We are a culture living with an intolerable amount of uncertainty in our lives, from the trivial stress of which of 500 channels to watch on TV to how to make sense of a rapidly changing workplace. Over the last 10 years, the workplace has undergone an incredible metamorphosis and the psyche of the working class has taken a pounding. The only thing anyone can be sure of these days is that there is nothing they can be sure of.
Recently, I decided to consult an oracle in an attempt to learn something about the future of the workplace. After sifting through some old Barry's Irish tea leaves, throwing the I-Ching, having my palm read by a Transylvanian gypsy and unsuccessfully trying to contact Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud at a seance, I had no choice but to consult with my good buddy Lazlo, workplace guru and workaholic extraordinaire, and author of the self-help book, "The Zen of the Workplace or Work Your Butt Off!"
We met at a local trendy Internet cafe and after ordering two grande triple latte mocha Frappaccinos extra shaved chocolate specials and discussing the existential dilemma we all face, I persuaded him to reveal what's in store for all of us.
In a move that will stretch the space-time continuum and make Einstein roll over in his grave, the Supreme Court will pass into law the 36-hour workday, ending once and for all the incredibly lame hue and cry of many workers: "There are not enough hours in the day to get the job done, let alone respond to all my emails."
Leisure suits will make an unexpected comeback and combined with the increasing lack of leisure time available to most workers, provide the illusion that today's worker is truly living the life of leisure. Leisure suits will be mandatory on dress-down Fridays and at all corporate disco parties.
Every employee will be only a telephone call away with the new surgically implanted cellular phone. The phone will rise out of the index finger when a button on the wrist is pressed. This will coincide with the surgical implantation of an iPod in the basal ganglia and a TV remote in the chest, forever doing away with the plaintive cry, "All right, who's got the remote."
In an effort to turn the clock back to a simpler and less stressful time, IBM will rename itself the Mom-and-Pop Computer Shop. At the same time, Microsoft will purchase an island in the South Pacific and rename it Microsoftland. It will instantaneously be recognized as the wealthiest country in the world and Club Microsoft will become the resort for those who compute hard and play hard.
Social scientists will make a breakthrough discovery that the sound of dolphins frolicing cuts down on office rage and increases productivity in the workplace by almost 50 percent. After hearing the music for the first time, one worker was heard to exclaim, "It brought back memories of my wedding night. I cried." In a trial run, the consensus among workers was that it was the most inspirational and motivational music they had ever heard. Another discovery, showing the benefits of a nap during the day -- workers were twice as productive afterwards -- will lead to a required nap after lunch.
In an effort to do away with fat in the marketplace, the Corporate Ab Flab Steamroller will become a staple at annual meetings. The CEO delivers a highly charged motivational speech while employees lie down and have their abs steamrolled into ab-solute splendor. This will coincide with a change in the traditional corporate motto to "We're a lean, mean earning machine." Downsizing will be redefined as an attempt by employees to get into a pair of jeans they haven't worn since they graduated college.
Every office will be a virtual reality office, ensuring all employees have a large corner office with a view of the Pacific Ocean, Brazilian rain forest or tropical paradise that can be changed at a push of the button. This will serve to do away with the "My office is bigger and better than your office, nah, nah, ne, nah, nah" one-upsmanship egopolitics, and turn the workplace into one big happy family filled with constant smiles and the occasional hug by the water cooler or the hot tub.
Office cafeterias will be renamed comfort zones and will only serve comfort foods in an attempt to help workers rekindle memories of joy and peace when they were children.
Workers will be rewarded financially in direct proportion to how much beauty and joy they create.
All places of employment will be required to have a time out room.
The Psychic Friends Employment Hotline will hook up callers with a psychic who will let them know the type of job they're best suited for and where to find such a job. As an added bonus, the psychic will serve as a best friend, and we all know how important it is to have a best friend, especially one who is psychic. Those employees who are uncomfortable with a psychic friend will be allowed to take a cuddly stuffed animal to work with them.
Social robots that understand human feelings, learn from human teachers, carry on conversations and even make jokes will become an important part of every workplace. Instead of complaining/gossiping at the water cooler, employees will complain/gossip to a compassionate and understanding bot who will make the employee feel like he is finally being understood. The social robots will also have a data base to help them relate to children of all ages, and will advise workers on how to be better parents.
Labor Day will have its name officially changed to No Labor Day by the United States Supreme Court. Anyone caught working will have to do community service.
All workers will be guaranteed a week's vacation at the brand new Walt Disney Labor Park, a vacation paradise run by the crack management tream, the Seven Dwarfs. Naturally, everyone will be required to whistle while they work.
Barry Halpin is a prevention specialist for Liberation Programs, a substance abuse health-care agency based in Stamford that provides substance abuse counseling to adolescents and their families in New Canaan and Darien. He's also the director of the county-wide Peer Players, an adolescent theater company. Check out his blog at http://blog.ctnews.com/halpin/ and email him at email@example.com.