Future businesses will be much more socially responsible and caring towards staff

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He suggests a phrase we’re likely to hear more of in the next few years is “Care Economy” – as the new high level of automation allows people to focus on people.

Businesses will be challenged with attracting new employees by presenting a highly responsible brand, prioritising social good over profits, supporting local events, and subsidising schools, clubs, and leisure facilities.

Perks such as creches, leave, and healthcare will be extended to include menopause counselling, gender change support, and wellbeing services such as relaxation rooms and massages.

But it’s not all positive for employees, as an increase in working from home could result in surveillance from cameras with face and gesture recognition – to ensure staff are actually at their desks and doing their work.

The insights come after research of 500 SME owners, commissioned by Funding Circle, found those polled expect to see the likes of fingerprint scanning doors and relaxation rooms become reality in the future.

Interactive images have been created showing how various businesses, including clothes shops and hair salons, could look in years to come.

Ian Pearson said: “I anticipate meeting rooms will become “cosy”, and mainly used for appraisals and interviews rather than daily work – while hot desks will be the norm for office working, with AI robots storing and unloading items for staff.

“When it comes to specific businesses, clothes shops will allow customers to go into booths in a swimsuit and have their body scanned to create a 3D model – resulting in garments being made to exact sizes, and much less stock on shop floors.

“While supermarkets and eateries already have self-checkouts, they’ll go one step further, allowing pre-packaged items to be delivered via a phone order immediately, wherever the customer is.”

The research also found self-cleaning toilets and kitchens, robots to help with tidying, and free therapy or counselling, are among the aspects SME owners want to be a part of their business in the future.

One in five (19 percent) already offer fully flexible working for their staff, and one in 20 provide gender change support – while nine percent even have cameras and microphones in home offices.

It also revealed that 57 percent believe their business could still function if workers were fully remote – but only a third (32 percent) think this will be a reality in the future.

When it comes to tech taking over human roles, 41 percent admitted a perk is being able to run their enterprise 24/7 – but 57 percent enjoy the benefit of face-to-face interaction via humans.

Despite this, one in five (19 percent) expect to replace staff with technology in the future – something 14 percent of them have already done – and predict staff levels will decrease by an average of 19 percent in the next five years.

Business owners are most likely to use robots or AI in the future for the likes of tidying (31 percent), hazardous tasks (26 percent), and helping make products (25 percent).

But while 45 percent think people will always be needed to support their business, 37 percent believe robotics will help their company grow.

Those polled, via OnePoll, feel positive (41 percent), excited (30 percent), and motivated (29 percent) about changes to their firm in the future.

Alexander Allen, UK managing director at Funding Circle, said: “It’s interesting to see how businesses could look in the not so far away future.

“We want to ensure we can support small business owners in whatever the future throws – which, as we know, can be unpredictable.

“Some of these changes could become a reality sooner than we think, so it’s vital business owners are prepared both financially and practically.

“It’s great to see staff wellbeing becoming a focus in the future, as well as using tech to its advantage.”

TOP 30 THINGS BUSINESS OWNERS THINK WILL BE A REALITY IN THE FUTURE:

  1. Fully flexible working
  2. Cosy meeting places
  3. Ambient lighting that shifts depending on the natural light availability
  4. Relaxation rooms
  5. Standing desks
  6. Cameras and microphones in home offices
  7. Time off to volunteer or do charity work
  8. Free therapy/counselling
  9. Robots to clean and tidy
  10. Self-cleaning toilets
  11. Drone pick-up and delivery service
  12. Fingerprint scanning doors
  13. Blinds that open/close automatically in line with natural light
  14. More automated job roles
  15. Automatically tilting desks/wrist supports to avoid strains
  16. Therapeutic breaks
  17. Local wellbeing clubs membership
  18. Office hot desking
  19. AI assistance to upskill new recruits
  20. Biometric verification of delivery
  21. Fridges that order things by use-by date
  22. Hologram “face-to-face” meetings
  23. Sports sponsorship
  24. Prioritising social good over profits
  25. Smart glasses to work out data from a monitor
  26. Menopause support – counselling, rest rooms, paid HRT
  27. Music and arts lessons
  28. Hologram to-do lists
  29. Medical services on-site
  30. Self-cleaning kitchens

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