Responses to this 2020 scenario were assembled from Internet stakeholders in the2008 Pew Internet & American Life/Elon University Predictions Survey. Participants were encouraged to provide a written elaboration to explain their answers; they did not always do so, but those who did provided richly detailed, fascinating predictive material. Some respondents chose to identify themselves; many did not. We share some—not all—of the responses here. If you would like to participate in the next survey, mail andersj [at] elon dotedu; include information on your expertise.
Prediction: Few lines divide professional time from personal time, and that’s OK. In 2020, well-connected knowledge workers in more-developed nations have willingly eliminated the industrial-age boundaries between work hours and personal time. Outside of formally scheduled activities, work and play are seamlessly integrated in most of these workers’ lives. This is a net-positive for people. They blend personal/professional duties wherever they happen to be when they are called upon to perform them—from their homes, the gym, the mall, a library, and possibly even their company’s communal meeting space, which may exist in a new virtual-reality format.
Compiled reactions from the 1,196 respondents:
57% Mostly agreed
29% Mostly disagreed
14% Did not respond
Expert respondents’ reactions (N=578):
56% Mostly agreed
29% Mostly disagreed
15% Did not respond
Overview of Respondents’ Reactions
The vast majority of respondents agreed with every aspect of the scenario except for the “net-positive” outcome; this is where the debate was centered in the written elaborations. While some people are hopeful about a hyperconnected future that they say will offer more freedom, flexibility, better mental health and positive life-improvement, others express fears that mobility and ubiquity will be a burden in an always-on world that causes stress and the disintegration of family and social life and may also include oppressive surveillance by bosses and government. Other observations: People will rebel against corporate control of their lives. People and institutions will have to draw boundaries. Successful employers will adjust by taking holistic approaches. Because work infiltrates every corner of life, people will be motivated to pursue satisfying employment, rather than settling for a “job.” Deepened personal networks will strengthen professional outcomes. The workforce will be more dispersed. There will be an increase in divorce. People will not take the time to enjoy nurture or nature.
Below are select responses from survey participants who preferred to remain anonymous. This is not the full extent of responses. To see more, read the report PDF, and to read reactions from respondents who took credit for their remarks, please click here.
As Baudrillard said, “The revolution has already happened, and we lost.”
Only a select personality type would be content with job-related correspondence outside of work.
The next generation is about personal endeavors. In contrast to the past, they will displace work for personal time, rather than displacing personal time for work.
Unless much of what people do as work is redefined, this scenario could be a pretty ghastly one. Or perhaps I just prefer to have my life more divided than this scenario suggests. If work could produce for most the pleasure and satisfaction of avocations, then the scenario would be a much more appealing one to most people.
People will make effort to divide work from play as backlash to professional responsibilities engulfing personal time.
If our work-life-balance trends continue, we will realize this scenario. The baby boomers are the last generation to understand what will be lost in this scenario. The question is whether they will rise to the challenge and try to secure a balance for future generations by educating them as to what they will sacrifice.
It absolutely will happen, and this is the way it should be.
Most supervisors probably will not see this as an “OK” development, even though they obviously cannot prevent it.
I work all the time, and I’m tired of it :(.
I agree about the likely fusion of time and spaces, but personal/leisure time won’t expand, on the contrary, and the outcome is not going to be net-positive. The negative effects of overload will become even more pervasive.
Family-oriented societies will resist the scenario where work and play are totally inter-mingled. Besides, creative people must have the means of separating the two.
People will want exclusive personal time regardless of whether they can blend professional duties in or not.
This is already true now, isn’t it? ;-)
How can the extension of working time (i.e. for the vast majority of people time spent doing something you otherwise wouldn’t be doing or want to do) into personal time be a good thing? People fought hard for an 8-hour day—work is now being extended again by technology.
While technology will have enabled us to be “always on,” more time-conscious devices will allow us to not have to be.
