It should come as no surprise that technology is constantly changing the way we work – but it is also changing where we work. Thanks to our ability to remain connected at all times, more and more companies are able to outsource projects to remote employees. This means lowered overhead for companies, as well as more flexibility for workers. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is also changing the type of work that we are doing by taking away the more monotonous tasks so we can focus on higher-level thinking.
When we see the stereotypical office job depicted on TV, it’s pretty much always the same: you get up, put on a dull suit, and either sit in your car or on public transportation. Once you arrive at the office, you head over to your office or cubicle to complete the same old tasks and sit through the same boring meetings. By the end of the day, you are exhausted. You reverse the process, fighting through more traffic to finally make it home and go to sleep. The next morning you get to repeat the whole process all over again. This creates a continual cycle of monotony, which is generally unfulfilling. Essentially, we are just living for the weekend.
It should not be surprising that many people have gotten fed up with the same old, same old. This means that the way we work is beginning to evolve. Managers are becoming aware that having control over one’s schedule and work-life balance is critical to office morale and productivity. For many people, this means spending less time commuting and sitting through pointless meetings. More people than ever before are working from home, at least part-time. Newer companies are less likely to even have a physical headquarters, and to employ a team that is entirely remote.
Remote work is not an entirely new concept. Since the 1960s, companies have recognized the value of outsourcing work to an out-of-office team. Back then, this might mean mailing employees packages that contained work for them to complete or assemble, and then mailing back the finished product. Computers and internet service only encouraged this process, creating more and more remote work opportunities across a range of industries.
One of the greatest ways that technology and remote work have helped improve businesses is that it has allowed them to have a global workforce that can seamlessly operate around the clock. This means offering continual customer service, meeting fast turnaround times, and responding to client needs 24/7. This is true of industries across the board. For example, more and more healthcare providers are taking advantage of video conferencing to offer virtual office visits. This means that more patients are able to be seen – at their convenience – and at a fraction of the company cost.
You might be thinking, “this all sounds great, what’s the downside?” One of the limitations of virtual offices is the inherent loss of human interaction, both with colleagues as well as with clients and customers. Individuals that work remotely must learn to interact either through video conferencing or chat software, like Slack. Much of the time this works out really well, but it is important that managers make sure that their remote workers feel engaged and connected, otherwise morale and productivity can suffer.
Artificial intelligence – or AI – is another area that is transforming the modern workplace. But again, this is something that has been around for longer than most people realize. In fact, the first instances of AI in businesses included the assembly line during the Industrial Revolution. In the 1990s, robots were delivering mail in large office buildings. Today, this same technology is being used to provide room service in hotels. And this is just the beginning.
There are some employees who fear that AI could mean the end of their jobs. And while many companies are looking for ways that AI can handle simple and repetitive tasks, this is largely meant to free up employees’ time so that they are able to focus on more high-level tasks.
It is safe to say that the future of work will look different than it does today – but this hopefully means that employees will be able to more fully focus on meaningful work that they are able to complete on their own schedule.