Are we 'future of work' obsessed?

SPONSORED: Alison Webb, head of workplace for Lendlease, on how the rapidly changing work environment is forcing businesses to completely rethink how they operate.

by Alison Webb
Last Updated: 19 Jun 2017

I’m asked a lot about the future. What does the workplace of the future look like? What’s the next trend? Who will the future workforce be? Across industries and sectors – tech to retail, aged care to learning – when you look at it, we all have a bit of a future-focused fetish.

I can see how our many possible futures can be both exciting and terrifying at the same time. For instance I can’t wait for automation to step in to do the things I hate. My Samsung fridge already orders my groceries online, and the Ghostbot app can break up with my bad Tinder dates by firing off uninterested responses until they give up. But this type of technology will ultimately transform our work and the workforce in ways we can’t yet anticipate.

Deloitte reports that 35% of UK jobs are at high risk of automation over the next two decades – this kind of statistic can be rather daunting. But fear isn’t going to stop the rapid pace of change we’re facing. It’s time for us all to realise that the future no longer means working out how we continue to operate in a changing landscape – it’s changing how we operate in the first place.

To make our work work in the future, we need to rethink everything.

No one (or at least no one I know) is claiming to be able to perfectly predict the future. And we’ve all witnessed future-flops— I can’t be the only person that purchased a MiniDisc player. But we can’t avoid the issue either – we need to be informed and use our collective intelligence to ensure we build in change capability across our teams, business models and even workspaces. Ultimately, our businesses and teams within them need to be as flexible as they can – and that, while simple to say, is no easy thing to achieve.

The thing that really excites me about the future of work is that people, across businesses, across roles, across boardrooms, are now truly embracing the fact that change needs to happen.

It’s no longer just the HR director taking notice. The buy-in is across decision-makers, from CEOs to heads of property to chief employee experience officers. And so it should be, as work impacts us all.

The future of work is a seriously hot topic – more and more people are joining the conversation on talent, competitiveness, innovation and agility. At the crux, we are all looking to the future for a reason. We want to be a contributing part of it.