With over a third (36%) of workers concerned about the impact of technological changes and what this will mean for them, Virgin Media O2 Business has launched a landmark study on the future of work.
The pandemic accelerated remote and hybrid work, mostly benefitting desk-based workers. Meanwhile, deskless workers like teachers, nurses and engineers saw limited long-term change despite many organisations comprising both types of workers. Virgin Media O2 Business polled 2,000 UK workers across sectors and found that over a quarter (27%) of deskless workers feel the pace of technological change is too fast and believe this should be addressed. This rises to 41% for deskless transport/storage workers, while almost one in three (31%) deskless workers feel concerned by the loss of control in their roles to automation and AI. These apprehensions highlight the importance for businesses to ensure conversations about the future involve both desk-based and deskless workers.
The research reveals many workers struggling to picture the future of their industries and roles. Half of respondents aged under 50 do not know what job they will be doing in 20 years based on how quickly their industry is changing, rising to two-thirds (66%) for deskless retail workers and almost two-thirds (63%) for transport/storage workers. Over half (53%) of deskless workers feel that senior management could help enhance communication by providing clearer explanations on significant technology shifts. This rises to 59% for manufacturing deskless workers and 57% for retail deskless workers.
However, many workers remain optimistic about the role of emerging technology in the future of work. Nearly half (46%) of deskless workers agree that technology will play a key role in the future of work, over a third (36%) are excited by the possibilities, and 32% believe they would be more productive if their company adopted more emerging technologies. Over half (56%) of deskless workers think employees who improve their knowledge of emerging technologies will gain a significant advantage over their peers in the job market, while a third (33%) believe emerging technologies could offer them a better work-life balance.
Based on the research findings, professional futurist Tracey Follows, one of the top 50 female futurists in the world, believes that large-scale job displacement is not to be feared, with emerging technology set to augment current roles and create new sectors. Follows predicts that:
By 2040, most traditional salaries will no longer exist: Traditional paid salaries will be replaced by, or supplemented with, more innovative payment models moving beyond fiat currency (dependent on blockchain and/or decentralised finance maturing into a mainstream capability). Employees will be able to choose how they are paid driven by their own politics and ethics.
Within 20 years deskless workers will have intelligent uniforms: Connected clothing will become built into uniforms for front-line workers, meaning materials can respond to environmental conditions, for example, temperature, air quality, or even noise.
Within 10 years, 10% of frontline roles will be part of the safety sector: Increasing global focus on worker safety and regulatory compliance will drive demand for safety professionals. As automation increases, so will the need for safe human-machine interaction and brand-new roles will be created in these areas.
As organisations look to embrace the Future of Work, there is a clear role for telecoms operators to play in supporting desk-based and deskless workers. From farmers in remote fields to engineers on busy industrial sites, connectivity allows individuals to access critical Internet of Things (IoT) safety devices, AI software, and other technologies necessary for their roles. Companies looking to embrace new innovations need the right infrastructure in place to ensure employees are well-equipped now, and in the future.
Full prediction details can be found here.
“This research from Virgin Media O2 Business clearly shows a level of apprehension and optimism from both desk-based and deskless workers in how their roles will evolve in the future of work,” commented futurist Tracey Follows. “Emerging tech presents many promising new opportunities to improve workplace safety, wellbeing, and empower employees through more personalised compensation structures. Instead of reacting with pessimism, we would do well to shift the narrative toward one of optimism and possibility for reinventing roles.”
Diego Tedesco, Director of Commercial, Product and Marketing at Virgin Media O2 Business, commented: “Our Future of Work study aims to illustrate how, despite apprehensions, technology can effectively support both desk-based and deskless workers. It is imperative for businesses of all sizes and sectors not only to embrace emerging technologies, but ensure their employees are ready for it too. From supporting hybrid work to powering safety devices in manufacturing environments, connectivity underpins the way we work. As organisations look to futureproof their business, Virgin Media O2 Business is positioned to play a crucial role in guiding companies and workers through this transformative phase.”