The workplace in 2020

Have you ever wondered what the world of work would look like in 2020? I have. With the huge technological progress, it’s hard to imagine what we will be doing and how the world around will look.

If you look at the way we do our jobs today, it seems to be a lot like factory, blue collar labour. It is somewhat cleaner, but the way we do our work today is just like in the early 1900’s in the Ford factory at the treadmill. The industrial revolution made it possible to automate almost everything with machines. Only the parts that could not be automated, were filled by people. Still we treat them as if they are just a mechanical part of a larger machine.

These days, it isn’t about working hard, it’s about working smart. The Information Age has brought us all kinds of different things. Could you ever imagine that the internet would get you your movie without leaving your home? Or that you could reach millions of people just by typing a few words on your computer at home? Or that we would tell anybody who wants to know, what your are doing through twitter, ‘collecting’ friends using Facebook or building your business network with LinkedIn. We use the latest technology to keep in touch with each other in personal or business life, every minute of the day.

Also, at the office, a lot of things have changed. Every morning your boss/manager expects you to be in the office at 8.30, leaving at 17.00. Between these times he ‘owns’ you, so to speak’. No matter if your working like crazy or that you haven’t anything to do. You’re supposed to be at the office. Every day you join the local traffic jam and uselessly lengthen your working day. The paid 8 hours can easily take 12 of the 24 hours in a day.

We often have different roles and different responsibilities in our jobs. This results in working in different teams and at different locations.  Working in different teams and different roles also creates a variety of stakeholders. Your boss/manager used to be the only one claiming your time, but now all these stakeholders are sifting through your calendar to find a moment of your time.

Also, the nature of devices changes. Now we are used to ’traditional’ systems like a general purpose desktop or laptop. We also have thin clients which connects to centrally placed servers. The next generation of devices is even smarter. Take a look at HP’s Slate or Apple’s iPad. These are more task-related devices. And how about your mobile phone? Do you just use it for making calls or do you also have twitter or email in place? What about personal navigation? More and more there is a shift from local to central computing power. Your device just provides you with a view to the digital world. Whether you’re on the couch at home, on the road or at work, the informationflow comes to you in all shapes and forms.

For many things I see beautiful solutions. We are already able to work remotely using VMware View (or Citrix/Microsoft, but hey, I’m a VMware guy  addict;) ). we can use MSN, Skype and Office Communication Server to be available to our collegues and loved ones all the time. We can work together using groupware solutions like Microsoft Exchange and Sharepoint. All this creates our virtual (and mobile) office. There will be a shift in the way we think. No longer we work from 9 to 5, but we work towards a target. Meetings using video- and voicechat, on the fly sharing of information, presentations without ever having to leave your desk. Do your job where you can, when you can, using the device of your choice. Interactive interfaces make it easier to get to the information you want, so you can do your job even quicker.

What are your ideas when it comes to working in the 21st century?