Interview with Future Crunch Part Three: Thinking Differently About Work

In Part three of this series, we'll be discussing what the future of work will look like.

We’ve been following Future Crunch for a while, and always enjoy reading about what they have to say about the future of work.

In Part One and Two of this series, we spoke about the relationship between humans and technology, and the myths surrounding AI. In Part Three, and the last in this series of posts, we explore the future of work and what the workspaces of the future will look like, with Gus and Tanushree from Future Crunch.

So, to kick off our last post in this series, what will the future of work look like?

From our perspective as a company, with a focus on improving the experience of using technology in the workplace, our thinking is orientated towards the future of work behind a computer screen, or interacting with people in a virtual office environment with intuitive devices.

However, after this conversation, we’ve challenged to think a bit more broadly about what “work” actually means for people around the world:

Question Three: What do you think the future workplace will look like?

In an interconnected world, we don’t need to be physically close to one another to interact, or do business. This means that doing business in the future will not be limited to a physical location, for example, an office.

Does this mean that we’ll only interact virtually? No.

Physical spaces won’t disappear, social interaction will always be meaningful- Gus

So while technological developments in the fields of virtual, mixed and augmented reality will most definitely shape our experience of working with colleagues in the future, social interaction won’t go away, we’re just going to find different ways of going about it.

One point that was raised in our conversation with Future Crunch is that virtual reality and other systems could be developed as a way to create more private working environments, but it doesn’t seem likely that our need for social interaction will go away anytime soon.

We can’t predict what the office of the future will look like, just like we can’t predict how technology will affect our interactions or behaviour.  What we do know is that the modern office will change drastically, and people will still want to be around other people- Gus

But what will the future of work look like?

Tanushree gave an example of a cyclist with augmented reality glasses that could give him updates on his route and speed, without having to check his/her phone. Averse to the current dominance of screens and our phones, Tanushree’s perspective is that technology is going to evolve in so many ways that are far beyond our current scope of experience:

I see devices evolving to be more intuitive and less clunky. Thinking outside of the office, virtual reality allows doctors to perform remote surgery in rural areas. There’s so much scope for virtual reality to assist with human productivity outside of the office- Tanushree

While many people work behind a computer, and complain about stiff muscles from staring at a screen all day, the reality is that not all work happens in offices.

Gus and Tanushree give many examples of different types of virtual, mixed and augmented reality applications in different workplaces:

  • “Imagine an oil rig where a worker could use a virtual reality application to monitor internal processes. As the capacity for VR increases, you don’t need to be a specialist”- Gus
  • “In archaeology for example, virtual reality can allow you to put an old-time layer over archaeological sites to figure out what items were used for”- Tanushree

The truth is, there are so many industries to consider when we think about work, especially considering the fact that most people work in agriculture. If you think about the fact that most of these people have access to mobile phones, the opportunity for technology to change the nature of farming is immense, for example, an augmented reality application that can monitor the wellbeing of crops, including detecting crop diseases.

This kind of thinking becomes especially relevant when you take into account that smartphone adoption has been the fastest technological uptake in human history. The possibilities for 3D printing, and even the concept of a virtual restaurant, are just a hint of what could happen in the future too, whether we’re thinking about a traditional 9-5 office job, working in a restaurant, or growing food.

Be careful what you define as work, and be more specific when thinking about the future of work- Gus

The future of work also brings to light a host of regulatory considerations, for instance, how do you regulate behaviour in a virtual space? Do we just assume that the same rules apply as in “normal” reality?

Take harassment in the workplace for example, how will this be managed in the future workplace? It’s not a pleasant topic to think about, but it raises concerns about what kinds of behaviour we should be mindful of when creating and conceptualising the workspaces of the future.

So to help us prepare for a future we can’t really predict, we need to think more about specific instances and how they might play out in the future, rather than just thinking about broad predictions.

What do you think the future office, and the broader future of work, will look like? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

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