Patricia Reiners

Patricia Reiners

What COVID-19 taught us about the future of work

5 things that will change the way we work and life forever

I spend the last year exploring our future cities together with Adobe and focussed especially on the future of work and how new technologies might change the way we work and life.

Even before the pandemic, there were already a lot of discussions about the future of work. So, many companies used the last months as some kind of unplanned pilot project and announced now that employees can continue to work remotely but can still use the office space.

Covid-19 speeded things up and helped us to take one big step toward the future of work. It turned out many people are working from home productively and even being able to take care of kids and manage the work-life-balance somehow. People saving time because they don’t need to commute to work and street are incredibly empty during „rush hours“.

What does the future of work mean for us? While others are waiting that robots are taking over our jobs others are getting preparing for what’s ahead of us. So, let’s have a peek into the future and what’s coming:

1. Artificial Intelligence and automation

Let’s start by answering the question: Will robots become our co-workers? The answer is quite simple because they already are our co-workers or better say — assistants. We are already working with bots. They are incorporated into almost everything. They are integrated into work stations to websites to cloud platforms. Our devices are prepped with seamless interfaces like the image recognition.

Generally, they offer assistance in improving performance and meeting goals.

In the near future, the machine will become even more powerful and will be able to assist us in even better ways. Image your digital assistant can consult you which of two versions are better or even being able to create multiple versions of one idea and you can choose one.

In the future robots and personal assistance will free people from all the time-intensive tasks like filling out spreadsheets and scheduling meetings etc. People will get for time for creative work which will thrive innovation.

2. Structure

The second thing which is changing is the structure. Thanks to technology and the internet, remote work is common and changes the way we work to a decentralized workforce. People are going to work from everywhere and get together online for meetings and calls.

This involves everything around independent work as well. So, people will rather get hired for projects and not for jobs. So there will be a big shift toward freelance work.

What important for us is to understand that everyhting around the future of work will get more fluent.

We are all in a state of change. As well as our jobs. Not only jobs titles will change into more specialized areas like product designers might be specialized in different areas and will become be voice interaction designers, design system specialists, or 3D designers for AR but the whole structure is going to change as well.

Besides the specialization, another important topic is the life-long-learning. The future will be about constant learning, mostly online. So, get ready to learn, unlearn, and relearn for projects or jobs.

3. Voice design

In the future we are heading to, we need to incorporate technology as some kind of co-worker or digital assistant. User experience became a central point in every digital product. Understanding the user’s needs and desires helps to produce products that people are willing to buy and use. Besides the technology itself, the whole experience of it will become even more important than it already is today. At the moment technology still gets in our way. Observing problems in everyday calls about how to unmute, sharing a screen, sending information in the chat, and thinking it’s a personal chat.etc. We probably all know about these problems.

All the things you are doing manually could be so much easier. Instead of spending time to start a meeting why not ask Alexa“ Alexa please start the meeting with Atlanta“ while entering the conference room.

Amazon s working with Alexa business on these solutions.

4. Augmentation

The content is shifting. Slightly it’s shifting from a 2D flat to a 3D and 360° content. I am talking about augmented workspaces.

At the moment we spend most of our time in front oft he screen from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to bed. The 2D space oft the screen is limited.

Microsoft entered the workspace with Hololens and aims to improve productivity in the workplace. Augmented reality helps to place an overlay of manuals, guides, or additional information to your workspace. We are heading to a future where everything is a screen and information can be placed everywhere. This will get interesting especially for specific industries like the automotive-, construction- or the medical industry. But also for the creative industry. Image setting up your office wherever you are. Having your augmented second monitor, a calendar, and notification around your laptop.

5. Collaboration

The future demands that organizations invest in creating a culture where creativity thrives, collaboration is facilitated. The collaboration will take place through conferencing and virtual meetings.

Things will move from physical whiteboard to digital places, digitally sharing screens and video conferences, using different tools and software to show ideas.

One thing which was and still is difficult is communicating ideas. We will get to a future where „show don’t tell“ will be most important. During video meetings it much more difficult to explain ideas because you can not see mimic and gesture properly.

“If a picture is worth 1000 words, a prototype is worth 1000 meetings.” — Tom & David Kelley

Being able to prototype and show your ideas not only to users for user testing but to stakeholders and your colleagues.

The other really important part is working together on ideas during workshops. Using virtual reality to help you meet in a real virtual room. We are going to move to a point where we can do remote workshops. That we have the feeling of being together with the same room and working on the wall. Virtual Reality will help us to work together although team members rebased on a different end of the world.

I think we are having a very interesting time right now and especially since COVID-19, we all became super aware that things are changing. When we are looking into the future online and digital work becomes the new normal.

One thing which we need to keep in mind is that in the future of work we are going to work closer together.

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