New report offers occasionally surprising vision of the future of work

Future of WorkA new report into the future of work from Cisco claims –unsurprisingly – that employers are shifting their workplace policies to accommodate new demands from employees for more flexible working styles, regardless of their demographic cluster. The 2014 Cisco Connected World Technology Report also also claims that the majority of both Generation X and Y professionals already believe that smartphones and wearable devices will be the workforce’s most important communication devices by 2020 – while the laptop will maintain its place as the workplace device of choice. These devices and their attendant software and apps will drive the uptake of flexible working although sixty percent of respondents to the survey still prefer to take notes using a pen and paper. Two of the most intriguing findings of the report are that while just over half of Gen Y professionals think they are more efficient than older workers (roughly in line with the perceptions of older workers themselves) this is way out of step with the impression HR professionals, and the majority of people still believe that the future of work still lies in the office, at least some of the time.

According to the survey of 3,700 individuals including 800 HR professionals, 56 percent of Gen Y professionals think that they are more efficient than Gen X employees, while 60 percent of Gen X professionals and 81 percent of HR professionals think that Millennials are able to perform tasks faster than older employees using mobile devices and apps. Further, seven in 10 HR professionals think Gen Y employees are able to perform tasks faster if they are allowed to use their mobile devices and apps instead of desktop, laptop, or notebook PC’s.

Other key findings of the future of work report include:

  • More than half of professionals (Gen X and Gen Y) consider themselves accessible for work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, including three in 10 who are accessible by both email and phone.
  • About one quarter of Gen X and Gen Y professionals indicate their organization allows them to work from home.
  • More than four in 10 Gen Y professionals indicate they are most focused and productive when working in the office.
  • Roughly two thirds of professionals believe that an organization that has adopted a flexible, mobile, and remote work model has a competitive advantage over one that requires employees to be in the office from 9am to 5pm every weekday.
  • About half of Gen X and Gen Y professionals feel their organization’s Human Resources department is adjusting to enable a more mobile, flexible work style for its employees, though nearly one third feel it is not doing so quickly enough.
  • From an HR perspective, 56 percent indicate their HR department has already implemented or is planning on implementing a more mobile, flexible work style.
  • Overall, professionals are unwilling to take a pay cut in return for greater work flexibility, although, those in HR tend to be most willing, with four in 10 indicating they would accept a pay cut. Similarly, HR professionals are willing to accept the largest pay cut, with 56 percent accepting a pay cut of more than 10 percent (vs. 35 percent of Gen Y and 34 percent of Gen X professionals).
  • While salary is the most important factor for most, the flexibility to set their own schedule or the ability to work remotely is most important to roughly one in five Gen X and Gen Y professionals, as well as one third of HR professionals.
  • Most professionals believe physical offices will still exist in 2020, though about four in 10 believe they will be much smaller.
  • Further, more than half of Gen X and Gen Y professionals believe their job will sometimes require them to be in the office depending on their schedule.
  • HR professionals are split when it comes to the future work schedule, though four in 10 believe employees will be able to work from home occasionally.
  • Gen Y professionals are slightly less likely to use their smartphone for phone calls with about half using it for calls less than 25 percent of the time (vs. 43 percent Gen X and 36 percent HR).
  • Four in 10 HR professionals indicate all employees within their organization are allowed to connect any device to their network in order to do their jobs.
  • Roughly eight in 10 professionals believe middle income workers will have robots that can assist them with various work related activities–although most do not expect such robots to be available by the year 2020.