Intel Offers an Image of the Workplace of the Future

Intel, considering the future of the company, has come up with five key ideas about how workers and workplaces are likely to change.

Intel staff began to give some thought about where the company should be headed, and in coming to conclusions about how workers and workplaces will change over the next 10 to 20 years, the giant chip maker thought other businesses might find the data useful as well.

"Most people work 9 to 5 jobs, are self employed or employed by one company but not both, and most have colleagues who are human. That's going to change," Intel Chief Evangelist Steve Brown said during a Dec. 14 webinar. Brown, with Tim Hansen, an Intel technology strategist who has authored a whitepaper on the data, covered five major points of interest.

The first is that "flexibility is going to become the key requirement of workers in the future," said Brown.

People will want more than salary; they'll want to work where they want to work. In taking on a job, he added, flexibility will be a more compelling lure than salary.

The second idea is that there will be so-called "guns for hire," with people working in "dynamic teams." This supports an idea of "open innovation," said Brown, where for particular tasks a company may bring in a select group of people to work on a problem or even crowd-source a problem, saying they're willing to pay a certain amount of money to whoever can solve the stated problem.

This idea, Intel found, also plays to the ways different generations think about tenure and loyalty. While Baby Boomers define loyalty as staying at a company for the length of a career—as do a percentage of Gen-Xers—Millenials, said Brown, think of loyalty as meaning, "'When I'm at your company I will work my tail off. But there's no need to stay forever."

The third finding was that offices will change, becoming maybe more temporary locations where someone will perhaps work for a day and move on, or stay for half a year.

With workforces more dispersed, smaller, more home-office-like environments will also offer businesses considerable real estate savings—behind salaries, office space tends to be the second-largest operating expense.

"Office-as-a-service (Oaas) will be a strategic tool to land employees in the right place at the right time," said Hansen.

However, the key challenge, he added, will be how to resolve workers' desires to work where they want to with the rapport, relationships and trust that come from working in an office together.

There's also a tradition of businesses in similar industries setting up near to each other—Silicon Valley is an obvious example—which creates, said Hansen, "a change for the information discussions to happen, whether it's with people in your company or outside of it—those serendipitous transactions that happen maybe at a coffee shop."

One fix, he suggested, could be a screen set up in your office space that shows a colleague who is working somewhere else. It could enable the types of informal conversations that often lead to fruitful ideas, and maybe "frost up and go into privacy mode" when that person takes a meeting or a phone call.

Fourth on the list—and here both assured viewers not to fear that machines are coming to take their jobs (they're not)—was the increase in "electronic teammates." A type of example is IBM's robot Watson, which, as The New York Times detailed in an October article, has the ability to digest and retain an incredible amount of medical information, making it a great help to doctors.

These "smart systems" will be able to recommend best approaches to problems and leave humans to focus on what it is they do best. (Their "unique value," as Hansen put it.)

Finally, "intelligent data agents" are expected to comprise the second wave of consumerization.

What Hansen called "personal data agents" will, to our delight, take steps on our behalf.

These agents could be involved in calendaring, shopping, travel and assisting us with finances, offering help where maybe we didn't even realize we'd needed it. And when we get to the point where they do, Millenials will find it untenable that these personal tools shouldn't be a part of their work lives as well. As such, they "present the next big IT challenge," said Hansen.

Both Hansen and Brown insisted that the paper, while offering some answers, also asks plenty of questions. The data and whitepaper, said Brown, "allow us to create an actionable vision for where we're going in the future. We don't have all the answers today."