A Gen Z’s Perspective on the Future of Work

As I am sitting at home, finding out that I will not be taking my GCSE exams this year due to the recent pandemic, I am reflecting on the next few years, wondering what things are going to be like in the future. One thing is for sure, we will all probably be working differently, at school, University and in the workplace.

It could be argued that the second Industrial Revolution is upon us – as stated by the popular documentary YouTube channel Vice NEWS - I personally think the term ‘Industrial Evolution’ is more appropriate. As a 16-year-old boy, the future of work and how it will change in the future is an important and relevant subject to discuss, as it will directly affect me as I get older. It will dictate what jobs are available to me, what my working day will be like and the type of skills required.

The future of work is a broad subject - there are a wide range of types of work, which will all be affected to varying degree in the future. The landscape might be different for whether you are a lorry driver, an accountant, a judge or a mechanic. Although it is difficult to predict exactly what the future holds, there is one certainty: automation will replace certain jobs.

The evolution from human to robots is already prevailing in many sectors and is happening quicker than people may think. In the car industry, Elon Musk’s company – Tesla, is at the forefront of using robots and automation to make his cars. The Model S, one of Tesla’s latest designs, is made almost entirely using a series of complex robots that press and shape the metal to create the components needed. The only human interaction is when the parts are driven from one side of the factory to the other, to the body shop, when they are assembled by machines. Soon, this process will be automated, and inevitably the first human to touch the car will be the driver! Robots, in many ways, are far better at this type of work than humans are. They don’t call into work sick, demand a pay rise or form unions. They don’t take lunch breaks, get bored, or slack. They are the perfect, most efficient machines for this type of work. The only thing they lack is emotions.

There are other sectors where humans will be inevitably replaced in too, for example, transport. Driverless trains are being championed across the world, making your morning commute safer and more efficient. The automation of trains will cut out the degree of human error – and these do exist, resulting in the imaginable. Although this is rare, human error is always the reason. The evolution from human-driven trains is unlikely to cause a loss of jobs: would you get on a train if you knew there was no-one who was qualified to drive a train on it? The same could be said for the aviation industry. Human error causes 80% of plane crashes, but would you get on a Boeing 747 without a pilot? Even if the driving of the trains was done through a highly intelligent machine – there would still have to be a driver on board in case of a failure.

This ‘Industrial Evolution’ won’t just affect jobs such as factory workers or bus drivers, it will affect office jobs too. Workplaces may completely differ from those that we are familiar with now – will there even be any offices at all? It’s impossible to accurately predict what offices of the future look like. One thing for sure, people will still need human interaction. Two days in at home and I am already missing the chats and banter!

So people will still need places to congregate to…Workplaces could venture further and further away from the traditional office spaces that we are accustomed to. Could offices of the future be even be more comfortable and stimulating environments than people’s homes? Will people interact in friendlier environments? Workplaces could become more of a social hub, with less formal settings.

The current situation with Coronavirus is likely to create a seismic shift in the way we work. As companies have been forced to embrace remote working during the Pandemic, we may see an increase in flexibility in the workplace: with more people working from home, or more flexible hours. Technology that increases creativity and productivity could also be introduced, with products such as Sensory Deprivation Tanks, which allow employees to work at their creative best. A workplace that enhances human capabilities?

Offices will have to become greener in every sense. The younger generation will choose companies based on their sustainability credentials and their initiatives to tackle climate change. Examples of this can be seen in a multitude of companies already, such as Shell, who are trying to become environmentally friendly. Companies will be forced to become more sustainable to attract younger employees; what companies are doing for climate change is more than ever a deciding factor for my generation to choose their future employer.

This ‘Industrial Evolution’ will dictate the type of world that we will live in. Although it is impossible for me to predict what the office of the future looks like, or what the world of work looks like in 50 years, I can predict some of the factors that are going to change in future workplaces. A utopian future, full of sustainable energy and green living could dictate the type of world and therefore work that is available, but in the same vein, a dystopian future, if we continue to damage our planet could do the same. Our current actions will control the future of work and the environment that we live in. As Doc Brown from Back to the Future said; ‘Your future hasn’t been written yet. No one’s has! Your future is whatever you make it, so make it a good one!’. So maybe this is happening to rethink how we live, how we work and how we look after our planet.

By Sam Watson


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