Excellent article Lauren. I look at how my work day has changed over the past 40 years and, of course, the greatest change by far has been the advent and usage of computer science. I can now add to that the usage of "smart phones". Here is a very brief list of what I feel our typical work day would look like in 20 or 30 years.
1.) Due to significant mobility of PCs and communication devices, I feel there will be a "blending" of office and home. No longer will be locked into strict facilities due to the necessity of communication. The will mean a typical 40, 50 or 60 hour work week will morph into being on call 24 hours per day--if we agree to put up with that. Now, one exception will be support of manufacturing facilities. Being on the factory floor is a definite necessity so engineers and engineering managers will still need to be available.
2.) There will continue to be decreasing privacy. The only remaining privacy relative to the work force will be the thought never spoken or written.
3.) Globalization will be a must for survival necessitating multiple facilities and engineering support for those facilities. Everyone in the engineering profession--at a certain level, will need and use a passport.
4.) Devices to translate languages other than English will make understanding almost instantaneous between remote locations. (This is coming faster than we think.)
5.) Everything will be in the "cloud-based" arena.
6.) Wireless will dominate all communication and IT devices including the factory floor.
OK--that's about it. We are headed into a "Brave New World".
I predict that we will eventually rebel against the environment we have steadily been creating where we communicate through email even in the same building rather than walk across the hall - the workplace will become so socially inept in face to face conversations that it will reach a breaking point and we will have to return to actually speaking in person to each other...people will have to relearn body language which is said to be over 65% of communication. We will actual enjoy having real conversations and productivity will increase because there will be fewer misunderstandings...I can dream, can't I?
@Charles Murray: ... or when companies will start providing more incentives to their employees to use public transportation. When I lived in Chicago, I didn't own a car; there was no need. Would you rather sit in traffic on the Dan Ryan, or breeze past on the Red Line? Even now that I live in Waukegan (40 miles north of Chicago), I still usually take public transportation when going into the city. Not only is driving to and from downtown Chicago during rush hour an incredible waste of fuel, it's a waste of time. Chicago has excellent public transportation, something other cities should emulate.
Ann, I remember a factory where I worked while I was in college in the early 1970s. The management took it upon themselves to shorten the work week. They wanted to move from five eight-hour days to four ten-hour days. Fridays were supposed to be days off. After a short time, though, the work week turned back into five days. Monday through Thursday was ten hours and Friday turned into an eight-hour day, instead of a day off. Eventually, they ended up cutting some of the employees because they found that they didn't need as many people with everyone working a 48-hour week. Somehow, the grand ideas about the workplace of the future seldom turn out to be so grand.
Rob: Every time I see the massive traffic jams going to and from downtown Chicago, I wonder when the edict will come down to companies to have more of their employees work at home. It's an incredible waste of fuel.
Comparing my workplace now with 20 years ago, I think the biggest difference is the increase in the number of handicaps that restrict us. 20 years ago I could solder with lead, my PSU's could put out more EMI and no-one noticed, I could say good morning to a female co-worker without being accused of sexual harrasment, and there were less stuffed suits in the EU looking for more substances to ban and tweaking the compliance standards. in 20 years I'll probably have access to more information than I can handle, and I'll still be commenting on Design News in my lesuire time, not my work hours.
I also heard all those predictions about more leisure time. Then in the 1980s, as one of the first people I knew with a home office, I heard predictions about everyone working from home. It has not happened in the volumes predicted, no matter how portable our jobs can be. If it had, there'd be a big rush to the suburbs, instead of to the cities.