The Changing Nature Of Work
As you might have been experiencing in your life, our work habits have been changing over the past few years, particularly if your field is the knowledge sector. If one examines retrospectively our personal “working story” one might become amazed how work has changed even quicker over the past few years.
Many of us used to work in an office. For various years, we had the same routine of getting out of our homes early in the morning, to commute to the office, doing the same as our parents and grandparents. There, we would find a space that had been designed following a concept of “work” shaped by the industrial age. You would “go to work” to arrive at a specific location ( the office/factory) where one was to work on a specific task either as an individual or with the same group of people. Managers worked from the philosophy of managing by seeing, in a tradition strikingly ressembling the panopticon structure invented by Jeremy Bentham. What was mostly valued from employees was how people implemented work coming from the ideas of their leaders and managers. Workers were not seen as creative individuals that would contribute to the work flow with creative ideas. Following the technological changes, offices shifted from being equipped with typewriters to computers, and from being divided by cubicles, to the open plan environment.Illustration by Mr. Fish
But now we live in a totally different world, shaped by the information age and already a bit by what comes next, the knowledge age. Phenomenal developments are happening in technology at a rapid speed, increasing the connectivity of people and the easy access to information. Organizations are now global structures spread throughout the world, and all the recent trends, are causing a transformation in work, both in its most fundamental core concept, and in the design of the space traditionally seen as the one where you work: the office. Technologies such as mobility, cloud computing, web conferencing and telepresence have driven connectivity across the globe. Employees can work in different locations or on the road and still collaborate.
Obtaining and sharing knowledge ubiquituously is becoming easier and faster. The new trends mentioned previously are increasingly more accessible in emerging markets and from more remote locations. Supposedly, people don’t need to move as much to get better opportunities as they have all the tools at their hand to work even if located remotedly, particularly if they have jobs connected woth the production of knowledge, or services.
The values of the newer generations, usually entitled X and Y have shifted as well. Millennials praise a more balanced work/life equilibrium than other generations, and look for works that allow them more freedom, creativity and a better balance between time/work.
Offices begin to reduce their size, as many organizations try to diminish costs, by cutting on office spaces, and facilitating its workers the opportunity of working from home.
But what might be seen as a liberation, involves also new challenges. The changes have been so profound and quick, that both individuals and organizations need some time and guidance to readjust to the new working environment. It is important to acknowledge that the type of work more affected with these changes is the one connected with the production of knowledge.
The future is proactive” writes Sophie Wade for Huftington Post, in a series of posts about the changing nature of work. With such an enigmatic sentence, Sophie Wade warns us of what is demanded from each one of us, concerning work. Work is becoming more personal as well as more remote, with a different work and social flow that is less defined, less structured and more interwoven. As Dave Coplin says, in a talk given or the RSA: “Work is no longer a destination.”
Coplin’s talk was animated and is part of the RSA animated videos. These are done by the RSA which stands for Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. RSA entitles itself as an enlightenment organisation, committed to finding innovative practical solutions to today’s social challenges. Through its ideas, research and 27,000-strong fellowship it seeks to understand and enhance human capability, aiming to close the gap between today’s reality and people’s hopes for a better world. The animate video can be seen here:
Dave Coplin, who is the Chief Envisioning Officer at Microsoft narrates to us in his talk how he imagines what might be possible if more organisations embraced the full, empowering potential of technology by encouraging truly open, collaborative and flexible working culture. He tells us engagingly how people might feel moreproductive, and happier at work, by tackling the fundamental question tormenting the ones fearful of such tremendous changes in the field of work. Is technology part of the problem, or can it be part of the solution? But he warns us that to take advantage of the opportunities presented by technology, both individuals and organizations need to change. He says:
“And so for most organisations it’s about this really hard thing – it’s about having the confidence to let go – the confidence to empower your employees, the people that you work with, to choose the best place to work for the task that they have in hand, the best tools, to use them in the way that they want.”
Dave Coplin mentions as well that if organizations need to be more trusting, pleople also have to become more mindful and organized about their working routines.
“Flexible working, at its heart, is about being mindful about the tasks that you have in front of you and the best place to accomplish those tasks. It could be sat at home, in could be in your office, it could be with your customers, it could be in one of these third spaces that are opening up. It could be in my community”.
Fundamentally, the pace of change comes down to both how each one of us individually act and how the organizations in general, respond and adapt to the new aspects of work, particularly the fact that what matters now is to whom you work for and what you do, not ‘where’ you work.
The future of jobs and work is exciting, new and challenging but also full of uncertainty and ambiguity. It is up to us, in connection with our social environment, to make the most of those changes, acting in such a way that our lives and the ones of others will be improved by such changes.
Maria Fonseca is the Editor and Infographic Artist for IntelligentHQ. She is also a thought leader writing about social innovation, sharing economy, social business, and the commons. Aside her work for IntelligentHQ, Maria Fonseca is a visual artist and filmmaker that has exhibited widely in international events such as Manifesta 5, Sao Paulo Biennial, Photo Espana, Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Joshibi University and many others. She concluded her PhD on essayistic filmmaking , taken at University of Westminster in London and is preparing her post doc that will explore the links between creativity and the sharing economy.