The future of the workplace in 2021, 2025 and 2030

Over the next 10 years, a very large slice of the workforce will be working very differently.

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Digital transformation, artificial intelligence (AI), IoT, Industry 4.0, mobile, broadband, and the rise of Generation Z are all going to have a major impact on how people work in the coming decade.

Younger, digitally-native generations in particular view work not as a place where you go but in terms of what they accomplish with their time, said Cile Montgomery, a senior consultant with Dell Technologies Unified Workspace, citing the results of a panel discussion she moderated about the future of work.

"While the introduction of mobile technology and cloud-based solutions have certainly helped make the idea of working anytime, anywhere a reality, the mix of Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials and now, Gen-Z, creates a complicated dynamic of working styles and productivity drivers that are hard to ignore," she writes in her blog about the panel. "As work becomes less of a place you go and more of a task you perform, employees expect to be able to work whenever they want, wherever they want."

SEE: Digital transformation road map (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

This is happening today with virtual teams and gig employees, for example, who rely on web-based productivity and collaboration tools to connect them to their jobs, regardless of location or time of day. And while this may apply more to certain groups, like information workers today, over the next five years these trends are expected to accelerate, incorporating more repetitive process-orientated work that can be augmented or replaced with technologies like AI and robotics.
 
"And a lot of the conversations I have with our customers are about how they tackled it as an organization," she said in an interview. "Because … delivering this model of work requires adjustments to the way that people approach work on the IT side and the security side, and on the business owner side."

Over the next five years, the challenge for organizations will be to provide employees--especially newer Generation Z who have grown up as highly-connected and social-media-savvy--with career paths that provide exciting opportunities for advancement.

"Gen Z employees want to focus their skills at companies that provide the flexibility and freedom to be entrepreneurial through personalized roles," writes Montgomery.

"What's more, they see the tech industry as the sweet spot to pursue these career goals. Providing intuitive technology and solutions is just one piece of the puzzle for organizations looking to attract this next wave of talent."

Ten years out, the picture is expected to be quite different as Industry 4.0 technologies like AI and the IoT become commonplace. According to a McKinsey study cited by Montgomery, "60% of jobs will be transformed through the automation of component tasks by 2030."

Even so, technology is not expected to replace humans. Instead, it will relieve them of many mundane tasks, allowing opportunities for advancement and creating whole new categories of work like training technology to be more empathetic.

"Some companies will run the race quicker than others," Montgomery writes, "which could widen the gulf between businesses that are future-ready and able to benefit from emerging technologies, and those that are not. But one thing is for certain: the steps organizations take today--including modernizing infrastructure, inspiring employees, and deploying next-generation technologies--will lay the groundwork for their digital-future and help to bring to fruition the next wave of human led, technology-underpinned progress."

The Future of Work roundtable was held on August 6, 2019 in San Francisco and moderated by Montgomery. Panelists included Matt Baker, senior vice president of Strategy and Planning at Dell; Brett Hansen, vice president and general manager of Client Software and Security Solutions for Google; Eve Phillips, group product manager, Chrome Enterprise; Shankar Iyer,  executive vice president and general manager of the End User Computing Business Unit at VMware; emerging technology expert Sally Eaves; and Tim Crawford, CIO & Strategic Advisor AVOA. 

Various industry analysts and media, including ZDNet, Business Insider, eWeek, The Financial Times, 1Techaisle, and Pund-IT, also took part.

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