Defining the Future of Work

What is the difference between hybrid working, the hybrid workplace or the future of work, and how can technology leaders prepare for and execute strategies to adapt to them?


Keme Nzerem, Channel 4 Correspondent and award winning presenter, helps to resolve some technical and linguistic issues within the future of work topic—to help leaders better communicate their aims and strategies. The pandemic has caused a for more protracted working from home experience than many had imagined, but for senior executives the real surprise was the confusion surrounding remote working expectations between its teams and public officials. Do these technology leaders know their hybrid working from their hybridised environments?


The speakers of this roundtable debate include:

  • Colin Seward, Chief Information Officer EMEAR, Cisco
  • Nick Giannakakis, CIO, Motor Oil
  • Mansi Thapar, CISO, Jaquar Group
  • Vukosi Sambo, Head of Data Solutions, Medscheme Holdings
  • Ravinder Arora, Global CISO, Infogain



Pandemic effect

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted labor markets globally during 2020. The short-term consequences were sudden and often severe: Millions of people were furloughed or lost jobs, and others rapidly adjusted to working from home as offices closed. Many other workers were deemed essential and continued to work in hospitals and grocery stores, on garbage trucks and in warehouses, yet under new protocols to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus.


Before COVID-19, the largest disruptions to work involved new technologies and growing trade links. COVID-19 has, for the first time, elevated the importance of the physical dimension of work. In this research, we develop a novel way to quantify the proximity required in more than 800 occupations by grouping them into ten work arenas according to their proximity to coworkers and customers, the number of interpersonal interactions involved, and their on-site and indoor nature.


This offers a different view of work than traditional sector definitions. For instance, the medical care arena includes only caregiving roles requiring close interaction with patients, such as doctors and nurses. Hospital and medical office administrative staff fall into the computer-based office work arena, where more work can be done remotely. Lab technicians and pharmacists work in the indoor production work arena because those jobs require use of specialised equipment on-site but have little exposure to other people.


Future of work

Some companies are already planning to shift to flexible workspaces after positive experiences with remote work during the pandemic, a move that will reduce the overall space they need and bring fewer workers into offices each day. A survey of 278 executives by McKinsey in August 2020 found that on average, they planned to reduce office space by 30 percent. Demand for restaurants and retail in downtown areas and for public transportation may decline as a result.


Remote work may also put a dent in business travel as its extensive use of videoconferencing during the pandemic has ushered in a new acceptance of virtual meetings and other aspects of work. While leisure travel and tourism are likely to rebound after the crisis, McKinsey’s travel practice estimates that about 20 percent of business travel, the most lucrative segment for airlines, may not return. This would have significant knock-on effects on employment in commercial aerospace, airports, hospitality, and food service. E-commerce and other virtual transactions are booming.


Many companies deployed automation and AI in warehouses, grocery stores, call centers, and manufacturing plants to reduce workplace density and cope with surges in demand. The common feature of these automation use cases is their correlation with high scores on physical proximity, and our research finds the work arenas with high levels of human interaction are likely to see the greatest acceleration in adoption of automation and AI.


This Studio roundtable was created in partnership with Cisco.

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