Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Will work really be the same in the future?

Lately I've been pondering the future of work . I've asked myself four questions; Where will I work? How will I work? How long will I work each day? Will I have just one job?

Where will I work? I've read many things this year about creativity and location. Among the best was a blog  that suggested coffee shops were the best locations. The article makes a good case and is interesting. I also enjoyed the article in Wired talking about Liam Casey setting up business in China. At no point was it suggested that expensive offices and the overheads they carry were the way forward. Cue the growth of co working spaces like the Generator in Exeter or Thinqtank in Plymouth. Like Google's hub in London you can hire workspace and meeting space. It's a great place to meet people and a godsend for those who would normally work from home. Home working can be soul destroying hubs can provide the answer to break the monotony.
How will I work? It's no surprise that with the growth of collaborative spaces has come the growth of collaborative tools. There are many variants, my fave being Google docs. That allow collaboration across project members and outside the project too. It's a brilliant experience to sit and co create a document and watch as colleagues contribute from wherever they are. The time saved and the pain of email chains and tracked changes received is brilliant. I cannot for the life of me understand why these tools are not the norm. Others are taking advantage of crowd sourcing their designs. They have benefited from critique and positive additions, for example the Tesla electric car.

Of course once your product is ready you can share it with the manufacturer even if they are on the other side of the planet. I use Google hangouts to great effect. I've hosted meetings with colleagues from around the UK and find it easy and convenient. It reduces my travel time and cost too!
How long will I work each day? I think the days of Monday to Friday eight hours a day are on their way out. I've met so many people who are now prepared to adjust their lifestyle to work less hours.  This is really encouraging. flexible working taken to extreme can be really productive, we are not designed to sit in an office eight hours or more. Working when we are happiest and most productive judged by results not 'presenteeism' must be the future. Serious writers like Anna Coote of the New Economics Foundation have described how this can work. She suggests a 21 hour working week  . The benefits in terms of sustainability and personal well being would be immense.

Will I have just one job? Good question, again I think the notion of working for just one employer on just one task is fast disappearing. Portfolio working is on the increase and can be immensely rewarding. There's no secure jobs anymore and no loyalty. Moving from project to project developing and demonstrating your skills will help to keep you working and current. Stagnating in a so called career can actually damage your prospects. Many in the human resources world advocate never spending more than 3 years in a post. The added benefit is networking with a myriad of potential collaborators who you can call on in the future should you need to.

I’m writing a whole other piece on the ‘maker revolution’ embracing new ways of producing things that don't need armies of people. A recent Guardian article features a blistering range of new ideas from the ‘startup’ do it yourself culture.

When I floated similar ideas to a major employer for a management discussion they'd freaked out. What they don't realise is that just like the dated products they produce new businesses will supersede them.  Their hierarchical organisational structure will be out of date too. Like Kodak and film, old businesses will lose their place.  Lost in the deluge of clever collaborations and startups that no longer play by their rules. Already many organisations are beginning to change working practices to accommodate millenials Not to mention generation Z.

Wake up to the work revolution, change now. Less hours, greater flexibility, less formality, creative working location and environment.  For me it can't come soon enough.

Since writing this the Financial Times has cited Exeter as a top location for work life balance in an article. They mention many of the same thing as I have in this blog. I'm flattered.

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