Five ways the Future of Work will surprise you

Marianne Hewlett

Senior Vice President and member of the Scientific Community

Posted on: 9 January 2019

It has been said that as a species, we humans first shape our technologies, and then our technologies shape us. It seems no more so than in the realm of the way we work, and with regard for the Future of Work.

Listen to our podcast with Marianne Hewlett, member of the Atos Scientific Community, on hand with us today, to offer her expertise and insights on how trends and technologies will influence how we work in the near to mid term future.

Listen to the Podcast

“As CMO at Atos, I always been fascinated by technology and in particular how it can benefit our work and life. As a member of the Atos Scientific Community I research the impact of technology on humans and in particular in the workplace. And even though we talk about the future of work, it is already happening now. With the increasing speed of new technologies entering the workplace, digital dilemma’s arise. Yes something might be technologically possible, but is it the best way forward for employees, the organization or society at large? The  Could We/Should We question becomes more prominent as the digital and real world become increasingly intertwined.”

The podcast with Marianne Hewlett hosted by Tim Bishop, Head of Global Corporate Communications, Unify is available here in written text:

How do you see AI impacting our jobs as knowledge workers? Are robots not take over our jobs or putting us out of work?

 

“Firstly, artificial intelligence and robots will not likely push you out of your job … A recent McKinsey report estimates that by 2030, robotics and AI will take human jobs in less than 5% of roles. But on the other side of the coin, it has also been reported that technology will enhance 60% of jobs, rather than displace humans altogether. To prepare for this, it’s essential for employers to consider relevant training and reskilling programs to help their existing workforce adjust and excel in the working environment.

AI may make you happier, smarter and more productive! You will have more time for creativity, innovation and problem solving

You may work with a “co-bot” providing automation and machine learning, getting better and better at repetitive, low value tasks (e.g. transcription, distilling information, translations, note taking, managing to do lists and work assignments …)

And you know Tim I already have a robot collague at Atos, Pepper is our our very own robot hostess welcoming guests and showing them to the right meeting room or to the coffe corner. It’s only a matter of time before chatbots and cobots become more commonplace.”

Another topic, often discussed along with AI, is virtual and augmented reality.  What does VR and AR have to offer us in terms of new ways of working and a different collaboration experience?

 

“We are already familiar with virtual collaboration tools that allow us to work remotely, but imagine an additional dimension where you can see and experience your colleagues from other parts of the world as if they were in the room with you. I am looking forward to these technologies becoming more common place

AR and VR technologies will also take on a key role in training, and can transport the learning experience directly to the individual. For example, a classroom in rural Kansas could be transported to the British Museum or the Sistine Chapel.

L’Oréal is one company that’s breaking the mould with the immersive powers of VR for learning. By using off-the-shelf cameras to capture hairdressers at work, it’s created training centres so apprentices can effectively look over an experts’ shoulder. Wherever in the world they are, a L’Oréal trainee is able to view the work from multiple angles and even step inside the virtual shoes of a pro to share their experiences.”

As the on-demand “gig economy” – or being a freelancer or contractor -- continues to grow, some people are concerned that the stability of the traditional employee-employer relationship may go away … what is your perspective on that? 

 

“The “on-demand” gig economy will continue to grow, but I think a balance will be reached over time. Already now you can see governments trying to catch up with new employment formats and struggling with it.   Should flex workers have the same rights as a full time employee, do employers have to offer them a full time contract if they have been working for the company for more than 6 months? I personally feel that there should be no distinction between flex and full time workers, each bring much needed expertise to the table . For instance training could be extended to flexworkers, they undergo the same onboarding process to understand the culture, ambition and strategy . But we should also respect their freedom of choice. Flex workers often chose this work format to

In a recent survey we conducted amongst 500 CIOs mainly in Europe, there were 3 topics that were top of the agenda when it came to readiness for the future of work: automation, reskilling and a flexible workforce. Companies need to be able to scale up and down with the workload, and often need specific expertise for a particular project or task.

