Four-hour days: how we'll work by 2050

A new study predicts that the four-hour working day will be the norm within 30 years as technology revolutionises the way we do business.

The report by futurist James Wallman and Yell, Future Gazers: the next 30 years in business, concludes that the 9-5 work day will come to an end in most industries within 30 years, thanks to technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality and the internet of things. It also predicts the rise of "cobots" - where humans work collaboratively with robots.

The traditional eight-hour day, it says, "was set up to squeeze as much as possible out of workers when they performed routine tasks in factories and offices". This is a "suboptimal" way to work it concludes. "As robots and cobots perform more of the routine tasks, humans will become more creative. And the best way to be creative is to work around four hours per day."

Other key predictions include:

  • With regulation change and the rise of fintech firms, money will become "far easier to get hold of and manage";
  • More businesses will reduce their overheads by choosing remote and co-working models and operating as cloud businesses;
  • Thanks to Big Data, businesses of all sizes will be driven by data;
  • In an era of ethical consumerism and transparency, businesses will move from a single-minded concern for profits, to a broader interest in "three more Ps: people, planet and purpose";
  • In future, all firms will compete through ever better customer and user experience.

The authors of the report also spoke to business owners to get their views on the future of work in the small business environment. Sarah Slade, co-owner of candle brand, SevenSeventeen, said: "As business owners, there will undoubtedly always be the unavoidable call at 9pm or having to pop in to the office at the weekend - but ultimately, it's flexibility we see as being the most important game changer in the future of business."

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