Brits believe new tech will offer better work-life balance

36 percent of workers are concerned about the impact of technological advancements on their jobs, prompting Virgin Media O2 Business to conduct a comprehensive study on the future of work.

The pandemic has notably accelerated remote and hybrid work models, primarily benefiting those in desk-based roles. In contrast, deskless workers, including teachers, nurses, and engineers, have seen minimal long-term adaptations, despite many organisations employing both groups. A survey of 2,000 UK workers across various sectors by Virgin Media O2 Business revealed that 27% of deskless workers struggle to keep pace with technological changes and feel this issue needs attention. This sentiment is particularly pronounced among deskless transport/storage workers (41%), with nearly a third (31%) expressing concerns about losing control to automation and AI. These findings underscore the necessity for inclusive discussions about the future, involving both desk-based and deskless employees.

The study also indicates a widespread uncertainty among workers about their future roles, with half of those under 50 unsure of their job prospects in 20 years, especially among deskless retail (66%) and transport/storage (63%) workers. Over half (53%) believe clearer communication from senior management about technological shifts could help, with this figure rising among manufacturing (59%) and retail (57%) deskless workers.

Yet, there's a sense of optimism regarding emerging technologies. Nearly half (46%) of deskless workers view technology as crucial for future work, with 36% excited about the possibilities and 32% believing it could enhance productivity. Over half (56%) think that improving knowledge of emerging technologies could offer a competitive edge in the job market, and a third (33%) anticipate better work-life balance through these technologies.

Tracey Follows, a professional futurist, predicts significant changes based on these findings:

  • By 2040, traditional salary models will evolve, with innovative payment models, possibly blockchain-based, offering employees payment choices based on personal beliefs
  • In the next 20 years, deskless workers will have intelligent uniforms that adapt to environmental conditions
  • Within a decade, 10% of deskless industrial roles will be safety-oriented, driven by automation and regulatory compliance
  • Telecom operators, like Virgin Media O2 Business, are poised to play a pivotal role in supporting both desk-based and deskless workers. They provide critical connectivity for accessing IoT safety devices, AI software, and other technologies essential in various roles, from remote farming to industrial engineering

Tracey Follows commented: “This research from Virgin Media O2 Business clearly shows a level of apprehension and optimism from both desk-based and deskless workers in how their roles will evolve in the future of work. Emerging tech presents many promising new opportunities to improve workplace safety, wellbeing, and empower employees through more personalised compensation structures. Instead of reacting with pessimism, we would do well to shift the narrative toward one of optimism and possibility for reinventing roles.”

Diego Tedesco, Director of Commercial, Product and Marketing at Virgin Media O2 Business, added: “Our Future of Work study aims to illustrate how, despite some apprehensions, technology can effectively support both desk-based and deskless workers. It is imperative for businesses of all sizes and sectors not only to embrace emerging technologies, but ensure their employees are ready for it too. From supporting hybrid work to powering safety devices in manufacturing environments, connectivity underpins the way we work. As organisations look to futureproof their business, Virgin Media O2 Business is positioned to play a crucial role in guiding companies and workers through this transformative phase.”