The future of work: the tools you use are changing

Article by Belinda Fuller

The future of work: the tools you use are changingYou’ve probably heard it before: the future of work is changing. And dramatic shifts are underway. Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work recently released a report that delves into the most important trends set to change (or already changing) what you do and how you do it, whatever your job.

This month, we look at some of the ‘tools of work’ and how they’re changing – and what that could mean for you.

  1. From thumb to voice: We’ve been tapping keys, clicking our mouse and scrolling for decades. With the rise of smartphones, this changed to thumbs typing and swiping. As devices got smarter, touchscreen interfaces were in cars, restaurants and banks. Thanks to our phone addictions, sore thumbs and ‘text neck’ are now a fact of life. Our vision is declining and our posture more hunched. The hand–eye coordination required to use touchscreens prevents us from doing other things while using them – all driving the need for a new approach. We already have voice-activated devices that listen to us and do things without us touching or even looking at them (Suri, Alexa, Echo, and Google Home) and voice processing technology is getting better every day. Fully shifting to a screen-less, touchless future might return our attention to things that matter most and help us do things like driving more safely. But what does a world of always-on microphones sound like – and how will we maintain privacy?
  2. From microscopes to datascopes: Microscopes changed medicine forever, letting doctors see, at a cellular level, what was truly causing problems. Artificial intelligence (AI) is a “datascope” that is helping to create solutions previously unimaginable. But AI isn’t just a tool that replaces people doing the tasks or completing the processes they do day-to-day; it’s also a way to increase the overall scale of the process. AI will help us better understand the vast amounts of information we now collect. That means that people won’t just be “automated away” from their jobs – AI could allow them to do things they’ve never been able to do before, opening up exciting new opportunities for business growth and employment.
  3. From 4G to 5G: 1G phones let us talk to each other on the move, 2G phones meant we could send messages, 3G gave us mobile internet and 4G made it all a whole lot faster. We use 4G networks to stream music, listen to podcasts, watch live TV while commuting and FaceTime our colleagues – all unthinkable a decade ago. The next stage is 5G. It’ll be 100 times faster than our current 4G phones. Beyond the exceptional consumer experience, the benefits for businesses are huge. Real-time interactions and simultaneous processing will run with no lag whatsoever. Data transmission will happen instantaneously, and you won’t just see your colleague on a screen; you’ll be sitting next to their avatar in a shared virtual office, watching them speak. You could control a robot on a factory floor as you sit on the other side of the country; or you could be a farmer commandeering a fleet of drones soaring over fields, using sensors on the ground to sort, pick, feed and water each individual plant. 5G will revolutionise how work gets done.
  4. From active to ambient: When was the last time you opened a computer manual? A generation ago, a shiny new piece of tech came with a War and Peace–length ring binder. Manuals have all but disappeared, replaced by DIY YouTube videos. But lots of tech that claims to be idiot-proof is still complicated. Roughly 90% of a laptop’s functionality is not used by the average person. Cars are full of tech that’s mostly never used. Apps, platforms, systems and websites infiltrate every hour of our waking day. It’s exhausting trying to figure out what we want from the gazillions of possibilities and understanding how everything works is a full-time job. Now a new approach is emerging: smart products and services tuned to our needs.

Smart things ‘just know’ how we want them to work. These responsive, intuitive technologies are called ‘ambient technologies’, and they blend into the background to drive productivity at work. A future workspace with ambient technology could see co-working spaces that adjust to personal preferences for light, air and productivity. Imagine elevators that automatically take you to the right floor and a hot desk that’s automatically configured just the way you like it.

These personalised, intuitive technologies will free us from the more addictive nature of the apps that rule our lives. We’ll no longer need to figure stuff out — stuff will figure us out.

Work is changing and the way we do our job tomorrow will undoubtedly be different from how we do it today. From technology to business models to demographics, there are many trends shaping the future of work. Are you ready for it?

Worried you don’t have the skills needed for changes happening in your industry? Do you want to improve your future with a new career or job? Our Career Counselling and Coaching Services can help. Or perhaps you’re ready to take the next step and need help developing a tailored Job Search Strategy? To find out more, read about our services.