This document reflects results on a prospective future before a seismic shift occurred. The research we present here is no longer a good indication of what is to come, but a good indication of how things were.
Due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, the future of work is marked by uncertainty. The data reflected in this document was captured in a different reality than the one we face now. Rather than examining this data as we would a photograph, with clarity of picture and a solid sense of perspective, perhaps we can now assess it as we would a Post-Impressionist painting: the data that populates our vision has a blurred sense to it, but it still allows us a unique understanding of a bygone time. This document reflects results on a prospective future before a seismic shift occurred. The research we present here is no longer a good indication of what is to come, but a good indication of how things were. The world we did live in continues to provide the foundation that we hope to rebuild, rehabilitate, and re-envision.
The future of work, pre-COVID-19, was already rapidly changing due to the ever-evolving possibilities of technology. COVID-19 generated a shift in our value systems, priorities, investments, processes, access, and understanding of what is and is not possible. The Work Force has shifted in drastic and devastating ways, and yet innovation and coming together in adversity is still possible. Technological innovation has enabled rapid responses to the crisis, just as it has supported the productive shifts in work and Work Culture necessitated by the impact of the crisis. It is our hope that this document can help us understand previous blind spots and opportunities and function as a springboard to discover—in this time of ambiguity, anxiety, and loss—possibilities.
The technology focus of Canadian organizations has shifted since provinces implemented lockdown measures. Previously, organizations were focused on Work Culture and how to attract, retain, and reskill the right talents. In the current context, we have seen Canadian organizations shift their attention to business continuity and the safety of their employees through investments focused on Work Space and technologies that allow for remote work.
Technologies were evaluated in terms of their ability to augment or replace human work, and while organizations have had to rethink their strategic priorities for 2020 and beyond, the penetration of technology in the workplace will not disappear. On the contrary, we have seen an acceleration of innovation in Canada in the first half of 2020 in order for organizations to remain agile and respond to the continuously evolving health and safety guidelines mandated by the various levels of government.
We believe that this “next normal,” typically referred to as a post-COVID-19 state, will continue to see rapid innovation and agile development of technologies to allow for continuous digital transformation. In this context, most of what we previously knew will be impacted: education as a concept and practice, the location of work and offices, and the ways organizations and their ecosystems collaborate. While human work will be augmented and replaced in some situations, human skills such as compassion, adaptability, and problem solving will be more valuable than ever.
The purpose of this paper is to look at technology adoption in Canada in relation to the future of work and workplace transformation. Even in a pre-COVID-19 world, we were witnessing workplace transformation: advanced technologies like smart digital assistants, robotic process automation, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence were already here, while more mature evolutions like remote working and smart buildings were already more generally adopted.