Here comes 2019: the lexicon of work that points to the way ahead

What are the new buzzwords to bandy around as we head into the new year? WORKTECH Academy gathers up the prime suspects in a round of predictions drawn from its global network


A catch-all term to describe a growing backlash against the intrusive effects of technology on our working lives and the perceived bad behaviour of the big tech companies. Tech-Lash will be big in 2019 as the tech giants are no longer given a free ride – expect campaigns for more transparency on data privacy and paying taxes, with calls for more to be done to reduce screen time, prevent burnout and protect employee mental health.


In 2019, the debate about a shorter working week will intensify. After the support by the Trades Union Congress in the UK for a four-day week, other ways to shrink the week will be back on the table in a bid to boost productivity. The emergence of more case studies of companies successfully shortening their week through more flexible working will strengthen the argument.

Augmented Intelligence

If 2018 was the year of scare stories about the impact of AI (Artificial Intelligence) on future jobs, then 2019 will the year that AI turns augmented. The narrative will switch from the elimination of jobs by robots to the augmentation of human creativity by robot ‘work partners’. Proponents of this partnership perspective argue that machines will facilitate and enhance organisational agility, not simply replace people with algorithms.

Empire of the Flex

A big year ahead for the global flexible workspace sector, as space-as-a service completes its journey from margins to mainstream amid a flurry of mergers, acquisitions, joint ventures, product diversification and double-digit growth. The coworking movement will continue to climb due to growing corporate involvement. Empire-building will accelerate as a once-fringe real estate trend gets grandiose ideas.


In 2018, the idea of experience design took hold in the global workplace as employers recognised the need to improve wellbeing and productivity. The year ahead promises an upgrade to super-experiences which stimulate the senses, induce awe and inspire new ways of thinking. Expect more intense theatrical and AV production techniques to enter the workplace along with new job titles such as CEXO (Chief Experience Officer).

Bump Factor

2019 will be the year that more employers get serious and scientific about engineering serendipitous or chance encounters at work. Boston Consulting Group set the ball rolling with its ‘collision coefficient’ metric in its New York office. As digital way finding, social sensing and data collection technologies become more popular and ubiquitous, designing the bump factor into the workplace will increasingly occupy architects and space planners.

Calm Tech

While Tech-Lash (see above) could get angry, the Calm Tech movement advocates a softer approach. According to Amber Case’s new book Calm Technology: Principles and Patterns for Non-intrusive Design, the whole idea is to capture the user’s attention only when necessary, while remaining calmly in the background. In an age when attention distraction is costing companies a fortune every week, Calm Tech could be big in 2019.

City Brain

The idea of smart cities has been around for a while, but the quest to build a ‘city brain’ linking urban sensors, large amounts of data, supercomputers, algorithms and the internet of things will get real in 2019, as city authorities wise up to the potential of new super-connected technologies. MIT’s Matthew Claudel describes this approach as ‘the civic supermind’; Nesta’s Geoff Mulgan and others have explained how China is leading the field through collaboration between Alibaba and several cities.    

Compassionate Leadership

Command-and-control hierarchies are in steep decline in the workplace, but new forms of leadership have struggled to emerge. In 2019, one of the contenders will be compassionate leadership, as defined by Dr Leah Weiss of Stanford Graduate School of Business, whose recipe for a saner workplace is for corporate leaders to ‘recognise suffering in others and be willing to alleviate it’. For Weiss, compassion is a more objective form of empathy. Might the current focus on empathy in the workplace to switch to compassion in 2019?

Shadow Workplace

A new concept linked to the consumerisation of the workplace in which employees use ‘rogue technology’ to operate without the formal permissions and control of the IT department. With portable devices, 4G/5G and the cloud, people can ‘work around’ fixed, secure IT inside businesses and do their own thing. The idea extends to services, software and space. Expect the shadow workplace to emerge gradually in 2019 as people start saying ‘no’ to what the company offers and use their own credit card to pay for what they need. A boon for service providers like LiquidSpace, Breather and WeWork?