The Future Workplace

There is an argument that Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is perhaps no longer up to date in today’s society. Some argue that one row is not more important than another and there are many vertical crossovers. However, the fundamental points still contribute as motivating factors for humans. We can apply the needs in the triangle to best prepare us as we move into the future workplace.

Physiological needs

As Frank Sonder points out at the end of his forward thinking Interview about Artificial Intelligence, we need to solve the really simple problems first and then we can think about all this fancy sci-fi stuff. Similarly, Maslow’s theory starts with the largest (and simplest) motivating factor for humans. Homeostasis, Food, Water and Sleep are all physiological needs which we can and should address in the workplace.

WELL Building Standard launched in 2014 after 6 years of research and places great importance on these basic needs. The standard revolves around air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind. And whilst you may say mind is not a physiological need, our minds and bodies are inextricably connected. WELL explains how we should be incorporating these standards into our designs and buildings. Whilst companies look at working with new technology, we shouldn’t forget about the simple problems we need to address first.

Safety needs

The next level in the pyramid concerns job security in the workplace. This is a concern across all age groups of the working population. As discussed in an article on Forbes, the employee benefits consultants, Towers Watson, suggest that employers are not aware that job security is a top priority for workers. Employees list job security as one of their top priorities when looking for a job. However, employers did not think this was an important deciding factor.

With developing technologies posing a threat to millions of jobs, workplaces need to be conscious of employee job security. Machine learning and automation will undoubtedly reshape the workplace. We need to prepare ourselves to manage the interaction of humans + robots. Whilst there is the worry that machines will replace humans, there is also the argument that AI will create more jobs. As we enter into the “Ideas” era, AI will give humans the opportunity to spend their time creating instead of completing data-heavy tasks.

“Rather than being about humans versus machines, the future is humans plus machines. A robot can beat a chess grandmaster but it can’t make music like Mozart.” says Dave Coplin, founder of The Envisioners consultancy and former chief envisioning officer at Microsoft UK. 

Social belonging

Lack of diversity is slowly being addressed by society and needs to be a priority in the future workplace too. Humans need to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance.

“More diversity – whether by sexuality, gender or race – is good for business as we will better relate to our customers, who come from all walks of life.” says Bradford Shellhammer, vice-president for buyer experience at eBay.

Being pressured by society to pretend to be someone you are not, makes you susceptible to loneliness, anxiety and depression. Mental health in the workplace is still a growing concern as it is still considered a taboo subject. We have a long way to go until people feel comfortable with talking about mental health. The workforce needs to be trained to understand this from the point of view of a sufferer, a colleague or a manager. Mental Health First Aid training is now available at


There is a growing fear of human/computer interaction; robots are taking people’s jobs and leaving them with no value to add.

Still, computers have paved the way for a generation which is “always on” and being busy has engulfed our culture. Whilst this has allowed some to become more productive, others may be racing against the robots trying to prove their worth which is impossible and unhealthy. Being able to answer emails out of office hours will not lead to healthy and happy employees.

“One of the most universal numbing strategies is what I call crazy-busy.” says Brené Brown, reasearcher, thought leader and author of Daring Greatly. We use this notion of crazy-busy to boost our esteem and as a defense mechanism against feeling vulnerable in a changing workplace.

Companies need to ensure they provide the training required for humans to develop their skills to apply to the changing type of work.

“We need to make sure that humans develop complementary, not competing, skills with the technology,” says Dave Coplin, author of The Rise of the Humans and CEO of the Envisioners, a futurist consultancy.

Throughout history, we have evolved and adapted our job roles alongside advancements in technology. We should not see robots as a threat but rather an opportunity. A recent study by PwC estimates that in the United Kingdom, seven million existing jobs could be lost to machines over the next 20 years, but another 7.2 million could be created…


Building on the previous point, change management of technology implementation is vital. Those who wish to excel alongside developing technology need the support to help this progression. Retraining the human workforce will be vital as the robots rise, says futurist Matthew Cain, a vice-president at research and advisory company Gartner. “We will need more technical acumen than we have today,” he says. “Jobs and duties will keep changing as AI creeps into everything that we do.”

A Final Note

Finally, touching on the introduction where Maslow’s Triangle may not be relevant in the current day, a few ideologists have adapted it to include the most fundamental need in today’s society…WiFi

Maslow Heirarchy wifi Update

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