As I write this blog on New Year’s Day 2025 I thought I would look back rather than forward at the many changes in the world of work in past ten years. At long last we have at last got rid of 20th century working practices.
Nearly all my work activities are home based now. My only business travel is a once a week trip to my local workhub, if you call a brisk walk, travel. It’s a good opportunity to get out of the house and meet up with colleagues, and people I have got to know from other organisations, and exchange ideas, very stimulating!
It’s been months since I needed to visit the company HQ and it’s a much smaller building than it used to be. It’s more like a hotel these days with comfy chairs and all sorts of rooms for different activities. They got rid of the last desks a few years ago. Remember all that fuss at the beginning of the century about ‘hotdesking’ and how people were reluctant to share their desks. Why would you need a desk? If I want to look at anything I can project it on to a wall or pop on my virtual reality glasses. Keyboards became redundant when artificial intelligence made speech recognition so accurate. Even the mouse has been discarded now we can control our devices by gestures and voice commands.
Not many offices are needed now
There was that property crash a few years back when it was realised that we had far more office accommodation than office workers. A lot of offices have already been converted into housing or combined live/work dwellings. I can see offices disappearing altogether before too long. These Immersive collaboration technologies, such as 3D video conferencing and life-size holograms, are brilliant. It’s like being in the same room with people who might actually be hundreds or thousands of miles away. We used talk about the importance of a physical face–to-face meeting to meet people for the first time, well you can do that in the comfort of your own home. They are even talking about links to our nervous systems to enable us to have a realistic virtual handshake. I’m glad they have eventually cancelled that ridiculously expensive high speed train project – what was the point of it if business people don’t need to travel to meet people?
Commuting is a thing of the past
Talking of travel, do you remember the dreaded rush hour commuting of ten years ago with regular morning and evening traffic jams and people packed like sardines on trains? Of course, that’s all gone now that the majority of employees are now home based workers. At last all this reduced travel has greatly improved our carbon emissions. Even better, these spray on solar cells help reduce our energy bills as well the environment. They even work indoors, amazing!
Short-term and zero hours contracts are now the norm. No-one seems to have a full-time permanent job these days. Most people have a portfolio of jobs, usually part-time. But it can be tough. In my field I am competing with people in China and India – with all the developments in video and virtual communications distance is no object.
While offices have got smaller, houses have got bigger. It seems all New Builds have a built in workspace so that all sorts of work activities can be done at home including small scale manufacturing with 3D printers. Of course it is essential to have a separate entrance for business visitors and deliveries.
A long cherished dream of many of my friends to be able to work in remote areas in the countryside is now possible. With 6G networks with hyper-fast reliable broadband people can work anywhere. Although home based working has reduced the price pressures on the London housing market it pushed up the price of accommodation in the beauty spots in the Lake District and Cornwall. If only I had bought that cottage when I could have afforded to.
Robbie the robot
Home-based working has improved the quality of life of many of us. We used to talk about Work-Life Balance but the realities of instant and continuous communications mean that work and social life have become intertwined.It’s all about Work-Life Integration, you just need to manage your life sensibly. There are plenty of digital tools to help you. I can’t imagine how we managed without our robot, Robbie, to keep the house clean and do other chores around the house. He even makes a decent cup of tea!
Written by John Eary, Director of JEC Professional Services Ltd. I have a strong track record in advising organisations on new ways of working and exploiting IT effectively. My blog seeks to provoke thinking on the opportunities and challenges of new ways of working presented by technology.