Reshaping the future workplace

Dubai

The shape of all organisations will change dramatically over the course of the next decade as the structure of the workforce in 2025 will be radically altered by “demographic shifts”.

Generation Z digital natives (born between 2000- 2009) will rub shoulders with Generation X employees who will remain active in the workforce into their late 60s and beyond.

Farid Al Sabbagh, vice-president and managing director of Fujitsu Middle East, said that generation fusion means organisations will have to provide a workplace experience that is sufficiently agile and can support the needs of all.

However, he said that a potentially greater challenge lies in supporting the needs of Generation Z workers, which by 2025 will represent more than 20 per cent of the global workforce.

According to a Deloitte study, nearly 75 per cent of the world’s workforce will be millennials by 2025, who prioritise flexible working as key to improved organisational performance, personal benefit, and loyalty.

“For businesses to thrive, it is now more important than ever to rethink the ‘workplace’ to meet the aspirations of the new and next generation of professionals,” Al Sabbagh said.

A Fujitsu study has identified the workplace of the next decade ushered in by the disruptive power of cloud computing and Artificial Intelligence.

He said that five overarching changes will characterise the workplace of the future — social change leading to the lifestyle workplace; technology shifts that result in the intelligent workplace; environmental concerns that call for the low-impact workplace; business and industrial transformation that define a boundary-less workplace and demographic change that ushers in the cross-generational workplace.

“Employees will share a different kind of work experience and relationship with their employers in 2025. Increasingly, workers will identify themselves — not with a specific firm — but as specialists providing specific skills or being part of a professional network.

“Not surprisingly then, co-working spaces, even those managed by third parties, will gain traction, and the young men and women will aspire for office spaces that meet their preferences and are designed to promote collaborative co-creation,” Al Sabbagh said.

Flexible working will become the norm, he said, as the millennials seek more work-life balance. More than half the workforce is expected to be working in “freelance capacity”, and over a third of organisations will have more than half their staff working “remotely”.

Al Sabbagh said that businesses will harness the power of Artificial Intelligence to identify and connect with the best available skills from a global talent pool, and they will have to provide seamless access to corporate data and systems to even casual and remote workers.

“This will call for intelligent security platforms to be integrated into office environments”.

By 2025, he said that virtual assistants will take away much of the drudgery from work by managing business calendars and commutes, booking meeting and completing time sheets and expense forms.

This, in turn, will redefine the nature of works of the future, with many clerical jobs relating to organisational work set to become redundant, he said.

Moreover, he said that AI will deliver a huge leap forward in enhancing the employee experience, by generating new levels of insight into employee behaviour, preferences and context.

“It will speed up, automate and contextualise everyday activities. It will also help in defending against an escalating cybersecurity threat, that will increase in sophistication as more areas of the business — from the office entry system to the coffee machine — become connected to the Internet of Things,” he said.

According to industry experts, 50 billion devices will be interconnected by 2020. Cars will use GPS data to find the best parking space and will gain access of the building using smart biometric while holographic receptionists will provide a personal greeting and will direct the worker to desks located in the same area where they work the closest.

“The use of biometric technology to enable secure access to devices will be truly in the mainstream. Wearables will also play a key role in the workplace of the future, improving health and safety — particularly sectors such as transport and energy. Devices will monitor user behaviour and make changes to their environment through connected sensors to improve their comfort or productivity,” he said.

Devices and wearables will be verifying an individual’s identity through several factors such as biometrics, location and keystroke mannerisms, he said.

“All these mean that businesses will have to lay the foundations in terms of office space, infrastructure and organisational structures as well as data management to support a workforce that will be reshaped by AI. The type of cyber structures will also change,” he said.

With increased emphasis on corporate responsibility, he said that work patterns of the future will change as businesses will be accountable for environmental targets.

He said that the future workplace will see businesses reducing their own footprint and accessing applications run by partners in highly efficient cloud data centres.

“More than a quarter of software expenditure will go on software-as-a-service, rather than on-premises licenses. Bicycles will outnumber cars in major European cities, and the number of commuters will fall significantly, that can result in a massive shrinkage of office real estate,” he said.

Communication will not just be voice- or text-based, but will increasingly incorporate multimedia such as high-definition video, he said and added that virtual reality (VR) will also enter the mainstream enabling remote teams to come together in the same virtual environment.

“The line between the natural and the office world will blur and businesses would have introduced smart lighting, thermostats and air conditioning systems into the workplace environment,” he said.