What will workplace of the future look like?
Yes, we are all still holding out for flying cars, holograms, and giant vacuum tubes for moving people around, but there are some other trends which many office workers see coming in the near-future that are decidedly less Buck Rogers.
According to Workfront’s new U.S. State of Enterprise Work Report, which surveyed over 600 enterprise workers earlier this year, some important trends are coming to the office of the future. They might not involve androids or teleportation, but they could very well decide which companies succeed or fail in the next five years.
Here are the five biggest predictions about the office of the future from today’s enterprise workers:
1. In with remote work
Look at the people working in the cubicles and/or desks around you. In 3-5 years, there’s a good chance they could be gone—not because they’ll be replaced by automatons, but because they’ll be working from living rooms and coffee shops elsewhere. Fifty-two percent of enterprise workers taking the survey agreed that, in a few years, most workers will be remote.
If this doesn’t exactly drop your jaw, it’s probably because this is already happening and it’s gaining in popularity because of the undeniable benefits it brings to employers and employees alike.
“[O]ne of the biggest reasons that so many large companies are embracing remote work is because there’s a growing pool of talented and affordable freelancers available via the Internet,” says Alvin Chia of the Huffington Post.
But that’s not all that remote working brings to the table, says Chia. “Worker retention is higher, HR costs are lower, and companies that allow for remote work experience more growth. Those are some hard facts to ignore.”
It seems logical then to assume that this trend will continue to spread as it becomes viewed less as an interesting experiment and more as a tested and true best practice.
2. Out with meetings
If you’re not a fan of meetings, first, you’re in good company, and second, you’re going to love work five years from now. Of all survey respondents, a sizable 36% agreed that meetings will be drastically reduced in the next few years.
Could it really be true? Can the workplace really survive with significantly fewer meetings? On one side, a great deal of negativity was thrown in meetings’ direction in the State of Enterprise Work Report, as we asked respondents to choose the emoji that matched their feelings about meetings:
At the same time, however, we asked respondents to tell us how effective they considered face-to-face meetings, to which 90% said meetings are either somewhat or very effective.
Surely, the increase in remote work will put a damper on workers’ ability to call meetings. But if meetings really are this useful, how will work teams function with fewer of them?
Perhaps the answer lies in work tools that allow enterprise workers to still collaborate and keep each other updated over distances.
3. Email to be supplanted
While few of us have very fond feelings when it comes to our inboxes and the constant grooming they require…
… it’s also nearly impossible to imagine it not being a major part of our work lives. Still, more than a quarter of survey respondents agreed that, in five years, email would be replaced as a main mode of office communication. But what could drive such a change or, for that matter, replace email as the office communication tool of choice?
Vincent Orleck, CMO at Brandish, offers this explanation:
“While I maintain that email won’t ever entirely disappear and should remain as a valuable tool in workers’ arsenals, I do subscribe to the belief that it probably won’t be the MAIN mode of communication in five years—once the older generation is really starting to phase out of the workforce and the younger workers who have experience with more collaborative tools are phasing in heavily.”
4. Conflict will be the norm
Remember how we all thought the future would be a time when peace reigned and humans had evolved beyond their propensity for conflict? Well, that might not be true about the workplace of the future.
For the last three years, we’ve asked respondents to indicate if they experience conflict with other teams, departments, or groups. In 2014, 81% of workers responded affirmatively; this year, that number jumped up to a nearly all-present 95%.
In other words, workplace conflict is not only on the rise, but it’s already pretty much ubiquitous.
What could explain this increase in conflicts between teams and departments? Robert Kelly, the host of #PMChat, says, "The speed of business, 'flattening' of organizations, and transparency of collaborative tools all combine to create a very competitive environment."
When asked to point out the sources of this growing conflict, workers named lack of communication (36%) and conflicting priorities (28%) as the two biggest culprits.
Does that mean that pervasive conflict has to be the norm at all companies? Not necessarily. Those companies who can solve their communication and alignment problems now might be saved from this plague.
5. PM software will be standard
Not too long ago, PM software was for, well, PMs. However, due to many of the trends mentioned above by Robert Kelly, PM software is becoming a mainstream must-have for teams everywhere.
When asked to indicate which answer best matched their feelings about project management software, respondents answered thusly:
37% said, “Yes, I currently use a tool like this.”
33% said, “No, but I’d like to.”
30% said, “No, and I do not want a tool like this.”
Clearly, project management software is gaining in acceptance, with more than two-thirds of workers saying either already use it or they want to. But why?
Explains Kelly Santina, head of operations and media at Convince & Convert:
“On any size team, a project management tool is becoming as vital as a computer. Even for a sole proprietor, logging hours and assets against that work is made so much more efficient through a project management tool.”
So what else does the U.S. State of Enterprise Work Report reveal about the office of today and tomorrow? To find out, download the full report here.
About the Author
Marcus is a content strategist and producer who loves helping brands craft content that improves customers' lives, builds brand credibility, and demands to be shared. For the last 10 years, Marcus has worked in every type of content—from writing to video production to design—and is currently a senior content marketing manager at Workfront, where he oversees all corporate- and awareness-level level content. When he's not producing content, he's consuming it, in the form of books, movies, and podcasts.Follow on Twitter More Content by Marcus Varner