The Future Laboratory

Man Versus Machine: The Evolution Of Work

UK workers look to tech to outpace AI rivals

New research from Unum defines a new breed of employee, more open to using technology to enhance their minds and bodies

September 24, 2018 — DORKING, England–(BUSINESS WIRE)–UK workers are embracing tech in the workplace to maximize their productivity in the wake of developing artificial intelligence (AI) technology, according to a new report from employee benefits specialist Unum and independent researcher The Future Laboratory.

The report, “The Future Workforce”, predicts a new breed of worker more open to using technology to enhance their minds and bodies, allowing them to excel in an increasingly AI-driven landscape.This Tech-Enhanced Worker would be interested in seeing tech in the workplace that optimizes brain chemistry, such as meditation apps, or headsets that monitor or alter brain activity – a view held by 43% of workers. Almost half (49%) would be interested in using tech, such as activity-tracking wearables and time management apps, to improve their performance.

Many believe that AI would benefit their jobs (43%) – yet a greater proportion (55%) expressed concerns AI may render their jobs redundant in years to come. Thirty-six percent of workers stated they would like to see more technology that monitors their daily routines to help optimize their work, and they’re also willing to surrender personal data to enable them to be more efficient. Over half (55%) stated they would be happy to accept the associated benefit rewards for participating in their employer’s data-optimised workplace.

The report, which focuses on emerging workforce trends in the next five years and how employers need to adapt to ensure they attract and retain top talent, identifies three additional emerging groups of workers:

The Socially-Committed Worker – a group that wants its employers to have a powerful social conscience

The research revealed that 61% of workers feel strongly that companies have a duty to make a positive contribution to society, with 59% stating that they want to work for a company with a powerful social conscience. This rises to 69% of those aged between 25-34.

46% of 24-34 year olds feel that companies should be fined if they are not participating in civic and ethical contributions, further defining this type of worker.

The Socially-Committed worker will also expect their employer to give them dedicated time off to pursue charitable initiatives (37% of all workers).

The Obligated Worker – a group that requires flexibility in their work life out of necessity

Obligated workers look to manage their numerous work and life commitments to combine financial security and career fulfilment. They include those with dependents and the ‘Sandwich Generation’ attempting to balance raising children with caring for ageing parents.

56% of workers claimed they will need to work longer out of necessity, and 61% have expectations that their employer will accommodate for their needs based on their life stage (e.g. grandparent leave, and associated benefits, and different hours to suit their lifestyle).

These workers want to build careers that are flexible – particularly at different life stages – often leading to ‘portfolio working’ featuring multiple roles and employers.

The Self-Fulfilled Worker – a group that tends to have portfolio careers to increase self-fulfillment

In contrast to the Obligated Workers – this group also tends to work flexibly, but out of choice rather than necessity. Almost two thirds (65%) of workers expect to work more years in their life because they want to, not because they have to. And 46% of workers said they’re likely to have multiple careers over their lifetime as opposed to one structured, lifelong career.

Workers of tomorrow are likely to be more willing to share personal data with employers to improve productivity, more conscious of their company’s ethos, and more demanding of workplace flexibility to fulfill personal obligations or lifelong learning goals...

Peter O’Donnell, CEO of Unum UK said: “Today’s major societal trends will have a very significant impact on UK business and the needs and expectations of the workforce. Workers of tomorrow are likely to be more willing to share personal data with employers to improve productivity, more conscious of their company’s ethos, and more demanding of workplace flexibility to fulfillWorkers of tomorrow are likely to be more willing to share personal data with employers to improve productivity, more conscious of their company’s ethos, and more demanding of workplace flexibility to fulfill personal obligations or lifelong learning goals personal obligations or lifelong learning goals.

“UK businesses will need to think ahead to ensure they attract and retain talent within this new landscape – be it through integration of new workplace technologies, clearly laying out their sustainability credentials or increasing role-sharing to enable greater flexibility. We hope the report will give business leaders food for thought, and that it will start a discussion around how to prepare for the workforce of tomorrow, today.”

For more information on the findings and how the employers can adapt to the changing needs of the future workforce, please find the full report here:

We have also created a short quiz which helps employees find out what workforce futures they most associate with, and employers to discover how prepared their workplace is for the workers of the future:




The Future Laboratory used a mixed research approach involving interviews with a range of experts from its Futures100 network. These are experts in various fields. The aim was to build their knowledge and foresight into our analysis of the future of workplaces, employers and employees in Britain. The experts interviewed were:
Sam Moyo, Founder, Morning Gloryville
Florijn Vriend, Neuropsychologist and Founder, Enrichers
Jim Rokos, Founder, Rokos Design
Martin Knapp, Professor of Social Policy and Director of the Personal Social Services Research unit at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)
Liz Walker, HR Director, Unum UK
The Future Laboratory also conducted an online survey of UK employees to quantify their awareness, involvement and future interest relating to trends in this report, and the likelihood that they would remain with an employer who adopted these trends. It also investigated the key drivers for trend adoption as well as assessing what factors that can lead employees to leave companies.
The online survey was completed by 3,000 workers in:
Media, advertising, marketing and PR
Engineering and automotive
Goods, services, hospitality and recreation
Labour, agriculture and farming
Finance and law
IT and telecommunications
Some 97% of respondents work full or part-time in companies with up to 5,000 employees, with 3% defining themselves as self-employed. The survey was carried out by Opinium Research in March 2018.
About Unum UK
Unum UK is a leading employee benefits provider offering financial protection through the workplace including: Income Protection, Life insurance, Critical Illness, and Dental cover.
Our Income Protection customers have access to medical and vocational rehabilitation expertise designed to help people stay in work and return to work following illness and injury. Unum LifeWorks, our Employee Assistance Programme, provides help and advice on a range of work/life issues.
Our Critical Illness customers can access our Cancer Support Service, providing personalised support for employees with a cancer diagnosis.
We are committed to workplace wellbeing for both employees and employers, and have a wide range of tools designed to help businesses create or enhance their employee wellbeing strategy.
At the end of 2017, Unum protected over 1.6 million people in the UK and paid claims of £306 million – representing in excess of £5.9 million a week in benefits to our customers – providing security and peace of mind to individuals and their families.
Unum Group has a financial strength rating of A (Excellent) from A.M. Best with a stable outlook.
Our parent company, Unum Group, is a provider of employee benefits products and services in the United States, including group and individual disability insurance. Premium income for Unum Group and its subsidiaries totalled $8.6 billion in the year ended 31 December 2017, with reported revenues for the group totalling $11.3 billion and total assets of $64 billion. For more information please visit
Unum Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Unum Dental is a trading name of Unum Limited. Registered in England 983768.