I mostly agree but I feel very sad at this prospect.
Although there will be many people who are happy to work and live this way, there will be many who want nothing to do with work once they get off work
It would, of course, be different for every job, but it is easy to see this happening for many people’s careers.
Being connected will be the norm of a person’s experience.
I don’t think that it is ok. With advances in telecommunication, people are working more now than in the past, upsetting the work/life balance.
While there will continue to be some solid crossover (answering e-mails on free time or shopping during work time for a gift), it won’t likely be OK to largely erase the lines.
Yes, but I’m not sure this fuzzy boundary is a good thing.
I hope not—I want personal time to be personal NOT integrated with work.
So it goes…
But this won’t be for a net-positive. The blurring lines between personal and professional lives take their tolls on the average person.
How happy we will be? This effects productivity and future employment and people taking blocks of personal time, formerly known as holidays.
I don’t think this will happen by 2020 for the majority of people only for the minority whose roles and lifestyles can handle such an environment.
This will actually only be OK with two-thirds of these networked, knowledge-class people. The other one-third, who are introverted, have memory problems, etc., will have a hard time working to their potential.
The lines between work and play will become increasingly blurred and some (white-collar, male) workers will see this is a good thing, however people (especially women and those with young families) will find creative and innovative ways to balance or counteract this in order to carve out work-free zones and reduce stress.
The boundaries between work and play will blur with gaming and knowledge work.
However, there is still the need to do face to face and manual work—the mix will be in the balance.
Socially this is very unfortunate if it is the case.
Work and play are already “seamlessly integrated” for the BlackBerry-shackled, white-collar elite, and it’s definitely not “OK,” An end to individual and family time as we are forced to work longer and longer hours is neither desirable nor “OK.”
Probably not by 2020…
The majority of the population continues to work on industrial-age tasks, and these will not be automated until robots become ubiquitous, not by 2020.
A paradox: people (in developed countries at least) will be “always on” to work. But they will want to separate what they do in private space from what they do for business purposes.
This has been an issue for those tethered to pagers for many years. The backlash began a long time ago, and will spread.
This will happen. It will be in no way a positive development as this description falsely makes it out to be. It will continue to destroy the sense of the individual and all creative impulses in humans subject to this type of lifestyle.
Many people (self included) are here already.
You cannot seamlessly integrate work and play.
As the European economy strengthens and the American economy weakens, European quality-of-life values will begin to hold more influence, not less.
I doubt the change will be as much as described here and I doubt that it will be as welcomed either. The people will not allow this change unless it is gives them almost as much as it takes away.
There is a break point to how many places a person can be at any given time. While good work requires time, so does personal leisure. Unless all work in 2020 is about sending e-mails back and forth, the attention needed for quality work will still be the same, and that means people will have to choose between work and family.
It’s already happening, and it’s not necessarily a good thing.
Sooner or later people will realize that being on a leash 24/7 is slavery, not freedom.
We will see fewer and fewer offices, as people work from homes, gyms, malls, etc.
I see the lines fading away as time goes on.
Hopefully there will be technology to let people still leave their work at work, and not be punished.
I am not so sure it is positive. Ever met a crackberry addict? I have one in my family and he drives everybody else crazy.
May be they can enable their computers to work on something when they are asleep.
There will be a deep divide between occupational types (e.g. bluecollar vs. whitecollar).
We are already seeing this happen.
This may be the future, but it is more than 13 years away due to the major change in levels of productivity that it will require. France, for example, is headed toward more work and less leisure time.
Call this the “crackberry syndrome.” Already there for business people. Almost any job at any global company requires 24/7 access and global coordination. I do see a revolt coming soon—the Gen Y’ers are more into quality of life, and this will breed less interest into being on 24/7.
Personal/professional will blend for those service-based jobs that can allow it. For non-service, such as manufacturing, construction, transportation, this will not occur.
