What does 2021 hold?
There are lots of ways to consider the future, but when thinking about the near horizon, I tend to focus on the intersection between two things: the pressures we face today, and the trends that are coming our way. Where these two things collide is where we will see the greatest effects.
On this basis, what can we expect for 2021?
Hybrid work needs a hybrid home
Our houses are shrinking. Not your actual house, I’m pleased to say! But the square footage of our living spaces has been getting smaller since the 1970s. Which makes it hard to adapt when we need to spend more time there. With hybrid working arrangements on the rise, developers are looking at how they can build hybrid homes: flexible spaces that allow us to work and play without too much compromise. Expect clever furniture that transforms a room into an office and back again at the flick of a catch.
Holiday? No, workaway!
Since more of us are now working away from the office, why be bound to the same location all the time? Combining the freedom of flexible work with the pressure of climate change, it seems likely we might look at fewer, longer holidays. Why not make a break for the coast for three months? Or go and live in Madrid or Paris? Even after Brexit you can spend 90 days there without a visa, as long as you’re not conducting business in the country.
(Office) party every day
This year we’ve all been forced to change the way we work, but why stop now? We’ve been wasting loads of time at work for years and doing things that make all our lives less fun and productive. In 2021 we will look afresh at the office as a place for coming together, collaborating, and enjoying the company of our colleagues. Coming to the office should be exciting, a chance to get out of the home and get dressed up.
Human beings have been lazy since long before we were even human. 3 million years ago our distant ancestors were already using rock tools to make life easier. In 2021, we’ll be looking for more ways to take the friction out of life. AI assistants who can handle life’s admin. Concierge services who take care of the washing. And as much stuff as we can put on subscription, so we don’t have to think about shopping for food, toiletries, or even pants.
You may not think it to look at the headlines, but modern life is very safe. And that leaves us craving excitement. With so many of us locked up at home in 2020, in 2021 we’re going to be out seeking adventure. Hiking and wild swimming were the big hits of last year, so now we’re going up a gear. Climbing, windsurfing, motor racing. 2021 should be a boom year for adrenaline sports.
Liveable cities and total towns
The pandemic catalysed many trends including the transformation of town and city centres. While there is disruption, a new vision is emerging of more liveable city centres that attract people of all ages, with housing, work, amenities and shops all in a walkable radius. Achieving this vision will need a partnership between local authorities, landlords, developers, retailers and the public. But now is the time to decide what we want from our town and city centres.
The choice explosion
It is easier now than ever to start a business. From the comfort of your sofa, you can register a company, set up a bank account, and build a website, all from your smartphone. It’s easier to build new products too, with AI-assisted design tools, and a global library of off-the-peg components. Just like the last downturn, in 2021 we’re going to see a spike in new start-ups. Around the world that means lots of new companies, new products and new services. An explosion of choice and all competing for our attention - and our wallets.
Article collaboration between Applied Futurist Tom Cheesewright and AG