When Faith Popcorn—noted futurist, best-selling author, and CEO of the future-focused strategic marketing consultancy BrainReserve—sat down with CNBC to discuss her latest batch of predictions, here are the key points she made: The workplace is going to be more competitive than ever, and we humans are going to adopt some innovative attitudes and new behaviors to survive and thrive.
Popcorn says that robots are going to take a seat at the conference room table in 2017. And to stay competitive with their new robot colleagues, workers are going to start taking smart drugs. She’s been right before: Since launching her business in 1974, she has helped Fortune 500 companies including MasterCard, Coca-Cola, P&G and IBM. Here are five trends you can expect to see in the workplace in 2017, according to Popcorn.
- Employees are going to start taking a burgeoning class of cognitive enhancers called nootropics, or "smart drugs." These nutritional supplements contain a variety of compounds that reportedly increase physical and mental stamina. Silicon Valley has been an early adopter of the bio-hacking trend.
- Unskilled blue-collar workers will be the first to lose their jobs to automation, but robots will eventually replace white-collar workers, too, says Popcorn, pointing to an Oxford University study that found 47 percent of U.S. jobs are at risk of being replaced. "Who would you rather have do your research? A cognitive computer or a human?" says Popcorn. "Human error is a disaster. ... Robots don't make mistakes."
- Already, more than one in three U.S. workers are freelancers. They will produce an estimated $1 trillion in revenue, according to a survey released earlier this fall by the Freelancers Union and the freelancing platform Upwork. The percentage of freelancers will increase in 2017 and onward, Popcorn asserts: "It's accelerating every year.” She also shares that some large companies that are building offices with fewer seats than employees. Citibank built an office space in Long Island City, Queens, with 150 seats for 200 employees and no assigned desks to encourage a fluid environment.
- Traditionally emotions haven't belonged inside the office. That's basically because workplaces have largely been run by men, says Popcorn, but that's changing. "The female entry into the workplace has brought emotional intelligence into the workplace and that comes with emotion. There is a lot of anxiety about the future, there is a lot of stress-related burnout and we are seeing more emotion being displayed in the workplace."
- "People are going to be working 24 hours a day," says Popcorn. Technology has enabled global, constant communication. The WeLive spaces that WeWork launched are indicative of this trend towards work and life integration, she says (WeLive lets you sleep at your coworking space): "There is no line between work and play."
For more of Faith Popcorn’s predictions for the workplace of tomorrow, check out the full CNBC article here.