I PARTIALLY mostly agree. Technology allows people to expand their professional hours into their personal time. I have colleagues who bring their BlackBerries on vacations because it feels less like “work” than bringing their laptops. But the only times that vacations are pure vacations are when people go somewhere with no network access. On the contrary, I do not see employers loosening up their expectations that workers be on site during regular business hours. The extent of this may rely on the nature of the work. Some work requires intense collaboration among teams. Some work can be done by a single individual; workers who fall in this category are more likely to benefit in setting their own work-life schedules than are people in the former.
Things will largely be much the same as they are today, although with higher technology and more ubiquitous “connectedness.”
It is NOT okay for businesses to expect human beings to be “on call” 24 hours a day, and it never will be okay no matter what kind of technology we have developed.
Yes, this will happen. No, it won’t be okay. We see the beginnings of it already, and it’s going to create problems and not become a comfortable, new status quo.
Not me, ever. If this happened, the incidence of stress-related illness, heart attacks, etc. would skyrocket. This is a depressing scenario that I would never want (and I am a techie and very dedicated to my job!).
I’d like to think that greater flexibility will be brought into the workplace and that people will have greater freedom over how they blend their professional and personal lives, but I don’t think the corporation is ready to allow worker-drones that kind of freedom, at least not for the vast majority of workers.
Most employees will never be happy blending their personal and professional lives as long as employers are trying to make as much money as possible on their work.
This generation’s children will almost surely reject their parent’s technophilia and demand more human contact and more time free from the constraints of work.
Have you looked out of your cave recently?
It is never OK for someone to not have time away from work. That’s how you create giant stressballs. While I can certainly see this as an increasing expectation, it is not one we should be happy about.
It’s happening already with the Millennials. Whether we use the Net or something else this is happening.
Our work lives and personal lives will be more integrated but we will not be happy about it.
Too few people love what they do for this to ever hold true.
The division is important for mental health.
It’s just the continuation of a trend that was begun in the ’60s.
Work will continue to encroach on personal lives.
People will increasingly seek vocations to which they are called, however, so stress and work will be less of an issue and they are doing what they really love.
This will be of great benefit to individual productivity. People will be able to work when they the most creative—assuming that companies learn how to manage this new workforce.
Generation X and Y have grown up with a computer/phone available at all times and are comfortable with online banking, social networking, and being always in touch.Information overload will demand more and more of their time; family life and free time will suffer.
The knowledge worker will want flexibility of work area, but clear lines between personal and professional hours.
The shift isn’t “willingly” eliminated. Corporate still wants to eliminate non-corporate work on corporate time, especially as the individual’s personal activities reflect on the corporation’s image.
This is already a reality for a significant amount of the population.
People are just beginning to accept it…see it as “OK.”
I hate this scenario; where does the family structure go? We all need time away from our jobs and need our personal time. I hope this scenario goes by the wayside.
More in hope than anything else, there must always be a degree of separation otherwise what happens to the family/personal life, it that goes every thing goes
However, as economies continue to move towards more service-industry orientation it will be more difficult for workers to “blend personal/professional duties wherever they happen to be.”
I find this prospect appalling.
I disagree mostly because I hope this will not happen. I hope that we are able to keep a distinction between personal and professional lives.
Sounds good to me. I commute an hour and a half every day.
While I would love to see this happen and see elements of this in today’s world, I find it hard to believe that we will move away from traditional “9-to-5” working hours for most people.
While corporations will push for lack of division, the increased communication between workers in different countries will create a greater drive for personal time. Increased conflicts leading to emotional problems will cause more people to seek a balance between work and play.
As an IT worker, my work life is already integrated into my home life. It seems to be impossible to escape. It may well be the downside of being well-educated and versed in technology. Instead of working a shift and going home, you have to or get to work from home, from the train, from work. You also get to use personal e-mail from home, the train, and work. I think 11-7, 7-3 and 3-11 will always have meaning.
