‘Knowledge workers’ happily walking towards the elephants’ graveyard as a result of technology
More than a third of “knowledge workers” (35 percent) in the US, UK and Germany believe the roles they do today will not exist in five year’s time, while 65 percent think their roles will “not look the same”, according to research among 9,000 white collar workers.
The findings are revealed in the Way We Work Study commissioned by Unify, the Atos communications and collaboration software and services business. The belief in a changing work environment is down to a rapidly changing work environment, the on-demand economy and global digital transformation, said Atos.
Earlier this year, the World Economic Forum predicted that up to 7.1 million jobs will disappear in 15 major economies over the next five years during a “Fourth Industrial Revolution”, as a result of disruptive technologies around artificial intelligence, machine-learning, robotics, nanotechnology, 3-D printing, genetics and biotechnology coming to the fore.
The most significant driver of change, said the Forum, is the changing nature of work itself. As new technologies make “anytime, anywhere” work possible, companies are breaking up tasks in new ways, leading to a fragmentation of jobs across many industries.
The new Atos research, among 9,000 workers whose job is to “think for a living”, found that “virtual” is the “new reality” for many teams. More than half of knowledge workers (52 percent) say they now work in more virtual teams – distributed across offices and locations – than they have done in the past. They think this is a good thing though.
According to two-fifths of workers (42 percent), virtual teams can be more effective than face-to-face teams, and nearly half (49 percent) report that their organisations operate through technology and communication rather than through offices and locations. And over a third (36 percent) suggest that creative thinking is one of the biggest benefits of working with people outside of traditional, physically located teams.
Virtual teams are being enabled by cloud technology, with more than half of knowledge workers (57 percent) saying they use on-demand tools for teamwork, project management or virtual collaboration.
“Today, knowledge workers have an unrivalled freedom in how they connect and engage with each other. This has been provided to them, by and large, through technology,” said Jon Pritchard, CEO at Unify. “It’s our belief that knowledge workers will increasingly want to define how, when and where they work. It’s up to businesses to enable this behaviour and manage further disruption and change.”
On average, knowledge workers spend a fifth (20 percent) of their time outside the traditional office work environment, and as much as one-in-four (27 percent) want to spend 26-50 percent of their time this way. But only 7 percent said they would like to spend 75-100 percent of their time outside the traditional office environment — proving there’s still a place for the desk.
One-in-five of all workers surveyed (21 percent) currently work as freelancers or contractors. And more than half (53 percent) say they would consider changing to a freelance or on-demand model of work over regular employment if it were offered.
In the World Economic Forum research, the greatest job losses predicted will happen in white-collar office and administrative roles. This loss is predicted to be partially offset by the creation of 2.1 million new jobs, mainly in more specialised “job families”, such as computer and mathematical or architecture and engineering disciplines.