What does the future bring to the workplace, or maybe the future is here already? We invited key influencers and thought leaders from the "Future of Work" community to reflect upon how we work today – and how we can work in a better and more flexible way in the future.
A day after an exciting week of WebSummit we headed over to Coworklisboa for a casual Friday afterwork event on the topic "Future of Work". We were so happy to meet the founders of Coworklisboa and the group of people that came to listen to the debate. The atmosphere was electric and the panel stoked! Here are their essential thoughts.
1. Move to focus
Serial Founder and CEO, Leo Xavier, was the first panelist to share his mind on the topic. He told us that he himself works better in new surroundings, or in situations where he’s physically unable to move much around. Leo shared he always gets a lot done when distractions are fewer, like on a plane or train. While it can be hard to plan crunch time to when you're travelling by, his other advice is a little easier to apply to your workday; move to a new workplace!
"If you have the habit of always working from one cafe, try another one! Whilst it can be challenging to move from one cafe to another every other day, it might be worth trying simple things like breaking your habits by choosing another area of the workspace or cafe you often work in, or to rearrange your usual setup."
In other words, it's a lot about not getting too comfortable in your environment. Try moving around in your office if you have one. Try another desk, another chair or change the setup of your screens. From a more scientific angle – swimmers actually swim faster if the water is a bit colder than what’s comfortable. It depends on what you’re working on, but might be worth trying those "colder waters"... After talking to several appear.in users and fellow remote workers, this seems to be a trend and common tip trending in the community.
2. Inaccept the cubicle
Marketing Manager at appear.in, Meri Sorgaard, took part in the panel discussion over appear.in and brought the topic of fixed desks and cubicles to the discussion. She pointed out that while the intentions behind the original design of the cubicle were good and allowed workers to transform their space in a way that best suited them, it was quickly adopted by countless companies and transformed into a cost-cutting measure. Inês Silva, Founder of Xfuture, shared that the cubicle became so immensely popular when efficiency ambassador Henry Ford introduced it to his industrial engineers. The popularity then grew even further when the US government started offering tax incentives to businesses for office expenses. That is how the idea and design behind Robert Propsts health centred "Action Office plan", was transformed into overly crowded office environments, or "cubicle farms".
At the same time as we have started seeing more contemporary adaptions of the cubicle, such as offices plans with variations of hot desks and designated areas for different purposes – the classic cubicle and open office plans are still highly common. While practicality and control were well clinging words in the early days of the cubicle, we are living in a different age now. For most people, and especially if you ask youngsters that are fresh in the workforce, they highly value flexibility when it comes to both time and working space. Cramping them into crowded offices for management purposes and/or to save money might not be worth it if you're looking for aspiring, self-driven talent. It's noteworthy to mention that research shows that high levels of noise in open-plan offices increases stress, conflict and even blood pressure among employees. This results in high staff turnover and generally reduces job satisfaction.
"We have the internet, and don't have to sit next to each other for eight hours every day to communicate or to be productive. Productivity and creativity is individual, and the time we live in cater for high amounts of flexibility and trust in most industries. This is why I often ask why have we accepted the unhealthy open-plan office and cubicle for decades"
– Meri Sorgaard, Marketing Manager at
3. Is there a future of work?
The most controversial thought is a very interesting one. Both Inês Silva and Pedro Reis, Co-Founder of Colab, shared their reflections around how AI will influence many (if not all) industries in the future. What will happen when AI enters the workforce to a greater extent than what we see already? And what will we do in a thought reality where there are few to no jobs left for humans?! We discussed what people might be doing with their time if out of work, and if humans will have an urge to work even if they don’t have to. If you have a job you really really love, you would work even if you didn’t have to have a job, right? Or would you?
"Is there even a future of work? If AI doesn't just takes over some jobs and forces us to move to other type of jobs, but takes over most areas that we consider work today. Then what?"
What would you have done? At Coworklisboa, the audience suggested variations of art, yoga and self discovery while some would spend time with their children and cook more. From this point of view, it sounds like the future is a holiday, but is it realistic? Would you be content filling most of your awaken hours with hobbies and leisure? If you are interested in the topic, Inês Silva is arranging xFuture Conference in Porto on November 25th where AI will be discussed among other things.
These are only three of the topics that were brought up by panelists and audience this time. We would love further perspectives on all three thoughts and also hear from you about your reflections on the future of work. We keep asking ourselves if remote work is for everyone, or if it only is for SaaS companies where people have more room for flexibility? And, what is it like to be creative in a team when some team members work remotely? Sign up for our newsletter in the sidebar to stay updated on the topic.
Want to cohost an event or debate with us? Shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org! We are happy to partner with other stakeholders and thought leaders on the subject!