This articles topic is pretty close to my heart, as it was relevant to my first WBD in 2015 – Work
4.0, where we debated what the future of work would look like. And now, we talk about
workspaces. It seems that the future is now.
Disclaimer: Before I begin, I would like to mention that my views are my own and not of my
There was a time when all of humanity was directly dependent on agriculture. As economies
evolved and urbanization happened, work moved from farms to cities, barns to factories, and
work became more and more mechanized. Since the industrial revolution, the only constant
like work and the workplace has changed itself.
In this article, I wanted to focus on what helped us change in the century past and how it
shapes how we look at the future. I will start by talking about some innovations that changed
how we view the workplace.
1. The Personal Computer: While computers had been around, it was Steve Jobs with a
vision of a computer on every desk that set the wheels into motion for the age of
information. There was a time when politicians promised to get rid of computers to
keep more manual jobs, but I always believe that 'If something can be automated, it
2. The Internet: Well, we would have stuck playing Minesweeper on the PC without the
Internet. The only positive from half a century in the cold war was that Science took the
primary seat. The Internet was born, allowing users to be connected and computing to
shift away from end-users (think cloud computing, Google stadia, etc.)
3. Email, Skype, and Jabber: Ok, what is Jabber !? Jabber was the original Instant
messaging tool for the office, which allowed in-office text communication. Think of
slack, but 20 years ago. The email itself was tied to a computer until Sabeer Bhatia of
Hotmail built a system that allowed storing email on remote servers. And the onset of
Skype revolutionized communication, reducing the need for in-person contact and
4. VPN: Virtual Private Networks: Well, a VPN is more complicated than how it can be
described here. But an abridged version relevant to the workplace would be that a VPN
allows users to connect to their employer's private network over a secure protocol,
allowing users to work from home.
In talking about the innovations above, we walked through a golden era in innovation,
transforming the modern workplace. The reason I can sit at home comfortably and safely in a
pandemic while still having a job is the massive era of innovation that took place over the past
three-quarters of a century.
But the question is, what is next?
Over time there are some trends we might need to watch out for. But here are some ideas:
1. Customer service roles slowly replaced/reduced by ChatBots.
2. Companies are investing less in real estate and more in remote working: which may lead
to outsourcing, as geographical boundaries no longer matter for finding talent. Over
time this will lead to economic equalization, with wage gaps across geographies
3. More investment into remote working tools: Including work time calculators, chat
platforms, most likely some innovation in Virtual Reality working environments.
4. Infrastructure improvements for the Internet, pushed by various city governments to
make their cities more work-friendly.
5. The massive push for 5G, allowing real work from anywhere.
6. Automation: 'Anything that can be automated, will'. This will lead to the evolution and
retraining of the workforce, much like "Survival of the fittest".
The modern workplace will look nothing like the office of the 1990s that overstayed its
welcome till the 2010s. And as this pandemic has shown us, our ideas about people relocating
for work, work-related travel, the necessity of physical office space might be archaic ideas that
need to evolve with time.