Since the industrial revolution, technology during any given era always seemed to evolve at an incredibly rapid pace.
However, since the invention of the semiconductor in the mid-20th century and the maturation of personal computing and the internet between the 1970s and the turn of the century, new technology is now moving at hyperspeed.
Consider technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT). According to a recent report from Gartner, sometime next year, in 2020, it's expected that the once novel IoT will have over 20.4 billion connected devices.
The same report states that overall IoT spending is set to approach $3 trillion at some point in 2020 - half of which will come from businesses.
Denise Rueb, a Gartner research director, noted in their reporting:
"IoT services are central to the rise in IoT devices. Services are dominated by the professional IoT-operational technology category in which providers assist businesses in designing, implementing and operating IoT systems."
But it's not just smart devices that are changing the way we live, and more specifically, the way we work.
When thinking about how the workplace will evolve, new technologies will present us with plenty to contemplate. Not just new job opportunities, but significant changes in how we connect, how we commute, and the efficiency of how we get our jobs done.
A Different Way to Work
Often associated with the inescapable smartphone, connectivity and the ability to always be mobile is moving beyond devices we hold in our hand and plug into our ears.
As technology evolves so will the way we comprehend our connections, especially in business.
A current example is how cloud computing has freed us from physical locations and traditional hardware.
Advancements like the cloud continue to shape our workplace. They expand the range of our productivity through both devices and their growing ecosystems. New innovations not only translate to greater avenues of communication but also a more mobile world.
Telecommuting is quickly becoming a basic tenet of specific areas of employment. In other sectors, it's increasing more and more.
All this to say that the transition to a new way to work is well underway.
All of which is made possible by new technologies.
Embracing A Digital First Attitude
Even if you cannot take advantage of telecommuting today, many industries are embracing a digital-first attitude. Everything from military jobs to the legal field to financial and social services is transitioning to online environments.
According to Samantha Lambert, Blue Fountain Media Director of Human Resources:
"Ten years ago, remote employment basically meant a telemarketing or customer service position at below minimum wage. It rarely was connected with a full-time career. Now, technology affords us the ability to get the same job done, no matter where in the world we are. [It has] enabled us to be in contact with co-workers or clients at any time."
As Ms. Lambert points out, future digital environments won't simply better connect us to the jobs we do and to our employers. It will also provide a greater link to our peers and our clients and anyone else we need to get our job done.
According to a survey from Deloitte of 245 top C-suite executives from various industries, 76% see us moving away from email as a major communication outlet.
These execs anticipate digital tools evolving to serve “cross-cultural teaming,” which takes advantage of our increasingly globalized workforce.
In fact, 72% of the survey’s respondents predict virtual teaming - which is a team, working in real time, across different geographies and cultures - as an essential function of most businesses within the next half-decade.
They also present a practical counter to the digital revolution of communication in the workplace - the culture.
From the same Deloitte survey, 69% noted that company culture is critical to fully reach their stated goals. Almost half of the respondents also said a portion of that reach should come from finding improved efficiencies - in hierarchy, tools, and innovation.
While a company may welcome new integrations with open arms, they need to ensure their culture can support the digital shift. Embracing the employees who use innovative technologies and getting their buy-in is just as vital as the new tools.
New Tools of the Trade
Those new tools are certainly making waves.
Arguably one of the most discussed aspects of technology and the changing workplace is the impact of automation and AI. Of course, the headline grabbers in this field relate to robots, self-driving cars, and intelligent cities that keep getting smarter.
We’ve already touched on the IoT, which is set to revolutionize specific sectors. When you take the AI of these smart devices and put them in industrial and commercial spaces, the applications are endless.
If you believe the workplace is advanced now, consider the following applications:
- Over the Air Updating and Predictive Maintenance in the Automotive Sector
- Predictive Maintenance in Manufacturing, Mining, and Construction
- Remote Monitoring for Defense, Healthcare and Insurance (including patients), and Utilities
- Logistics Optimization for Travel and the Movement of Goods and Yield Optimization for Agriculture
With the launch of 5G networks, the promise is that our work will become faster, more efficient, and more mobile.
Dangerous jobs like mining or energy exploration will no longer put people in harm's way. Our use and distribution of natural resources would also become more efficient.
Healthcare will become more accurate and precise. This precision would not just encompass both diagnoses and procedures, but also the manufacturing of artificial organs or replacement limbs for amputees.
Even when it comes to that most human function of business - customer service - innovations like chatbots are improving the way we interact with and seek out answers from companies.
All of those examples serve to highlight the far-reaching aspects of tech and how it will change our lives for the better. Just as important though is what the digital age means for more basic, everyday tasks that many of us take for granted.
Decoding the Daily Workday
Sure we all love reading about the self-driving car. In that though, we gloss over the real story.
Every day, there are thousands of individuals who toil away at desks and in cubicles molding the foundation for those greater advances. It's here, at the ground level, where technology may have its biggest impact.
Technology is first foremost about making work easier - making day to day tasks far more efficient, and more accurate.
Automations and workflows are making it much easier for us to gather data and seamlessly pass it from one person to the next.
Digital signatures can be gathered without the need for endless amounts of paperwork being passed back and forth.
Employees can be seamlessly onboarded, financial aid forms can be easily processed, and insurance paperwork can be quickly gathered using tools like HelloWorks and HelloSign.
The growth of the gig economy is putting us in touch with expert knowledge across a multitude of disciplines. Plus, it saves companies money.
Online automation has also increased our ability to grade and track project life cycles.
We can monitor numerous metrics and indicators in real time.
Tracking activities such as sales performance or marketing effectiveness provide insight into what's succeeding, what's failing, and areas where we can improve.
There are even apps available, such as RescueTime, that assist us in better managing our time, showing a snapshot of how and where we spend our digital day.
Technology though goes beyond making tasks simpler or us more efficient. It's about producing smarter solutions to our common everyday problems, most of which we encounter when working.
Consider how online tools such as HelloWorks help people procure meaningful data, while other tools like HelloSign promote faster, more accurate collaboration between team members.
Separate tools promote more efficient scheduling by bypassing email (Doodle), eliminating the need for a yellow sea of sticky notes (Any.do), or bring a sense of order to the chaos that is project management (Trello).
Yes, these are the advances that will make big, bold headlines, but they are what will push us forward, faster, into the future.
Technology, and along with it, the future, is very much on the move. The same is true about how and where we work. Indeed, the changing technologies will produce a workforce that is incredibly connected, increasingly more mobile, and far more efficient than any point in the past.