3. We will wear microchips. It’s an ethical minefield, but human microchipping is already being trialed in countries such as Sweden, Norway and the US. Setting aside the Big Brother connotations, microchips could be hugely convenient for workers, removing the need for them to carry ID passes, keys, credit cards and train tickets. They may also allow us to log into our work computer systems without having to remember a password. While the prospect of being microchipped for work might sound unappealing today, we will probably be far more accepting of the concept once we start to see the benefits. For example, when we’re using the chips to monitor our health, or even as replacements for our smartphones. For CEOs, however, the microchipping of people presents significant ethical issues. They will need to ensure that chipping is not used as a way to abuse or exploit staff, treated as a means of enforcing ‘ownership’, or employed for purposes for which it was not originally intended. They will also need to consider how workers’ privacy will be protected – who will be able to access the information on the chips and why?
4. Work will become synonymous with education. I firmly believe that the reskilling and upskilling of people needs to be top of CEOs’ agendas. The world is changing so fast that any organization that lacks a strategy for continually developing the skills of its people has no future. If companies are to prosper, STEM needs to become even more deeply embedded in our education systems than it is today. Also, as our 2018 Global Alumni Survey shows, CEOs need to not only nurture technical skills but also our human capabilities, such as critical thinking, the ability to collaborate, a commitment to ethics, and feeling comfortable with ambiguity and change.
5. The days in the office will disappear. Will we even need to work in physical offices when we can effectively reconstruct the office environment using virtual and augmented reality? CEOs must consider how they will create a workplace that people conjure up by simply putting on a headset, rather than actually having to travel anywhere. Will we build convincing virtual workplace experiences that allow people to duck in and out of meetings, talk to colleagues at the next desk, and eat their lunch in the communal environment of the canteen as though we were actually there? How will we maintain our human connection in an increasingly digital world? What should we preserve in terms of physical meetings to foster those personal connections?
At Innovation Realized 19, from 7-9 April in Boston, EY convenes leaders to further explore how companies can continue to create and deliver value by planning in three dimensions simultaneously: Solve the now. Explore the next. Imagine the beyond. Join the conversation by following #InnovationRealized and visiting ey.com/innovationrealized.
What will the world of work look like beyond tomorrow? AI and other technologies will inevitably be huge drivers of the future of work, but demographic changes and social expectations will have a major impact as well. While we don’t know exactly what lies ahead of us, it is clear that CEOs have to start planning for a future where they simultaneously balance the responsibility of making effective, ethical use of machines with creating a new workplace paradigm that enables humans to continue to thrive.