10 August 2022

Businesses of the future will focus on being socially responsible and caring – as they become highly automated. Futurologist Ian Pearson claims while employees have effectively worked as machines in the past, the future will see work centred around emotional and interpersonal skills. He suggests a phrase we’re likely to hear more of in the next few years is Care Economy – as the new high level of automation allows people to focus on people.

Businesses will be challenged with attracting new employees by presenting a highly responsible brand, prioritising social good over profits, supporting local events and subsidising schools, clubs and leisure facilities. 

Perks such as creches, leave and healthcare will be extended to include menopause counselling, gender change support and wellbeing services such as relaxation rooms and massages. 

But it’s not all positive for employees – an increase in working from home could result in surveillance from cameras with face and gesture recognition to ensure staff are actually at their desks and doing their work. 

The insights come after research of 500 SME owners, commissioned by Funding Circle, found those polled expect to see the likes of fingerprint scanning doors and relaxation rooms become reality in the future. 

Ian Pearson said: “I anticipate meeting rooms will become ‘cosy’ and mainly used for appraisals and interviews rather than daily work, while hot desks will be the norm for office working with AI robots storing and unloading items for staff. 

“When it comes to specific businesses, clothes shops will allow customers to go into booths in a swimsuit and have their body scanned to create a 3D model, resulting in garments being made to exact sizes and much less stock on shop floors. 

“While supermarkets and eateries already have self-checkouts, they’ll go one step further allowing pre-packaged items to be delivered via a phone order immediately wherever the customer is.”

The research also found self-cleaning toilets and kitchens, robots to help with tidying and free therapy or counselling are among the aspects SME owners want to be a part of their business in the future.

A fifth (19 per cent) already offer fully flexible working for their staff, and one in 20 provide gender change support.     

 A further one in 10 (nine per cent) even have cameras and microphones in home offices. 

It also revealed 57 per cent believe their business could still function if workers were fully remote, but only 32 per cent think this will be a reality in the future. 

When it comes to tech taking over human roles, 41 per cent admitted a perk is being able to run their enterprise 24/7, but 57 per cent enjoy the benefit of face-to-face interaction via humans. 

Despite this, 19 per cent expect to replace staff with technology in the future – something 14 per cent of them have already done – and predict staff levels will decrease by an average of 19 per cent in the next five years.

Business owners are most likely to use robots or AI in the future for the likes of tidying (31 per cent), hazardous tasks (26 per cent) and helping make products (25 per cent). 

But 45 per cent think people will always be needed to support their business and 37 per cent believe robotics will help their company grow. 

Of those polled, via OnePoll, feel positive (41 per cent), excited (30 per cent) and motivated (29 per cent) about changes to their firm in the future. 

It’s interesting to see how business could look in the not so far away future. 

We want to ensure we can support small business owners in whatever the future throws – which as we know, can be unpredictable.

Some of these changes could become a reality sooner than we think, so it’s vital business owners are prepared both financially and practically. 

It’s great to see staff wellbeing becoming a focus in the future, as well as using tech to its advantage.

Alexander Allen

UK Managing Director at Funding Circle 


  1. Fully flexible working

  2. Cosy meeting places

  3. Ambient lighting that shifts depending on the natural light availability

  4. Relaxation rooms

  5. Standing desks

  6. Cameras and microphones in home offices

  7. Time off to volunteer or do charity work

  8. Free therapy/counselling

  9. Robots to clean and tidy        

  10. Self-cleaning toilets

  11. Drone pick-up and delivery service

  12. Fingerprint scanning doors

  13. Blinds that open/close automatically in line with natural light        

  14. More automated job roles

  15. Automatically tilting desks/wrist supports to avoid strains

  16. Therapeutic breaks

  17. Local wellbeing clubs membership        

  18. Office hot desking

  19. AI assistance to upskill new recruits

  20. Biometric verification of delivery      

  21. Fridges that order things by use-by-date       

  22. Hologram ‘face to face’ meetings

  23. Sports sponsorship

  24. Prioritising social good over profits        

  25. Smart glasses to work out data from a monitor   

  26. Menopause support – counselling, rest rooms, paid HRT

  27. Music and arts lessons

  28. Hologram to-do lists

  29. Medical services on-site

  30. Self-cleaning kitchens 


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About Funding Circle 

Funding Circle is the UK’s largest loan platform for SMEs. Founded in 2010, its market-leading and unparalleled instant decision lending technology enables small businesses to apply for finance in an average of six minutes, with lending decisions in as little as nine seconds. A wide range of investors are utilising this technology and distribution platform to lend c. £14 billion to approximately 120,000 businesses globally. This is providing small businesses with the fast and simple access finance they need to grow and power the economy. In 2021, lending through Funding Circle's UK platform is estimated to have contributed £7.2bn to GDP and supported 100,000 jobs.