The technology is already there to makes this possible. We can quickly onboard freelancers from any location, there are collaboration tools to provide file sharing, multi-media conferencing and group chat. It’s just a matter of finding the right contract forms and governmental legislation to ensure all parties benefit.”

Marianne, you have been quoted as suggesting that in the mid-term future, any one of us might end up working for a company we have never yet heard of, doing a job that has yet to be invented?

 

“That’s right. If we look 10 years back some of the multibillion companies of today were not yet around. Think of Airbnb, Instagram, fitbit, Whatsapp, Tiner, Uber, Dropbox to name but a few. So who knows what companies will lead the top 10 in 10 years from now. And if we take a look at jobs, already we see data scientists, cybersecurity specialist, block chain developer and I recently heard about the role of dialogue manager. In callcenters we see more and more the use of chatbots, but they need to be trained (just like a junior colleague in fact) . Therefor colleagues working alongside chatbots take on the role of dialogue manager, isn’t that great? A perfect example of how man and machine compliment each other.”

We’ve seen work-life balance  -- more of an “either / or” proposition –  evolve to concepts like work-life integration  and now work-life harmony – implying a more blended and harmonious co-existence of work and personal life.  How do you see the future unfolding in terms of the evolution of flexible work-lifestyles?



“Advances and adoption of collaboration tools will make remote and flexible working a main stream thing in the coming years, although traditional offices will not go away completely.  Depending on the business you are in, but already we see offices becoming more meeting placing rather then working places. It is still important though to meet physically. Unify performed some research amongst Millennials recently to ask about their work preferences. The perception is often that they prefer remote working. However the survey showed the contrary, for young starters it is important to be visible, to be in the office and to meet new colleagues at the coffee machine. Learning from others and creating a strong network is key to progress with your career.

I can recommend reading the book “a 100 year life” by professor Linda Gratton. She explains that the babies being born right now will most likely turn 100 years or older. This means that the traditional 3-phase worklife  - you study, you work, you retire, is no longer adequate. We will see multiple phases where you study, you work, you take a sabbatical, work again, take time out to follow a new study etc. And couples with children can take turns in working, taking a sabbatical or going on a new study.

I recently led a workshop on the future of work with 30 university graduates and their professors, and they already see this as their future. Interestingly they made a point that we should reclassify work, as staying at home raising your kids or caring for elderly or sick relatives should also be seen as valuable work.

And that leads me to my last point, perhaps we will all benefit from all these new productive technologies and efficiencies by adopting a 3 or even 4 day weekend? The 5 day, 8 hour a day workweek is a relic from the industrial age. Now that we have cobots and AI helping us do parts of our job, we should rethink how many hours we work each week. Already some countries are piloting shorter workdays and the findings show that we are in fact more productive if we work less. Interesting don’t you think? It would also create time for social engagement and care duties, which would contribute to creating a much more inclusive society.

To conclude, the future of work is all about balance. Balance between man and machine, balance between working remotely and being in the office, balance between work and leisure, balance between generations and gender. Time to make a start now, and personally Tim I would like to start with the 3 day weekend!

For further insights on the Future of Work, read the recently Thought Leadership paper ‘Journey 2022 – Resolving Digital Dilemmas’ written by the Atos Scientific Community.

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About Marianne Hewlett

Senior Vice President and member of the Scientific Community and member of the Scientific Community
Marianne Hewlett is a Senior Vice President at Atos and a seasoned marketeer and communications expert. Passionate about connecting people, technology and business, she is a member of the Atos Scientific Community where she explores the Future of Work and the impact of technology on individuals, organizations and society. She is a strong ambassador for diversity and inclusivity – and particularly encourages female talent to pursue a career in IT – as she believes a diverse and happy workforce is a key driver for business success. As an ambassador for the company’s global transformation program Wellbeing@work, she explores new technologies and ways of working that address the needs of current and future generations of employees. A storyteller at heart, she writes about the human side of business and technology and posts include insights into the future of work, the science of happiness, and how wellbeing and diversity can drive success.

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