Some things won’t change in the future – we will still be leaving it to the last minute to join that key conference call at 08:30 on a Monday morning. But instead of firing up the laptop and logging onto the corporate network, the whole experience will have evolved.
First, one puts on the headset – default setting clear glass. Iris recognition has been activated and establishes the gateway to ‘the office.’ As the office comes into view around you, you don the lightweight, breathable gloves, giving substance to your virtual presence.
Look around at your workmates – all busy doing the same as you. Heads appear first as the iris-scan activates, and then the full image as the gloves are donned to provide the limbs and outline. John from accounts gives a wave and holds up his fingers to indicate the latest home defeat for the Saints; 0-2. John looks different today – he has changed his avatar to look taller by going with darker clothes and a different hairstyle. Mine has not changed since its first incarnation – pixels and graphics may evolve but my virtual presence remains stuck in 2022 with the same simple white shirt and traditional suit-jacket, John Lennon spectacles and army recruiting sergeant hairstyle. In the lower half of the headset I can see my actual outfit, which is significantly less cutting-edge and of far larger proportions as I relax in my day pod.
The Costa logo jigs across the top of my view, letting me know my regular skinny cappuccino is ready for me. I step to the entry and collect the recyclable mug of hot, fresh coffee – leaving yesterday’s mug to be collected, washed and returned in 24 hours with another freshly made coffee. In my virtual work-life some things have to remain firmly olde worlde. In my defence studies show that whilst the latest supplements provide all the nutrients needed, bodies perform better when we give them fats, acids and proteins to break down.
Meanwhile, the desktop clock chimes 08:30 in the top right of my vision and we enter the regular work stream update. The office dims to be replaced by a standard meeting room, imaginatively named Virtual Space 1. A glance around the room and the usual suspects are already in attendance – working on other projects whilst waiting for the laggards to join and the meeting to start.
“Sorry I am late” comes a voice everyone recognises, but lacking the usual, virtualised, animated arm-waving of our own Rupert.
Instead of the accompanying irony of the Where’s Wally red stripy jumper, the voice is coming from a grey, featureless silhouette marking out a guest.
“Rupert here. Sorry and all that, but I appear to have misplaced my headset. Having to join using my watch and gloves – ha ha – my wearables, of course. So it will be audio only for me today. Sorry again!”
“Sorry – previous meeting over-ran!” is delivered by the next entrant, breathlessly. It is at least a decade since anyone ran to a meeting, so I am more than a little intrigued as to the state of breathlessness.
“Have we started or are we still waiting for Rupert?”
Different times – same people.
I tap my fingers together and the command shortcuts appear in the top right of my vision within a 1960’s-style school blackboard. Being old-school I go for traditional imagery such as the blackboard, and including a pen and notebook as easier to relate to rather than embracing virtual tablets. Plus, I always enjoy the juxtaposition of old and new and sometimes even convince myself I can smell the chalk. I select the bespectacled emoji representing the auto-transcribe function and more choices appear:
- Full transcript
- Key points
- Actions and owners
I go for the stripped down version, actions and owners – or A&Os as it is known –making a note to myself on the board to say “Action.” The Reality Department (IT in old money) insist this is not necessary, but a little experience of chasing actions on which people agreed and have them responding with “I did not pursue this as it was not captured in the A&Os” means that I always try to state it is an action to ensure the app captures it.
I know that this is not laziness on the part of the person who has failed to follow-up on the action. We all focus on what we have in our Dailies*, and if something is not in the A&Os it does not get added to the Dailies unless added manually. Realistically manual additions to the Dailies are usually only personal reminders and unlikely to include a routine meeting actions. Hence, my note to self to say “Action.”
The virtual tablet appears next to my usual notebook on the meeting table and I can see the automated lettering begins to populate the date, meeting title and attendees, together with apologists and those who have accepted and are yet to arrive.
So the day begins.
Thirteen years into the future – will things really have changed that much? Looking back 13 years 2004 seems to be not so very long ago. In the summer of 2004 all of England was once more convinced that Sven could lead Becks, Lamps and Scholes to Euro glory only to have hopes dashed in the quarter finals by Portugal on penalties. Maroon 5 were singing Songs about Jane and cash was king with cheque books still an essential part of daily life. The first iPhone was still three years in the future and payment by phone and online transfer were things of fantasy. Vinyl was obsolete and CDs were the future. On television the final series of Friends was being broadcast – for the first time!
*Dailies – the list of items from the day:
- Calendar: meetings and calls for the day
- To-do: list of actions assigned, separated by deadline, urgency and priority
- Messages: incoming videos, texts and audio files.