From hybrid working to virtual meetings and far less commuting, the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced many changes to our everyday working lives. With many of these changes expected to stay beyond the pandemic, and others likely to follow, we explore what the world of work will look like further into the future.
1. Substance over suits
Even prior to the pandemic, work wear was becoming more informal, with a number of traditional “suit and tie sectors” relaxing their dress codes.1 However, during the lockdown period, formal office wear has been almost completely replaced by more comfortable and casual clothing – as the business world put people’s substance over their style. Looking beyond the pandemic, there are other factors that might impact what we wear to work too.
Greater awareness of environmental issues is driving huge growth in the sustainable fashion market – which is expected to grow to $9.81 billion in 2025 and $15.17 billion in 2030.2 That means we can expect to see office wear made of more sustainable materials and more clothing from ethical brands. Tech might also play a big role in what we wear to work – as our need to use (and charge) our devices and gadgets might lead to clothing with built-in USBs, charging points and even mini screens so we can check messages on the go.
2. Fly me to the meeting room
While the future of work may be hybrid, when we do head into the office, the way we get there looks set to change. New York commuters currently spend an average of 92 hours a year stuck in traffic3 – so it’s no surprise new ways to travel are emerging.
Electric scooters are now legal in New York, for example, offering a chance to bypass these traffic jams with minimal effort, low cost and little environmental impact. Meanwhile, with self-drive – or autonomous – car development well underway, it may not be too long before commuters can spend their time in those NYC jams reading the Wall Street Journal while their car leads them through the traffic on its own.
Of course, one way to bypass the traffic altogether is to rise above it. While the flying cars and taxis promised to us for decades are yet to materialize, a number of start-ups – all with appropriately futuristic names such as Volocoptor, Eviation and Lilium – are in the race to fly us to the office of the future.
3. “Luke, is that you?”
When the pandemic grounded flights, business meetings that would normally have required a three-day round trip for a two-hour face-to-face client meeting moved online. Now we’ve go used to that, some feel business travel will never return to pre-pandemic levels – not least because firms are also increasingly environmentally aware of the impact of flights, and because they want to reduce the time their key staff are in the air.
However, 76 percent of frequent flyers believe that being face-to-face with clients is better than video conferencing.4 The answer to keeping both parties happy may be 3-D hologram meetings that “beam” remote members of the meeting into the room.
Previously the preserve of fictional stories such as the Luke Skywalker hologram in Star Wars, a number of market players are currently making hologram meetings a reality, including ARHT Media, Inverse and Spatial – with a view to cashing in on the “virtual conference” market as well as business meetings.
4. The doctor will not see you now
Remote doctor consultations rose dramatically during the pandemic. In fact, in April 2020, overall use of telehealth was 78 times higher than in February 2020.5 In the future, however, it might not be just consultations that people don’t need to leave the office for. Developments in 5G and other technologies mean small medical or dental procedures could soon be carried out remotely, with your surgeon or your dentist operating from afar. Get ready to book out meeting room 5 for an hour at 1pm to undergo your root canal procedure!
In addition, we can expect a further rise in the use of health monitoring apps in the workplace in the next 20 years – with apps warning us of our blood pressure rising in those tense presentations, or advising us to get up and take a walk in order to get our steps up.
However rapidly these trends evolve and regardless of how quickly they become a part of everyday working life, what’s clear is that change is afoot in the workplace – and firms’ appetites for embracing it will likely have been fueled by the pandemic.
Go back to our newsroom to read more stories.