The world of work is being struck by waves of change. Some are vast and visible – leaps in machine learning and artificial intelligence or the rise of ‘do anything from anywhere’ technologies. Other ideas are just beginning to emerge – like monitoring content to ensure proper gender balance, or rethinking office design to promote air quality. Behind it all are the people whose ideas and attitudes have the potential to shape the next chapter of our lives. Here are the 101 indispensable things that you need to know about our work-life future.
What else do you think is redefining the way we work and live? Share your ideas with us on Facebook. We’ll compile and publish them in the coming weeks.
We’re more likely than ever to live past a century. Whether this becomes a blessing or a curse for society and business depends on how much we can prepare for it.
Self-driving cars, robotics and smart cities, to name a few, will be supercharged through the 5G wireless network. It’s the next step in mobile internet connectivity – and it’s here. Almost.
3. Adaptability quotient
In an ever-changing work environment, ‘AQ’, rather than IQ, might become an increasingly significant marker of success.
4. Algorithmic justice
More machines than ever can recognise us, but they inadvertently discriminate on race, gender and more. People like Joy Buolamwini are trying to fix these built-in biases.
5. Anti-distraction apps
For better or worse, the internet is an attention-sapping platform. Perhaps an app that blocks, well, almost everything can help you focus.
We’re starting to trust AI systems to write our emails for us. Is this time-saving tool changing how we communicate?
#KuToo: a play on the Japanese words for shoes ("kutsu") and pain ("kutsū"), with a nod towards #MeToo
7. Automated hiring – and firing
AI can screen your job application – the question is whether it should also be allowed to scan your social media, analyse your facial expressions and even fire you.
Fasting, micro-dosing, supplements, some go to great lengths to boost productivity – even if the validity of such approaches is unproven.
9. Biometric CVs
Wearable tech that monitors physical performance is booming. Whether there is a place for it in recruitment and performance analysis is debatable.
10. Breathable offices
Rethinking how buildings are designed, decorated and operated could help benefit our health and even our productivity at work.
How the idea that we can work harder and be better at everything is creating an overwhelming sense of exhaustion and anxiety from not meeting these high expectations.
12. Car-free cities
Oslo is the latest city to make its central zone car-free. Though some diehard drivers and business owners have been sceptical, the benefits are substantial.
13. China's 996
The Chinese version of the grind-it-out work culture that tech workers are beginning to rebel against.
Millennials are trading traditional housing for cheaper, more flexible shared communities. Is this the future of urban living, or house-sharing, rebranded?
The algorithms behind face-scanning technology are inherently discriminatory – the solution lies in the way we train them
15. Couple inequality
When a couple has children, women spend disproportionate time at home, and men at the office – it will take effort from many sources to balance the scales.
Crowdfunding was meant to be about supporting innovation and people in need. It’s now an important – and controversial – source of income for outspoken social media personalities.
17. Deep work
Always being switched on means we never have the chance to think deeply. That is a problem for companies wanting to get the most out of their employees.
18. Degrowth movement
Economic growth is leading to over-consumption and climate change. Degrowth argues that shrinking our economies can have benefits.
19. Digitial detoxing
If you’re secretly or not-so secretly worried about your smartphone addiction, fear not. An entire industry has emerged to find ways of helping you disconnect.
20. Digital nomads
As remote working increases, more programmes are putting hefty price tags on luxury, wi-fi-fuelled trips – and gentrifying newly popular tourist spots.
21. Diversity tracking
Some organisations are monitoring content for gender balance and other diversity metrics: understanding the scale of the problem is the first step to fixing it.
For a small fee, you can become a digital Estonian. As technology allows more of us to work flexibly, might nations compete to attract e-residents?
Flygskam: a Swedish buzzword that translates to ‘flight shame’ – it encourages people to stop flying to lower carbon emissions and take the train instead
23. Electric scooters
The silent two-wheelers are appearing everywhere, hoping to address the ‘last-mile challenge’ for millions of urban workers.
Marie Kondo has taught us to reorganise our space – but could her philosophy of mindful minimalism be applied to our professional lives too?
25. Facial recognition
Increasingly, our faces can grant us access to foreign countries, our phones and our own bank accounts, and offices are the next logical step.
26. Finance vests
The casualisation of the workplace is growing. Even some of the most august of institutions are replacing suits with fleece shells in the name of comfort.
27. FIRE movement
The extreme lifestyle shift that promises financial independence and the ability to retire early.
Domestic air travel has dipped in Sweden as climate-conscious travellers opt for the train. If ‘flight shame’ becomes the norm, it could have significant consequences for business travel.
29. Four-day week
Employees want shorter work weeks. Employers want happier, healthier, more productive employees. Is the four-day work week a win-win?
30. Fred Swaniker
The Ghanaian entrepreneur and leadership expert is striving to disrupt education with a model that will produce millions of African leaders and jobs by 2035.
