Your Future Digital Workplace: Three Scenarios of Remote Work Teams
By Alexandra Whittington
The way we work is shifting. The pandemic accelerated the remote working trend, and many companies now embrace the benefits of telecommuting, such as higher employee satisfaction and productivity, plus considerable cost savings. And a renaissance in digital tools and transformation is bringing remote teams together as never before.
If, as many futurists have predicted, working from home becomes the norm over the next decade, what are some of the interesting ways work culture might change? The three scenarios described below show what could happen when key variables take unexpected turns, depicting diverse visions of the remote work future.
Scenario 1: Collab House
The Collab House future is a synthesis of several trends into a single scenario where colleagues and work teams live together under one roof, collaborating 24/7 like reality show contestants. In the near future, companies could sponsor generous social media-friendly living spaces for employees to live and work together while producing valuable digital influencer content. Corporations would be attracted to Collab House PR opportunities, such as viral videos of work teams cooking meals together and raising children or pets in an idyllic communal lifestyle. There would also be considerable risk and unpredictability, so Collab House-based work teams would be highly vetted through psychological profiling. Hiring managers would be looking for creators with potential to do more than just the job role, but to have a charismatic knack for gaining positive attention.
With social media content flowing abundantly from Collab House co-living/co-working spaces, future influencer careers worth a fortune would be established. The public personalities and content would also serve to whet customer curiosity as advertising and branding become inseparable from the content. Collab House workers, regardless of job role, would gain new opportunities cultivated through a strong influencer profile. Soon, no CV would be complete without examples of social media savvy cultivated in a Collab House work team.
Scenario 2: Support System
In this future, intentional professional networks are designed to form personalized support systems to members well beyond what a job alone could offer. A typical Support System coworking group would reflect a variety of backgrounds and professions: tech workers, self-employed, educators, creatives, mental health professionals, consultants, gig workers, artists, scientists, medical professionals, and so on — the only common thread being their remote worker status and a healthy outlook on life.
Rather than being defined by a company, a Support System team would consist of individuals whose digital nomad/remote/online/cloud-based job provided the flexibility to work anytime, anywhere, asynchronously. They would voluntarily come together as a team in physical and virtual space during the week, coworking in their own separate jobs. Participants were attracted to these groups because of a belief that they enhanced their productivity in the presence of peers engaged in constant self-improvement and growth, and that choosing your own coworkers made for a healthier mental state.
Support System coworking groups would take a self-organizing approach. Many feature programs offering mental health support, peer-coaching, substance abuse recovery, financial aid, and professional development opportunities funded by voluntary monetary contributions. Special projects around causes and social justice would be undertaken, and most groups with a strong sense of “giving back.” Members see that their personal and humanitarian goals could be met in a Support System. It forms a sharp contrast to typical telecommuting, which often creates or exacerbates problems like anxiety and depression in employees.
Scenario 3: Mixed Reality
A Mixed Reality (MR) remote work team of the future would tap into a variety of technologies, such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), mobile, artificial intelligence (AI), the internet of things (IoT), holograms/holoportation, and, of course, the metaverse. In this near-term future, intermingling high-tech tools could provide a diverse virtual workplace experience with layers of equally valid simulations and realities. Some of your coworkers could be digital humans.
At first, work team members could be able to take avatar forms while interacting, but soon enough they might be able to holoport into a colleague’s workspace for a one-on-one meeting. There would also be ample in-person gatherings, a highly valuable aspect of the varied interactions a MR work team can offer.
In Mixed Reality we would be able to show, rather than tell, colleagues what we need, building stronger remote work teams. We could visualize team goals in AR and VR, predict outcomes with greater certainty (using AI, neural networks, and algorithms), and express job performance expectations as a multisensory experience. Communication and collaboration would deepen. Mixed Reality teams could also become popular as higher education or volunteer community service opportunities, too. Many participants identifying as Millennial and Gen Z will feel equally at home with in-person and virtual settings.
What will the future remote working scenario truly look like? We can’t predict specific outcomes, but it seems rather certain that the custom of working exclusively in face-to-face settings is becoming outdated. Working from home, or indeed, working from anywhere, has become the norm for a considerable portion of the workforce. The pandemic accelerated a wave of societal change that will reverberate for decades ahead in terms of the way we work.
In the future, will we choose our work teams, or will they choose us? Will we enjoy a sense of shared purpose with virtual coworkers? Can we experience different levels of reality with our colleagues and still maintain a common vision? Answers to these questions might become the lived reality of your future digital workplace.
Alexandra Whittington is a futurist educator, writer, speaker and researcher. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.