The workplace has evolved dramatically in the past 100, 50, even 10 years; but to the futurists whose job it is to consider where all these changes are taking us, we’re only just beginning a revolution that will completely redefine why, where, when, and how we work.

They believe that automation will push future workers to roles and tasks that are quintessentially human, abolishing leftover vestiges of the industrial revolution–such as standardized working hours and traditional hierarchies–toward something that more resembles the tribal and community-oriented work structures of pre-industrial times.

Liselotte Lyngsø, founding partner of Copenhagen-based consultancy Future Navigator explains that as technology becomes more sophisticated human labor will eventually be rendered less efficient and affordable than robotic alternatives. As a result, most humans will instead focus their energy on finding creative solutions to problems that can’t be solved by a computer.

“The machines will become very good at being machines in the years ahead, so we need to be extremely good at being humans again,” she says. “That means we really have to dig into individual abilities, allowing people to do their best and live out their potential.”

To that end, many of today’s workplace structures, such as the 9-to-5 workday, traditional offices, rigid hierarchies, and the very concept of retirement will change dramatically.

Instead of the standard retirement age, Lyngsø believes there will be multiple breaks throughout one’s career, and a range of alternative workplace structures that individuals can pursue based on what best fits their lifestyle, including part time and contract work.

“Instead of saving the dessert for last we should have a few bites throughout our life,” she says.

“A team in a physical framework shouldn’t be these big office spaces, it should be maximum eight or 10 people–enough to share two pizzas–that’s what we believe is optimal for being innovative,” says Lyngsø. “We used to hire people for specific functions because of this conveyer-belt thinking, which was a great way for controlling people, but it’s not how you get the best out of people; In the future it’s about getting the team to flourish.”

“We’ll see teams recruited together because they work well together, but also they’ll realize their collective power, and they’ll start moving around as a team, almost like a marching band,” she says.

When work is as much about reaching your potential and pursuing your passions as it is about earning a living, measuring productivity in hours and minutes will seem arcane. In fact, futurist Yesim Kunter is convinced that technological advancement will finally enable humans to work fewer hours each week than generations past.

“Work/life balance is going to be more important, especially if you believe our life experiences actually help our work by inspiring us,” she says.

Kunter predicts that by 2030 the average workweek will drop to 36 hours from 37 and a half today, and continue down to 30 hours by the year 2100.

Should Lyngsø’s vision of a workplace that focuses on small, decentralized teams over large groupings and rigid hierarchies come to fruition, she suggests the definition of leadership will similarly become more fluid. While Kunter believes many will continue to work in a more traditional company setting both suggest leaders will arise naturally from the group.

“Every company has a different motivation factor; the energy inside will create the leader and structure of the company,” says Kunter. “It’s hard to generalize, but probably the real leaders will come up based on how they work and how they bring people together, because the real leader is whoever is being followed, not the person who is given the role of manager.”

SOURCE: Fast Company

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