient in operating these machines in new fields.
  • Human Resource departments will become Human Capital departments. Our workforce is continually growing more and more diverse, and that is unlikely to abate anytime soon. Cultural diversity, gender diversity, and age diversity will be an even greater hallmark of the future workplace. We are living to 100, people! Retirement at age 65 will be a thing of the past. HR will be at the forefront of helping manage the talents and contributions to be made by a pool of diverse individuals. Identifying assets that dovetail with business needs and knowing how to both motivate these individuals and measure their results will keep the HC department of the future busy learning to leverage human capital.
  • The “workweek” will be a fluid concept. HR already has its hands full dealing with the FLSA and state wage laws, like West Virginia’s Wage Payment and Collection Act just to name one. Dare I say it, most times, the law lags behind the realities of the workplace. Technology and the expectations of future generations who aren’t just balancing work and home life but instead are integrating the two will lead to new difficulties complying with wage laws (and likely new laws themselves). The workweek will become more 24/7, and 9 to 5 will be a thing of the past.   Making sure your employees are compensated properly while the legal landscape struggles to keep up will present challenges.
  • Holograms. Lots of holograms. Every prediction list needs an out-there guess, so I’m going with holograms. Performance reviews, on-the-job training, and business meetings will all be done via hologram. Trust me – it’ll be cool.

 

Even if these things don’t come to pass, 2015 is a bright road ahead of us.  Feel free to share with me your ideas for the future of the workplace and beyond.  Whatever those ideas are, the Employment Essentials Team looks forward to sharing that road with you.

 

 

Vanessa Towarnicky's primary focus is in the area of labor and employment law. She has been involved in representing clients in various employment cases, including sexual harassment; deliberate intent; age, race, and disability discrimination; wrongful discharge; and various other employment-related torts. She is admitted to various state and federal courts as well as the Third Circuit Court of Appeals and Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
 
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