On a hot summer’s evening in the thankfully cooler air conditioned Idea Lab of Bene’s Vienna showroom, nine young men and women sit in a circle on wooden stools. They are here together to discuss the future of work.
These entrepreneurs, influencers and managers, already have a good amount of work life experience to know how it all goes, or at least they have an inkling of how it does. But what they certainty have a good idea about is what the working world might look like in ten or twenty years’ time.
Over the course of two hours themes including artificial intelligence, robotics, workplace dynamics and management systems, as well as personal objectives and the meaning of work, are explored professionally and with purpose. And with empathy, too!
All of them are familiar with the structures of the labour market. Social justice is important to them. And that doesn’t just mean feeling empathy for the Uber who drove them to the meeting or for a colleague who works in the warehouse.
“In the future, robots will do the heavy work,” says Sophie Breuer, who has a lot of responsibility in the area of logistics at Nespresso, during the first warm-up round. “People will then have fewer problems back problems. Delivery will also take place autonomously one day.”
“Indeed, logistics is a classic area that we can easily automate with robots,” adds Max Mariel, co-founder of the soft drink brand Hakuma. Artificial intelligence will play an increasingly important role in administration. But that won’t be as easy as is often assumed. Virginia Ghobrial from influence.vision says that the digital platform, which connects companies to key influencers through an automated process, was expected to be sure-fire success. “But experience has shown that the personal component is very important,” says Ghobrial. “Which is something a robot can’t learn.”
Above all, the human aspect seems to be a big topic when it comes to the future of work. Cozyo, the company founded by Matthias Urschler, is working on automating visualisations and renderings. “But I don’t believe that can happen completely automatically,” says Urschler. “What do you do with the people whose job it still is today to create visualisations?” For him, it is important to employ people who are better than himself. “You can really build up something with them.”
Humans are noted for their versatility. A machine can only ever fulfil specific tasks.
Lukas Holter from the Campaigning Bureau
That also applies to management qualities, of course: “It is important to know who makes the decisions, who is responsible. There will always be a need for people with clear leadership responsibility. Perhaps I’m being naive and still dreaming of beaming. But there will always be a need for a space where people physically come together.”
“Any structure is better than no structure at all,” says Pierre Haarfeld of Digital Department. “When I founded my first company, I still naively imagined I would always be the one making the decisions.”
“There will always be hierarchies, somebody will have to make decisions,” says Svenja Schröder, who gathered experience in a number of companies before she founded the coffee drink company Kaffeetschi in 2017. “But that doesn’t necessarily always have to be the same person. There will be more flexibility in this area. Training, age, how long someone has already been in the company, such things are no longer very important.”
When asked about the meaning of work, the group quickly agrees: “Purpose and good colleagues,” is how Anne Juliane Wirth from Kununu summarises it. The blogger and influencer Manuel Vogelsberger is increasingly noticing that working from a home office means he is missing out on important personal interaction: exchanging ideas, talking things through together, the social components. “Listening to podcasts while I edit images doesn’t replace that. In the future, perhaps I’d like to work more with people again. Appreciation is the main thing.”
Further information: futureofwork.bene.com.