I usually look in askance at futuristic predictions mostly because the older I get, the more I realize how utterly impossible it is to see what is to come. The forces of change are both fickle and unknowable, and can only be seen in hindsight. We can’t even predict the weather more than a few days out, and like the weather, there are uncountable variables that go into creating the future, making seeing it more akin to a crap shoot than a scientific endeavor.
No flying cars, no living on the moon, no Back to the Future-like Hoverboards — all predicted when I was a kid. The track record of futurists leaves much to be desired.
“Fast Forward 2030: The Future of Work and the Workplace” is a report by realty consulting firm CBRE and China-based Genesis, a property developer. It envisions the workplace a decade from now that is a lot different than the one today.
1. Artificial intelligence will transform businesses and the work that people do
- Process work, customer work and vast swathes of middle management will simply disappear:50% of occupations today will no longer exist in 2025
- New jobs will require creative intelligence, social and emotional intelligence and the ability to leverage artificial intelligence. Those jobs will be immensely more fulfilling than today’s jobs
- Workspaces with row of desks as we know them today will be completely redundant.Not because they are not fit for purpose, but simply because that purpose no longer exists
2. For employees, purpose is more important than financial success
- There is a significant and global trend amongst all people, but particularly the youth, towards happiness, purpose and meaning being as or more important than financial success
- Corporations will not only need to be lean and agile they must be authentic to attract talent: authentic in their values and in making a real contribution to the social good
- As the nature of work changes we expect to see more social entrepreneurship
3. Emergence of online trading for real estate
- By 2030 the majority of real estate transactions may be made online, and the majority of transactions will be made by the users of the space using real time marketplaces (similar to Uber) that help the find the best and most effective place to work
- Real estate traditionally changes slowly but these new emerging aggregators could revolutionize the market, allowing tenants and many types of building owners in cities to contribute wasted and unused space back into an eco-system of available space
4. Landlords to focus more on delivering services
- Buildings will be much healthier environments, and landlords will need to create partnerships with providers who can help create services and experiences in addition to basic lease tenancies
- As landlords start delivering more complete solutions they will rate their building’s value not by the cash flow of rent but in the cash flow from the services.
Sounds fascinating, but strangely out of kilter. Like this:
Young people interviewed for the report clearly indicated that the workplaces of 2030 will contrast starkly to the workplaces of today and will offer a wide variety of quiet retreat and collaborative settings, each ideal for a specific kind of job or task or designed to suit a specific personal work style. In particular, young interviewees suggested that workplaces of the future will need to support worker health and wellbeing—as did all industry experts and business leaders interviewed for the study. The budding industry of wellness in buildings will grow rapidly in the coming decade.
Sounds like paradise — if I were someone in their 20’s and had a completely unsophisticated view of business. It’s like Occupy Wall Street meets Dr. Phil. No matter how “authentic” a business may be, they still have to make money to survive. The future worker who is not interested in financial success won’t be working very long.
If anything, the competition for these kinds of jobs will be even more intense than such competition today. Are we to believe that employees will be in a position to demand more emotionally satisfying jobs at companies who put “social good” over profit? That will be a tough sell.
It very well may be that robots and artificial intelligence devices will revolutionize the workplace. And it could be true that 50% of all jobs today will be gone by 2025.
But it is also likely that millions of jobs will be created in industries that don’t even exist yet, or are flying below the radar. The only thing rock solid certain about the future is that it will surprise us. And studies like this one will be forgotten long before they’re proved wrong.