I’m a university professor and the boundaries between work time and family/play time are diffuse if I don’t work to separate them. The stress is intense and can lead to a degradation of the quality of the work, even though the quantity continues to build. It is, to put it simply, nasty.
This is positive for employers but NOT necessarily employees. This is already the culture in medicine and education. Employees are expected to be available any time, even during vacations if necessary. People who have jobs they love will easily embrace this, and people who do not get satisfaction from their jobs will stubbornly try to remain “unplugged.” Employees whose jobs require being “tuned in” will possibly be rewarded by being allowed to conduct personal business or volunteer work during “work time.”
I foresee a backlash where people enforce their own parameters on “work” and “my” time.
The tide has already shifted to this type of work/life balance. Fewer hours spent in the office are exchanged for some time online at home going over any pressing issues that may have been missed while you were at the kid’s soccer game.
While possible from a logistical standpoint, the merge of personal-professional sacrifices the professional work. How many co-workers want to be called upon while watching their child play in the park? In some settings the merging of boundaries could be okay, but overall keeping the two distinct is optimal.
Companies and factories will hold onto their workers as tightly as possible. Maybe in 50 years, it may be the norm, but in 10 years we will still be working at the company site and still working 9ish to 5ish as a general rule.
We see this now. The increase of cell phone use has caused increased expectations on the part of the caller. The expectation is that you are connected and will immediately respond. Mobile technology whether cell phones or laptops further the idea of always being able to answer the phone or work on a project outside of office hours.
It will not necessarily be a net-positive, however, as work is never entirely left behind.
This scenario is clearly in play already.
As it becomes increasingly easier to collaborate over long distances, more and more people are working from remote locations, putting in hours between activities and increasing productivity.
I live this life now, and I love it. I’ve been weaving work and family life together for years and it works very well for me.
This is a lot what my life is like now.
By 2020 there will be a backlash to the blurring of boundaries between personal and work time. Individuals will incorporate more ways to separate work from intruding into their private lives.
Not in 12 years, if ever.
Most “work” applications are designed to be palatable to the user, this trend will continue.
It is likely that social conventions for going “offline” will be established, so the effect will mitigated to some extent.
The absence of a dividing line between work and leisure will probably only really effect information workers, but the revised mentality toward constant work will likely propagate throughout the economy. Between this and your world where I have to pay a nickel every time I hear a Justin Timberlake song, I would probably like to hang myself.
This is a horror scenario, and it could also well be that just the opposite happens, because it will socially not be tolerable and will lead to empowering enterprises too much, thus driving a counter reaction.
My professional time overwhelms my personal time.
The bulk of the people whose work lives I’m familiar with would NOT welcome additional responsibility to include more work in their personal time. I think it will happen. I do not think it will be a good thing from a life-work balance standpoint. Even the addition of a BlackBerry means that you spend MORE time working, not that you get more done in less time or that you are more productive. Rather, from a social standpoint, you wind up wasting work time because you feel you have lost your personal time.
There will always be a need for some structure. There will always be a deadline for a project and not everyone is great and controlling their time.
Technology will have to deal with bigger requests for more spare and family time from more-evolved people.
By 2020? How about in 2008? It’s already significantly true.
The distinction between “online” and “real life” will go, but if anything, there’ll be a backlash with people being at work 24/7.
The increasing aging of the populations of the Western countries with a decreasing workforce may make avoiding the blurring of work and everything else almost inevitable.
My greatest struggle is to AVOID this blending as I’m never completely relaxed as it is!
This might be OK for some professions, but I don’t see this by 2020.
People will be burning out because they can’t escape their e-mail and other info feeds.
People will eventually declare info bankruptcy and there will be a backlash.
There will be pushback against the idea of being available 24/7 for business.
Already now, many people have difficulties in time management. They cannot separate work life and family life. This causes stress and concentration problems.
