The turn of a decade always attracts attention from fortune-tellers, pinpointing this time as a turning point. The beginning of the 2020s has been no different, with everyone from tech experts to business leaders predicting that the way we work by this point in time will be very different indeed.

Sadly, not everyone can match the power of Nostradamus and – while the modern workplace has completely transformed – some of these foretellings have not quite come to fruition.

No one will work, but everyone will be rich

It sounds to good to be true, but in 1966 Time reported that by this point in history machines would be doing the work for us. The piece – named “The Futurists” – stated that “in automated industry, not only manual workers, but also secretaries and most middle-level managers will have been replaced by computers” and further predicted that everyone in the USA would be independently wealthy.

While there’s still no consensus on the number of jobs that are likely to be displaced by automation, a world with little work but lots of wealth still seems far off. Instead, HR practitioners are realising the opportunities presented by artificial intelligence (AI) and are using the tool to streamline existing responsibilities.

Hyper-intelligent animals will be working for us

While many of us would probably appreciate it if our furry friends were to help out around the office, and 1.7 million UK businesses have adopted a pet-friendly policy, the “Chief Barketing Officer” is still an honourary position. Yet, not even 30 years ago, in 1994, a thinktank which contributed to the space program and the development of the internet predicted that by now, those without robot butlers would have ape assistants.

The RAND panel thought that by the 21st century those without “a robot in the broom closet could have a live-in ape to do the cleaning and gardening chores” and even thought these animals could be driving us around. Clearly, they did not foresee autonomous vehicles, or the rise in veganism and animal rights activism.

No more tea or coffee breaks

This is one that we’re quite happy not to have seen come to fruition – no more tea or coffee breaks. It might sound like the boss’s dream but, although there’s mixed research on whether coffee breaks are help or hindrance to productivity, most of us appreciate a reprieve away from our desks during the day.

We actually have Nikola Tesla, best known for this contributions to alternating current electricity supply systems, to thank for this prediction. He thought that by now the “poisoning” of the body with stimulants such as tea, coffee and tobacco would have fallen out of fashion. While he could be right about tobacco, there doesn’t seem much likelihood that we’ll be giving up good old-fashioned caffeine anytime soon.

The futurists of the past may have gotten a few things wrong – or at least, off by a number of years – but the world of work is changing, rapidly. Whether it’s the application of new technologies, managing the multi-generational workforce or the changing expectations of employees, there are a multitude of challenges ahead for HR practitioners.

But with challenge comes opportunity, and already the best in the business are rolling up their sleeves as organisations depend on HR departments more than ever before. If you’re ready for your next opportunity, get in touch with us for a confidential chat.