Can slowing down – and ‘degrowing’ – our economies save the planet?
31. Freddy Vega
Only half of Latin Americans go to university, but one online educational founder is looking to help them have good careers.
32. Ghost work
To really understand the future of work, some experts argue that you have to recognise the hidden side of the gig economy.
33. Ghosting at work
The online dating behaviour of ending a relationship without explanation or communication that is making its way into the job space.
34. Gig reality
Self-employment is more common than ever, but some are finding that the freedom of being your own boss comes with a price.
Combine sophisticated machine-learning with the rise of remote workers, and you have a two-pronged way of displacing white-collar and service workers faster than ever.
One theory suggests that the secret of success isn’t natural ability or innate skill. It’s not even plenty of practice. Instead, it’s never giving up.
37. Happiness coaches
India has relatively high levels of anxiety and depression, with work-related stress one of the driving factors. Some corporates are turning to happiness coaches to change workplace culture.
38. Hidden disabilities
Some 700 million people have dyslexia – but innovation in website design and devices like smart pens could make workplaces more accessible.
'996': a trend among employees of Chinese start-ups who work from nine in the morning to nine in the evening, six days a week
39. Hidden likes
The social media economy and influencer industry thrive on likes and fans. What if those weren’t visible?
In Japan, where drifting off in public has become synonymous with exhausted workers, companies are encouraging employees to go for a ‘hirune’ – which literally translates as “lunchtime sleep”.
More jobs will be automated as artificial intelligence advances. Here’s why embracing a learning philosophy may help you stay employed.
42. Humble leaders
Bosses like to lead – but what do you miss while you’re doing all the talking? Allowing multiple perspectives can be hugely beneficial.
43. Hypersurveillance at work
Some companies already deploy a raft of new technologies to monitor workers. How much more intrusive could it get – and how will it affect employees’ wellbeing?
44. In-office days
Remote work is great. Maybe working in the office – at least a little bit – could be even better.
45. Inclusion workshops
A handful of high-profile discrimination complaints has prompted some chains to close their doors for anti-bias training.
In Japan, companies are encouraging employees to go for lunchtime sleep, or hirune. It could contribute to a better working environment
46. Influencer agencies
These internet ‘celebrities’ aren’t human – but the talent scouts poaching them are.
As the antithesis of FOMO, the ‘joy of missing out’ symbolises relief from the breathless and guilt-laden need to be perennially switched on and constantly productive.
Demonstrating commitment to work is highly valued in Japan – but at what cost?
The Korean word that embodies the tension among generations is building in the modern workplace.
Yumi Ishikawa became an unlikely activist after tweeting about the pain from the high heels she was required to wear at work.
Another way workers are responding to feeling overloaded: take time off to get through the tasks you can’t complete in the office.
As some cryptocurrencies flag, could Facebook’s wallet be the first real global currency?
53. Job share 2.0
Why pairing with another similarly-skilled person for a single job could be a huge boost for women, particularly mothers.
Biohacking: tinkering with biological processes to boost productivity
54. Liz Johnson
How the Paralympic gold medallist is working to bridge the workplace diversity gap.
55. Longevity economy
The idea of ‘oldness’ stifles business thinking. Embracing elderly workers alongside younger generations could combat what economic doomsayers call a ‘demographic time bomb’.
56. Mariéme Jamme
The Senegalese-born British businesswoman wants to teach a million women to code by 2030.
57. Masayoshi Son
The CEO of SoftBank – the second largest company in Japan – has become Silicon Valley’s most ambitious, biggest-spending investor.
58. MeToo evolution
How a worldwide movement has changed – and is still changing – the workplace as we know it.
59. Mia Perdomo and Andrea de la Piedra
The founders of Aequales, which ranks Latin American companies by gender equality, are on a path to change parity.
Taking regular miniature pauses from intensive work – even if they last just seconds – can yield big benefits.
Although traditional gender roles are difficult to shift, there are practical ways to relieve the time pressure on working parents
Some tech workers swear that tiny quantities of psychedelics enhance productivity and creativity. Emerging scientific evidence, though sparse, is emerging to test those claims.
Small, easy-to-install grids might be an answer to energy shortages in the developing world, boosting economies hit by power cuts.
Big-name influencers can connect with millions in a single post, but there’s a whole new industry evolving for creators with much fewer followers but who have a more authentic or approachable voice.
Our brains don’t all work in exactly the same way, yet hiring and office life are geared towards a ‘norm’. That could be changing.
65. Non-binary acceptance
With visibility and acceptance of gender non-conforming individuals, things are getting a little more equitable in the workplace.
66. Noise pollution
Open-office environments are now the norm – but the constant din they cause has led to more disengaged workers. Oddly, adding more sound might help.
67. Office farming
How growing food at work could create a more sustainable in-office dining experience.