People will mix work & play more. But if you think as a parent I want to mix work with raising my children and the time I spend with them, you have to be crazy. Personal time will still be important in 2020.
This scenario will be true in US but not necessarily in Europe for instance, where people still take real vacations of several weeks.
I fear the future because people will always be working.
I can’t see people becoming that disconnected without there being serious societal problems.
Work and play needs to be separated enough for the mind to be rested enough to creative and successful.
I’m not sure how it could be seen as a net-positive, unless the advantages are getting more done in less time and therefore having a bit more leisure time. We are working harder and harder and not necessarily seeing the benefits.
Hopefully we’ll build in a method for more flexibility in scheduling home/work time and space without losing the ability and/or right to unplug on a regular basis. We’re already seeing the effects of information overload and burnout for those who are truly plugged in.
This is just exploitation with a pretty face.
The division of work and home will become less defined, but I don’t believe that people will become any more used to it. For people who experience this now (as I do), I can’t say it’s necessarily a net positive. It provides more schedule flexibility, but it does not provide a discernable productivity increase.
I would agree if employers weren’t so paranoid about employees not really working. Out of sight, out of control.
I wish it would not occur, but it probably will.
That’s the scenario now for a startling number of people and it’s only increasing.
I mostly disagree because I think it will be “expected” but not OK with a lot of people.
I’m doing this now. I use my BlackBerry in otherwise slow personal time to make my job easier. I’m not a slave to it, but rather I can use 5 minutes a day of my vacation to not lose two days to catching up when I get back. Similarly, I use some work time now to plan travel, check on theater times, etc.
The death of space and time has been predicted for a long time, but has not become reality. If anything people are trying to control the spaces and times more after a period of “teleworking” enthusiasm, people are realising that there was a structure for some reason. There will be a backlash, with more people and companies organising technology-free Fridays, weekends where people switch off. However, it is likely that play will be more integrated into work and that at work as well as at home the work/play/life boundaries will become vaguer.
I expect (and hope) to see a large growth in telecommuting positions, as they can save companies a great deal of money, and many employees (myself included) prefer the convenience and flexibility that telecommuting affords.
This is a scenario that is happening on a small scale today and will just increase.
But I’m concerned about what this does to our quality of life and psyches.
I already work largely in this manner and love the flexibility it brings to both my work and home life.
People have become much more accessible and have been “forced” to work longer hours via the technology.
We will find a population oppressed and abused by the economic giants as they eke out the last drop of profit for the corporate coffers.
While it is easy for professional duties work to intrude on personal time, it will be more difficult for employers to accept the blending of personal and professional time.
It’s not OK. It’s a great boon to businesses so people will work extra hours for nothing.
Utopian notions like this pop up every 100 years or so. Utopian communities form and then drift away. For all but a handful of lucky people, work is necessary to survive and survival is hard work. People need to disconnect from work or life becomes drudgery. Most of us can’t turn our minds on and off like a light bulb. If you are in the middle of an engaging leisure activity, it is ruined when the boss calls. You never really relax. And it’s hard to do good work when you are interrupted by play all the time.
Fewer lines divide personal and professional time, but that is probably not a net positive for most, only the ruling class.
There will be enormous pushback from the majority of the population when it comes to integrating work and leisure. The few who would adopt this kind of arrangement are those same individuals whose work already pervades their daily life outside of the office.
People will want the separation between the professional and the personal time much more than now. From the company’s point of view, they will agree with this vision.
There will still be a need for face-to-face interaction between people for the exchange of physical things. With the prevalence of virtual environments it may not be necessary for certain companies to have a physical office space.
With the increasing costs of gas and the overly complicated ways of commuting to work, I can see how there will be this blend of personal/professional duties.
The divisions between personal and professional time will fade away, but it won’t be an overall positive, particularly as regards mental health. People will become more stressed, have more health problems, and get even less exercise than they do now.
