June 17, 2005 Reskilling, upskilling, telecommuting, downsizing, redundancy … changes in the workplace are all a bit scary unless you have a high tolerance for uncertainty. According to new research the office of the future will be increasingly mobile, with technology enabling employees to perform their jobs from virtually anywhere. The Office of the Future: 2020 research study warns that greater control over where and how people work won't necessarily translate into more free time. Forty-two percent of executives polled said they believe employees will be working more hours in the next 10 to 15 years.
The Office of the Future: 2020 study is a follow-up to a previous research project, Office of the Future: 2005, released in 1999. Trends identified then are a reality today, including the use of multifunctional, wireless technology to conduct business from various locales. Administrative professionals also are now playing a greater role in activities such as Internet research, desktop publishing, computer training and support, and website maintenance.
With Office of the Future: 2020, OfficeTeam, the sponsor of the research, examines trends that may impact the workplace in the next 10 to 15 years. In addition to interviews with workplace and technology experts, futurists, and trend watchers, OfficeTeam surveyed workers and executives at the nation's 1,000 largest companies.
"Technology will continue to reshape the workplace, changing how and where we conduct business," said Diane Domeyer, executive director of OfficeTeam. "As a result, flexibility and adaptability will be sought-after attributes in employees at all levels."
Among the findings:
Technology tools to provide even greater flexibility
Miniature wireless devices, WiFi, WiMax and mobile technology will continue to allow a company's staff to work outside of the office with greater ease. Additionally, virtual environments and web-based conferencing services will provide off-site employees with real-time access to meetings, reducing the need to travel.
Telecommuting to rise
Improved wireless connectivity will allow for an increasingly flexible workforce. Eighty-seven percent of executives surveyed believe telecommuting will increase in the next 10 to 15 years. Telecommuting enables employees to work where it's most convenient, but it also challenges their interpersonal skills. They must build relationships with coworkers while having fewer in-person interactions.
Staff to put in more time
Forty-two percent of executives surveyed by OfficeTeam think employees will be working more hours in 10 to 15 years. Only 9 percent said they would be working fewer hours.
Workers will stay in touch while on vacation
With the proliferation of wireless technology, staff will be expected to remain in close contact with the office while they're away. Eighty-six percent of executives surveyed said workers will be more connected to the office while on vacation in the future.
Companies/employees take a new view on work/life balance
People may put in more time, but they will do so using tools that provide more control over their schedules and enable them to better balance priorities. There will be an increasingly blurred line between work and other activities; people will need to multitask to meet all of their obligations efficiently.
Six Skills Professionals Will Need
After concluding research and pinpointing future workplace trends, OfficeTeam and industry experts identified six skills professionals will need to prepare for success in this new environment.
The skills form the acronym ACTION. They are:
Analysis: Analyzing information and exercising good judgment Collaboration: Establishing rapport and facilitating team building Technical aptitude: Selecting the best technical tools and using them effectively Intuition: Identifying and adapting to the needs and work styles of others Ongoing education: Engaging in continual learning Negotiation: Participating in business discussions that produce positive results "In the future office, there will be added pressure to adapt quickly to change, work smarter, increase productivity and perform duties outside of one's job description," said Domeyer. "The good news is that emerging technological tools and educational opportunities will better enable professionals to meet these challenges."