Greetings from the Washington, D.C. suburbs where our normally busy skies look like this:

Hardly anyone is flying.

Last week, I envisioned five things bound to disappear in the future of work. This week, I channel my inner Rod Serling to describe five things that are bound to enter The Twilight Zone and, well, never be the same.

The Twilight Zone is where we are, folks.

And, I am thinking about changing my ring-tone to that iconic show’s theme song. But, I digress.

So, what things will permanently change in the future of work? Here are my five not-so-crazy predictions:

  1. Our relationship to work transportation will change.  When the COVID-19 Coronavirus “all clear” sounds, a disproportionate number, perhaps two-thirds, will resist travel that puts them in proximity of PEOPLE. Sure, we will still fly if we have to fly. But no one will gladly take the middle-seat. Load factor, the airlines’ measure of how many passengers board a plane, will tumble, forcing a reimagination of what it means to fly and to run an airline. And surface transit, such as commuter trains, subway cars, and busses, will suffer from steep declines in commuter ridership resulting in massive revenue shortfalls that municipal and regional governments will refuse to offset. Some people that must use mass transit will don HazMat suits for their perilous daily commutes; others, if they are able, will commute by walking or riding their bikes. Hello, Amsterdam!
  2. Our relationship to food will change. Most of us will, once our stay-at-home order ends, avoid stressful supermarket trips that places us in the presence of other shoppers and store workers. As a result of this, the near future workday will include a time carve-out to grow fruits and vegetables in private garden plots and orchards or in community gardens. And this could be a game-changer for urban food deserts; by growing their own nutritious food and ditching heavily processed meal options, urban workers will reduce their often high incidence of chronic illness and extend their life expectancy. We will still choose to dine out, that I am sure, but consumers who do so will likely demand some semblance of social distancing which forces restaurant owners and managers to reimagine their table and floor-plan arrangements.
  3. Our relationship to education and training will change. Simply put, the future of work will have considerably larger education and training components than in work’s past. The COVID-19 Coronavirus Crisis ushered in an economic environment based on rapid changes and multiple pivots, and, likely, more AI and robots doing work that people used to do. Accordingly, the human workforce will need to respond in ways that seize on quickly evolving events and factors. So, I think we all should prepare for the possibility that at least one-half of one workday per week will be dedicated to rapid, real-time training. Study up!
  4. Our relationship to work attire will change. We now live in a world where global pathogens passed global terrorism as the main threat to life and livelihood. And as such, the clothes we wear for work need to be durable enough for more frequent laundering. Last week, I said that the necktie’s place in business fashion had ended, because, they are dirty germ grabbing sponges. Now, I believe that we will favor work attire offering greater emphasis on functionality. This presents a big and wonderful challenge to the people who design and manufacture apparel. Let’s just hope that their aesthetic doesn’t borrow from the early 1980s rock band, DEVO, and…
  5. Our relationship to intimacy will change. Intimacy? Really, Dan? No, not that kind of intimacy. If our current shelter-in-place work-life driven by ZOOM meetings changed anything it was our sense of interpersonal intimacy with co-workers, clients, and prospects. As our guest last week on The Tightrope Podcast, Isar Meitis, noted, it takes 21 days to adopt tools like ZOOM. Our desire for the way things used to be crashed headlong into our newfound adaptation of ZOOM. And the result? Our relationship to intimacy will most definitely change.

The future of work will be successful if we adapt to, and embrace, these and other big changes. When we do that, our best days lie ahead.

Subscribe to The Tightrope Podcast where you get podcasts. Click HERE on The Tightrope Podcast thumbnail to listen to our episode with guest Isar Meitis of the e-tribe.

DAN SMOLEN is founder of The Dan Smolen Experience, LLC. He is also the executive producer and host of The Tightrope Meaningful Work Podcast.  Please comment here to let us know how we are doing, and, to offer suggestions for future guests and topics.

Photo credits: Final approach to Washington Dulles International Airport 4/11/2020, FlightAware.com; Rod Serling Twilight Zone, Cayuga Productions, CBS; DEVO, NME.com.