Thursday, April 29, 2010

5 Ways Your Workplace Will Change by 2020 and Why

By Matt Valentine

What will the workplace look like in ten years? Will we even be able to recognize it anymore? For years the workplace and corporate environment has remained relatively stable, but as company's seek new ways to cut-costs, create happier and more productive workers, and cater to the needs of Generation Y, the business landscape as we know it could change dramatically. 

The 4 Day Work Week 

By 2020 many businesses, especially state run facilities will be operating off a 4 day work week. For example, in June 2008 the state of Utah sifted 17,000 of its 24,000 state employees to a 4 day work week, which by most accounts has been a success. In fact according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas reports, "Twenty-three percent of companies are now offering a condensed workweek, typically consisting of four 10-hour days."


1. Cut-costs- 

In Utah the switch to a 4 day work week has cut energy consumption cost by 13%. As we all know business is about profits and finding ways to save money is the equivalent to increasing profits. 

2. Happy Workers-

Another outcome of the switch to a 4 day work week has been an increase in employee productivity, a decrease in absenteeism, fewer employees taking overtime and the general awesomeness of having a three day weekend, which apparently is something most people like. Also, eliminating one work day eliminates the need to commute to work and saves employees money. 

3- Happy Customers-

Another perhaps unexpected outcome of the 4 day work week in Utah was a significant decrease in customer complaints. Perhaps, the happier employees are treating customers better, or maybe since the hours of operation were extended people who normally wouldn't be able to make it these government offices now have the time to do so without having to structure their entire day around it. 

4- Good for the Environment- 

It's a simple concept,  if less people are driving to work one day a week then they are also producing less emissions and this obviously has a positive impact on the environment. 

Goodbye Office, Hello Home 

By 2020 thousands of businesses may exist only in a virtual world as brick and mortar buildings become less and less necessary and telecommuting becomes the accepted method of conducting business. 


1- Cost-saving-

No rent to pay, no maintence fees, no office supplies. Did you know that office space for the average worker costs $10,000 per year? Why would company's continue to pay for people to come to the office when they simply don't have to. Some more interesting telecommuting facts can be found here

2- Technology- 

Think about how dramatically technology has advanced in the last decade. Now, try to imagine how it will look in 10 years. The ability to telecommute is obviously already well within our grasp, and by 2020 it is likely we'll all be able to conduct meetings within a virtual conference room as we sip coffee in our pajamas from our bed. 

3- Generation Y-
Without delving too deeply in to the topic (because i am greedily saving that for another post so please check back) Generation-Y is already having a profound impact on how companies conduct business and will continue to exert their influence in the future. Take Sun Microsystem's telecommuting program, for example, which has kicked into high gear in response to Generation Y's demands. Today more than half of Sun's employees work remotely.

Kicking Down the Corporate Ladder

Forget about climbing the corporate ladder, it may not even exist by 2020. 


Yep, those dreaded Gen-Y-ers again. There are many reasons why Gen Y-ers will choose to ignore the corporate ladder structure of old and chief among them is the desire for a strong work-life balance. In essence, they just aren't as career oriented as previous generations, and they place a heavy value on free time. If you asked them about work they would say, "It isn't life, its just a way to make a living". Perhaps, it is simply a product of their young age, but many Y-ers are more willing to move laterally to achieve a healthier work-life balance then previous generations.  

This is not to say Millennials are without ambition. In fact, many are choosing to avoid the corporate ladder all-together and strike out on their own. A great example can be found here:

W.O.W-ing Our Way To Work

You probably noticed that the W.O.W in the header isn't an exclamation of excitement or awe. No, if you're my age you know that when someone says W.O.W these days they are probably referring to the video game phenomenon that is World of Warcraft. 

As baby boomers exit the work force and Generation-X takes over management roles they will need a different skill set to deal with and relate to the Y-ers below them. How will they accomplish this? Let's defer to Time Magazine  once again, 

"In fact, Rob Carter, chief information officer at FedEx, thinks the best training for anyone who wants to succeed in 10 years is the online game World of Warcraft. Carter says WoW, as its 10 million devotees worldwide call it, offers a peek into the workplace of the future. Each team faces a fast-paced, complicated series of obstacles called quests, and each player, via his online avatar, must contribute to resolving them or else lose his place on the team. The player who contributes most gets to lead the team — until someone else contributes more. The game, which many Gen Yers learned as teens, is intensely collaborative, constantly demanding and often surprising. "It takes exactly the same skill set people will need more of in the future to collaborate on work projects," says Carter. "The kids are already doing it." Read more:,28804,1898024_1898023_1898086,00.html#ixzz0mUy7EFl6

So, by 2020, having World of Warcraft Guild Leader on your resume, may be just the thing company's are looking for. 

Becoming a Free Agent

No, unfortunately for all of us I am not saying that ten years from now we will all be star athletes. But, the business model of 2020 may more closely resemble the world of professional sports then the current corporate structure. 


The shift to contract and freelance workers is beneficial for both parties. 
Companies will staff only essential employees who are needed on a daily basis and bring in contract workers for varying projects and needs as they see fit. 
The workers will enjoy greater flexibility and the ability to pick and choose which companies and which projects they want to work on. 
This trend is already beginning to emerge. According to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, more than one-third of the U.S. workforce will be comprised of free agents by the year 2012 (according to market research firm EPIC-MRA).


Anonymous said...

Great article personally I wouldn't mind seeing most of these changes. However, the one thing that does worry me is that telecommuting requires a certain type of person who can actually handle all that "freedom". If companies are going to be switching to telecommuting in the future then they need to carefully examine who they are giving this responsibility to.

matthew said...

I have to say I do completely agree with that. There are a number of inherent dangers to telecommuting,and not living up to the task is one of them. However, another danger many people don't think about is that telecommuting can have the opposite effect where people are unable to separate their wok lives form their home lives. Great comment though and I hope you keep reading.