I have already started to blur the lines—and it seems like as long as I get the work done, it’s not a big deal. I work at home; I play around at work sometimes. I hope this becomes more acceptable.
Our lives are for the most linear, and as humans we prefer that compartmentalization. Any situation that is otherwise will be tantamount to chaos.
This will happen—I’m not sure how “OK” people will be with it.
The sooner the better.
Again, another blow to the traditional, family structure.
Life is on a fast pace, and I sometimes wonder if that is good for children and young people. Whatever happened to time to relax and reflect?
Work defines a person more so now than before, so this will be common.
There are simply times when I have to be completely away from the machine. It erodes our ability to play and relax without being connected to a machine—far better to be connected to a significant individual.
The extension of technology has expanded work. It has also expanded people’s ability to work outside the office. Maybe even while they use a stationary bike!
This exists in the Western world now with wireless access and smartphones. People don’t consider personal time “not working” time.
People still won’t be nearly as good at multitasking as they think they are, and there will still be biannual lamentations for declining attention spans.
Sanity requires that people can exercise some personal control over how they manage their time.
I say mostly disagree here based on what we know about millennials—that they want personal time away from work and want a separation between their work and non-work lives. While they’re definitely into technology, I don’t think that necessarily means they will want to use it the way baby boomers and Gen Xers have to stay connected to work 24/7.
If only this one would come true. It’s still like pulling teeth trying to get approval to telecommute.
While personal hours are definitely blending with work hours, it is unlikely that corporations will willingly relinquish the idea that they are paying for your time and expect you to spend specific hours doing what they ask, where they ask, in a way they ask.
The demand to be on call 24 hours a day has already removed many barriers between home and work. I had a boss threaten me because I didn’t pick up my cell phone when I was at a doctor’s appointment, even though he knew that I was there, being treated for pneumonia!
That’s the trend line, but in 5 to 7 years will be mounting evidence that such a trend becomes counter-productive.
As Internet access devices become increasing prevalent all such boundaries will disappear.
Just like the universe, work will expand into our lives more and more—and then it will have to contract or change fundamentally. No one had better bother me with a work question during “Lost,” though.
This is the reality today. I have 60 employees that work for me, and they don’t recognize a boundary.
There will always be segments of the workforce that is less adept at this sort of blending, and there are segments for whom such blending makes less sense.
Employers will still demand accountability for work done.
We are already conditioned for this as some of us even work while on vacation but that doesn’t mean we enjoy it.
Whenever work impedes on the social—the worker will become disengaged from the full experience and it’s not OK.
This has taken a role in my life. I don’t see a problem with it and as far as I can tell is still beneficial to me.
It is extremely unhealthy to assume no boundary between personal and professional life. Such blurring of the lines will in fact dramatically reduce productivity and businesses themselves will encourage some meaningful division.
Work tends to infiltrate life wherever you let it. Personal time usually loses this battle.
Again, despite ticking “agree,” I’m not sure I do. People like flexible working and fitting work into their lives, but there are limits. We need turn-off time. We need to feed screaming babies. We need to get out of breath in the swimming pool.
This is true now!
The current state of continuous partial attention in which workers find themselves in 2008 will by 2020 prove to be detrimental to work productivity and detrimental to personal freedom.
In 2020: Although most tend to complain about blurred professional status, digital workers are generally employed by an individual corporation and hired on the basis of ad-hoc contracts. A segment of disenfranchised workers are still directly employed, although they resent it as a competency challenge.
For a large percentage of the working population and for students, such a model would simply allow them to accomplish their tasks.
My current situation is already largely like this. However, I also don’t know that it is necessarily a good thing, so I actively work to create more boundaries between work and personal time. I perceive many people already waking up to the need for doing this, but given the workaholic nature of the United States, I predict that the economic interests of corporations in squeezing even more work out of their employees will win out. I would not be so sure that this will phenomenon will cross all cultural boundaries; for instance, I would not expect it to become as common in Europe as I do in the US.