68. Passion exploitation
Working ‘for exposure’ (in other words, for no pay) is more common than ever. It’s also more likely to happen if you work in particular industries.
Digital detox: a break from all but essential technologies – so you can 'get back in touch with what you actually value'
69. Pay transparency
Knowing your colleagues’ salaries has been taboo – but that could be changing in an effort to close gender, ethnicity and disability pay gaps.
70. People analytics
The hiring process is fraught with pitfalls, from elitism to bias. Could screening algorithms lead to better choices?
Sometimes freelance gigs turn into full-time work – great for regular income, though not so good when it comes to having regular benefits.
72. Platform co-operatives
Tech giants like Uber and Deliveroo rely on gig workers, but draw heavy criticism for shifting risk onto their armies of independent contractors. A global movement is trying to build alternatives, combining the platform model with established principles of worker ownership.
73. Pop-up offices
In shuttering retail spaces across the world, people are coming to – of all things – work.
74. Portfolio career
In an automated future where many jobs change beyond recognition, the career ladder isn’t the path to success as it once was.
Automation could make our lives easier and more convenient – but once machines do all the work, will we have enough to do? That’s what futurists and philosophers are trying to figure out.
A diverse workforce means diverse modes of thinking – and that's good
More people who have health issues – either physical or mental – are still showing up for work anyway.
77. Procrastination nannies
Need to concentrate but your phone keeps buzzing? For a small fee, a coach can help you get some ‘deep work’ done.
78. Productivity playlists
Listening to music on the job can give rhythm and purpose to the daily grind – the most effective playlists tread the line between distraction and habituation.
79. Radical candour
A way of giving feedback that draws a happy medium between the blunt, harsh management of the 1980s and the touchy-feely compassion of the 21st Century.
80. Remote workforce
Some cities are paying people to move in, hoping new remote workers can boost local economies and populations.
81. Reverse mentoring
There’s plenty for older generations to learn from their younger counterparts. But some cultures are more resistant to the idea than others.
82. Right-to-repair movement
Many companies make it hard for you to fix the gadgets you buy from them. Some people want to change that.
83. Rise and grind
The faux-positive attitude that puts a sheen on the burnout-addled, slog-it-out reality of work.
Telepresence: being virtually present in a far-off location via screen or hologram or remote-controlled robot
84. Satellite internet
Connecting remote workers could mean a total shift in global labour options and outcomes.
In the dust of crumbling brick-and-mortar retail, it’s easier than ever to set up an e-commerce store.
The real-time work chat app has improved productivity for some and allowed others to cut down on email. But for others, fewer emails have been replaced by another form of distraction.
87. Smart offices
Sometime in the not too distant future, your workplace will be seamlessly automated, personalised and centrally controlled.
88. Soft skills
Employees need abilities computers and automated systems don’t have – like creativity, adaptability and persuasion. Yet recruiters are struggling to find these kinds of candidates.
Spearheaded by music giant Spotify, a new workplace organisation method puts control into the hands of specialised teams within the office.
90. Super apps
Wildly popular in Asia, apps that can do everything from ordering rides to paying for everything are changing the way that people live and do business.
Rise and grind: the millennial rallying cry that encourages a never-ending relationship to our work
If you already feel like you’re doing three jobs at once, the superjobs of the future will make certain it stays that way.
Rather than giving a robot the smarts to do a task by itself, it’s easier to let someone guide a dumb robot from afar. This move is going to upend who does what jobs where and when.
A persistent thorn in the side of work productivity, are scientists getting closer to working out the temperature at which we do our best work?
The next big growth in video isn’t on YouTube or Instagram. With TikTok, there’s a lot of money to be made.
95. Unconscious bias
Hidden judgements drive our decision-making in ways that we’re not aware of, making workplaces less diverse and more prone to discrimination.
Passion exploitation: taking advantage of people who are more passionate about their jobs, which might manifest in workers performing hours of unpaid overtime or even working for free
96. Universal Basic Income
A no-strings-attached income has been advocated by Thomas More and others. The idea has gained new popularity amid the automation of jobs, but it’s still untried on a major level.
97. Unlimited holidays
It may be a top benefit that workers want, but the flipside of unlimited paid leave could leave you exhausted.
Pensioners are re-entering the workforce – some out of choice and some out of necessity. But can their need for jobs be accommodated?
In football, the US Women’s National Team has set records for wins and audiences. Yet they’re still paid less, with poorer working conditions, than the men’s team. That’s why they’re suing.
100. The We Company
The global coworking giant is betting that you’re willing to blur the lines between work and life even more. Their future depends on it.
101. Women-only workspaces
Co-working spaces exclusively targeting women are a direct reaction to the proliferation of male-focused private members clubs and tech-bro incubators.
Image credit: Piero Zagami and Michela Nicchiotti.