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The traditional nine to five office environment could soon become a thing of the past according to a new report by PwC: ‘The future of work: A journey to 2022’. The research reveals that only 14% of UK workers want to work in a traditional office environment in the future. Whereas one in five people say they want to work in a ‘virtual’ place where they can log on from any location or use collaborative work spaces. 

PwC’s report reveals a number of projections for what the future of work might look like based on a survey of 10,000 workers and 500 HR professionals globally. People’s desire to break free from the traditional office environment suggests that the way we work in the future could change dramatically and organisations need to prepare themselves for this shift. The research found that a quarter of UK workers believe that traditional employment won’t be around in the future. 

Instead, people believe that they will have their own brands and sell their skills to those who need them. They will be working for themselves, where they choose. 

One potential consequence is that organisations fragment into looser networks of autonomous, often specialised operations. Technology is used to bring people together, often on a task-by-task basis. 

People’s lack of interest in working in an office reflects the growing desire among many workers to have more flexibility and varied challenges by working freelance or as a contractor for a number of organisations. 

The report reveals that many HR professionals are already preparing for this shift towards more portfolio careers, as they predict that at least 20% of their workforce will be made up of contractors or temporary workers by 2022. Nearly a third of HR professionals are building their talent strategies around the rise of the portfolio career, hiring a diverse mix of people on an affordable, ad hoc basis. 

Jon Andrews, UK HR Consulting leader at PwC, said: 

“It’s clear from our research that traditional nine to five office working could soon become resigned to history for many workers. People feel strongly that they no longer want to work within the constraints of the typical office environment and advances in technology mean that workers no longer have to be shackled to their desks. 

“We predict that many organisations will embrace these changes in employee working preferences and use them to their own advantage. We could easily see the rise of organisations that have a core team that embodies the philosophy and values of the company, but the rest of the workforce is not fixed and come in and out on a project-by-project basis. These companies will make extensive use of technology to run their businesses, coordinate a largely external workforce and support their relationships with third parties. 

“The growth of this vibrant, innovative and entrepreneurial middle market could soon start to challenge big businesses as they can compete on specialism and price due to their slimmed down business model. 

“Workers will be more likely to see themselves as a member of a particular skill or professional network, rather than as an employee of a particular company. People will be categorised and rewarded for having specialist expertise. Project-related bonuses could become more common as people have a personal stake in the organisation’s or project’s success. We expect many contractors and partners will adopt ‘e-bay’ style ratings of past performance to help land the next contract.”