This is a nice exercise in re-designing the workplace. Variations on cubicles.
I would have liked to see what students came up with when really thinking about how the actual work day would change. Not just, the work space.
40 years ago, we thought there would be more leisure time by 2012. What happened was that work became portable. Americans especially work more than ever before with less leisure time. There's no cubicle re-design that could have predicted that.
It depends on where you are located in the world. The growing population with still need goods manufactured cheaply, food grown, services met. In other words, 2030 being only 17 years away might not be much different than now. Countless people slaving in factories in China/India/poorer countries, while the rest of the world works directly or indirectly for the service industry.
As I have worked in offices and locations that seemed not to have evolved past the 1970s, around 50 years later, I don't see much of a change coming.
I do believe that the BYOD, bring your own device, trend in the workplace today will change how much we all are tied to our various jobs. As an engineer, I design and perform test, which I can do anywhere. There have been plenty of times where I did my work remotely, I tacked more work for sure this way. Since higher-ups want to keep tabs on what their employees are doing, the demand for them to be present during work hours will still remain.
For perspective; I know a person who worked for a company that had a large manufacturing side. Over the time I was there, they moved those jobs outside the company (Some inside and outside the USA). Then it was just us engineers. Then those departments were consolidated and partially replaced with overseas engineers (India). This was over the course of a few years. All parties involved, the work place change depended on where you were located.
Good point about portability, NadineJ. If the trend toward portability continues, I wonder what percentage of employees will work at home, and what effect that will have on huge business centers, such as downtown New York City or Chicago.
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.
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.
Chuck, I also remember that supposed trend--four 10-hour days a week--a bit later, during the 80s. That was another wave of the future that didn't happen, except in a few cases. In some places, everyone went back to normal after awhile, but I knew other people whose work week expanded from 40 to 50 hours. Seems like that happened to lots of jobs filled by exempt employees.
Another thing that we didn't count on was the financial crunch of a sagging economy. When money gets tight, all the best intentions for better work-environments get squashed. Here's a true story of one CFO of multi-national corporate giant who compared his total available work space in Square Feet of facility (measured in the millions, across several states) compared to the headcount of his technical staff. His simple solution was to maximize SF to people; squeeze more people into common areas by reducing cubicle sizes down to 6'x7' and sell off the extra floor space saved. He reasoned that relocating families across the country was economically prudent and he sold-off entire plants while consolidating workers. This is a true story about an Electronics Giant you've all heard of, and the bottom line was not a happy one for them.
20 years ago, my high school careers teacher was still pushing that in the future that the leisure industry would be high dollars. She pushed Hotel Management over Engineering to most students. With the downturn in the economy and reduction of leisure spending, I wonder if she feels a little guilty.
As for the workplace 20 years from now, thing are so mobile now that there is less and less reason for central computing or main offices. There may be a resurgence of the home office that employers would allow designers to work at home while being at work.
Nice article, Lauren. I agree with Chuck that work is likely to move more and more into the home. Work from home has environmental advantages as well as time advantages, both of which will probably increase in importance. IT tools will probably move toward touch screens and away from the keyboard. Except for journalists, of course, who will probably stay tied to the keyboard.
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.
@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.
Based on current trends, I expect than in 2030, the work day will be 23.5 hours long, and each company will have exactly one engineering employee, who, in addition to design, will also be responsible for prototyping, testing, manufacturing, equipment maintenance, quality assurance, purchasing, sales, marketing, accounting, human resources, and food service.
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 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?
Me too, Ann. I think we lose a lot by not conversing in person when the topic can lead to exploring different areas that just wouldn't happen via email. But then, I still prefer paper catalogues instead of CDs. While it is so much easier to plug what you are looking for in a search box, you don't get to see all the neat stuff that you would when you are flipping through a catalogue trying to find something...ideas come from different places and if we take away these types of interaction, then those places begin diminishing...
I agree about paper catalogues, Nancy, and for a couple of other reasons as well. They come to me--I don't have to think about looking for something and then go look for it, so they save me a lot of time and energy. Plus they're not on a screen so I'm not getting yet more eyestrain.
Good point about the eye strain, Ann. I can't bring myself to buy a Kindle or a Nook. There is nothing like holding a good old-fashioned book or magazine in your hands for a good read and to get away from the computer screen!
I agree, Nancy--I'm a book person. For reading long documents, it's hard to beat print. OTOH, the way we use print pages is what's behind the multi-page PaperTab we wrote about here: http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=257520
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".
The more you mention it--I think you are probably correct. We see evidence of "creeping" technology in these areas. I suppose the one that really concerns me most is the privacy issue. Some months ago I decided to join Face Book to communicate with my granddaughters in Atlanta. BAD IDEA. I discovered quickly, there are just some things a grandfather does NOT need to know. With that out of the way, my fall-back position was text messaging. They will respond to a text message when a phone call won't get the job accomplished. I am amazed at how social media has taken hold and seems to occupy huge chunks of time--certainly wilth the teens and 20-somethings. Blows my mind.
I agree with the trends listed below. With my smart phone, laptop and an internet connection I can set up my 'virtual', portable office at home, in the airport, at the coffee shop or just about anywhere else and do basic office work. I expect this trend to continue to grow.
On another note, I also see technology (and sometimes engineers) more and more being looked upon as a commodity resource in many areas. Instead of hiring and maintaining permanent, full-time domestic engineers, many companies now are trying to just hire contract engineers until the project is finished or farm out the simpler tasks to oversees engineers who will work for less. This will continue to push the evolution of our work day as this trend continues to grow.
In a line of ultra-futuristic projects, DARPA is developing a brain microchip that will help heal the bodies and minds of soldiers. A final product is far off, but preliminary chips are already being tested.
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