Home / Blog / 2025 Outlook: Workforce I

2025 Outlook: Workforce I

The pandemic has increased dramatically off-premises work (remote, agile, smart…you name it). Of the worldwide companies surveyed only 28% had at least 60% of their workforce operating from remote one or more day per week. This percentage rose to 69% during Covid. Image credit: WEF

I have heard talking of teleworking for at least 40 years. In the 80ies I participated in a research trial to provide connectivity to homes to support remote access to the company Data Bases and enable a few jobs from remote.

Over these 40 years the number of jobs that are basically performed in the cyberspace have grown significantly, thus expanding the number and types of jobs that could be performed from remote (once you are playing in the cyberspace geography is no longer an issue). Yet, the  companies that have turned to remote working remain  a very small subset (if you disregard call centres the % is still smaller). Talks on smart/agile working did not diminished, actually they increased as technology an jobs activity made this option more and more practical.

It took the pandemic to turn the bla-bla into reality. All of the sudden million of workers found themselves working from home (some liked it, some didn’t, as it is the case for any change to the status quo).

In Italy, as an example, the whole PA (Public Administration) moved to remote working over a week end. Same for many companies I know of. This demonstrated 2 things:

  1. the technology needed to support remote working already existed and was ready to manage the load. Video conferences increased by 2 orders of magnitude yet the communication network did not face a single issue. Personal devices, read smartphones, personal computers, smart tv, proved to be adequate (not perfect) to support remote working. Most importantly,
  2. people were able to manage the required technology with minimum support (including students of course! teachers -some at least- needed some support….).

Of course there were problems but these were mostly on the “process side”, not on technology. Security (lack of) in some cases proved to be a major issue, but that again was not a technology issue but a process issue (it was not clear many people what had to be done to ensure their devices were protected and their connection was “private”).

Something was lost in terms of effective interactions, particularly the serendipitous interaction that may transform a coffee break into a bright idea or the casual encounter in a corridor that could solve a problem.

Companies have rushed to upgrade their collaborative working tools (like Microsoft that announced Mesh for Teams to support a 3D virtual environment). I should say over these last 6 months I tried several of these tools but none was comparable to physical presence. Actually, the more sophisticated the tool and the more they felt artificial to me (what about you?) to the point that I always went back to basic video conferencing (most of the time killing the video and just using voice…!).

Talking to HR, CEO, CTOs I found that the general attitude towards remote working was not positive. The only positive aspect was a decrease in cost (heating, office space….) to the point that several companies are now planning a roll back (and many employees are protesting for the reinstatement of commuting time!). Others, because of the savings, are planning to continue some sort of remote working.

However, this world wide trial of remote working has pointed out other, interesting, aspects. More of that in the next post.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the New Initiative Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He is a member of the IEEE in 2050 Ad Hoc Committee. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.