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10 Ways Your Workplace Will Change in 2020

10 Ways Your Workplace Will Change in 2020

Michael Bloom, Vice-President, Organizational Effectiveness and Learning
April 26, 2010

A decade from now, where and how we work will be different—so different that we may look back on the workplace of 2010 the way we do on an office with a typewriter or a dial phone today.

But even now, we can predict many of the changes and how we can respond to them. In work, as in life, it’s our response to challenges that’s crucial. As Mark Twain is quoted as saying: “I'm all for progress. It's change I object to."

A two-year Conference Board of Canada study, Navigating the Storm: Leaders and the World of Work in 2020, found 10 major changes that leaders need to understand—now.

  1. Generations will mix.
    “Intergenerational mixing” will steadily increase as aging baby boomers stay on the payroll. So instead of waves of successive generations flowing through the workforce, boomers, Generation X (born 1966–79), and Generation Y (born 1980–2000) will share space, ideas, incomes, and job titles.
  2. The visible minority will be white.
    Diversity in the workplace is the new norm, especially in cities. Canada will soon be a country where the majority of urban workers are not white. That is already close to happening in Toronto, and other cities are not far behind. Diversity opens enormous opportunities for new products and services, improved access to global markets, and competitive advantage. It also challenges employers to integrate immigrants and other visible minority employees fully into every aspect of working life, especially at the top.
  3. We’ll all be linked to work 24/7.
    A decade ago, the BlackBerry was just starting to tether us to work. iPods, iPhones, and iPads didn’t exist. So think how completely technology will connect us a decade from now. Then think of the boundaries we’ll need to create to keep work from storming into our privacy and leisure time.
  4. The line between workplace production and consumption will become blurred.
    Consumers today are creating their own books, software, games, and music. This trend of producing the products you consume is called “prosumerism,” and it will spread quickly, spurring producers to make their products more consumer friendly than ever before.
  5. The office will be where we say it is.
    Work will be more and more delinked from place. The same technologies that keep us on constant call will also let us do lots of productive work at a distance—from our living rooms, a Starbucks, a beach in Florida.
  6. Social media will be the community halls of the future.
    They’ll also create the factory floor and the office meeting room, where groups of workers can collaborate on projects the way they now use Facebook and Twitter for social networking.
  7. Real companies will have virtual locations.
    Some corporations have an online existence as robust, lively, and profitable as their presence in the real world. A decade from now, virtual locations may outnumber bricks-and-mortar ones, with marketing either taking place almost solely online or driving consumers there.
  8. Management will be pushed down and out.
    Centralized leadership models will survive, but they will weaken. Flexible work formations and management systems will create highly decentralized workforces—and decisions.
  9. Contingent workers will become unconditionally important.
    More part-time, seasonal, and contract workers will help companies adjust in advance to quick changes in the type and amount of work that needs to be done. However, they will be less loyal than permanent employees and make it harder to enforce a single corporate culture.
  10. Teamwork will be a learned skill, not just a nice attitude.
    More outsiders, faster technology, wider networks, more complex problems—these are all arguments for more teamwork. In fact, in the age of mass collaboration, the ability to work on a team, and especially to lead it, will be one of the most important skills in any workplace.

Leaders are not helpless in the face of these trends. With the right combination of awareness and skills, they can take advantage of these new opportunities. Canadian leaders can employ a four-step process to figure out a plan of action:

  1. Understand the trends that are significant to their workplace.
  2. Clarify the implications of these changes for their company or workplace.
  3. Identify the needs and opportunities, then set strategies to enforce the organizational changes required to deal with the trends.
  4. Make sure their management team of 2020 has the skills right now—or is getting them—to make the most of these changes.

Michael Bloom
Organizational Effectiveness and Learning
Navigating the Storm: Leaders and the World of Work in 2020

Related Publications
Winning the “Generation Wars”—Making the Most of Generational Differences and Similarities in the Workplace
Immigrant-Friendly Businesses—Effective Practices for Attracting, Integrating, and Retaining Immigrants in Canadian Workplaces
Valuing Culture: Measuring and Understanding Canada’s Creative Economy
Working 9 to 9: Overtime Practices in Canadian Organizations

Related Conferences
Change Management 2010: The Human Dimension
Public Sector Social Media
CSR and Social Media

Related Executive Networks
Strategic Human Resources Management Council
Council of Human Resource Executives