Over the years, I read at least a dozen descriptions of the "office of the future." Heck, I've even written a few of them. Such descriptions tend to be upbeat with a "better living through technology" flavor to them.
However, when you project current trends forward, the "office of the future" starts looking less like a utopia and more like a dystopia. I believe that it's within our power to change the future but here's where we're currently headed:
1. Your web history may make you unhireable.
A recent study showed that analyzing a person's Facebook "likes" can reveal character traits that are typically hidden during job interviews, like whether you're at risk to become an alcoholic or do something dishonest.
Companies can already demand that prospective employees share their Facebook passwords and with ever more "big data" in hand, the only people who will be offered jobs are those whose online behavior is squeaky clean.
2. If hired, you will be monitored 24/7.
Some companies already require workers to have an app on their smartphone that tracks their every movement, even when they're off-hours and doing personal business. In one case, a salesperson who deleted the app was fired as a result.
While devices like iWatch make it will allow you to keep tabs on your own health, such technology will soon be incorporated into "employee wellness programs" that monitor how everything you eat, drink and smoke, as well as how much you exercise.
3. To compete, you'll need performance-enhancing drugs.
According to a recent story in the New York Times, an increasing number of young professionals are abusing prescription stimulants in order to remain competitive in today's high pressure office environments.
While most companies frown on drug use, few are alleviating the pressure that drives employees to them. According to one young entrepreneur, such drugs are "necessary for survival of the best and the smartest and highest-achieving people."
4. You will have absolutely no leverage.
The outsourcing of tasks normally done by office workers and professionals is proceeding apace. Using sites like eLance, companies are increasingly hiring the lowest bidder. This will create a permanent price war for whatever services you provide.
Advances in automatic language translation and new software to coordinate activities will increase this trend. With the ongoing destruction of trade unions and increased regulatory capture, you will no choice but to accept ever-lower salaries and ever-longer hours.
5. You will be replaced by a robot.
If you believe the AI pundits, companies will soon outsource an increasing amount of office-oriented work to robots who can work around the clock without requiring a salary, benefits or manager supervision.
The result will be the near-total eradication of the professional class (as well as the working class, of course) leaving only the super-wealthy and their servants, billions of starving paupers and a handful of technicians who service the robots.