Next Generation Working Life


Next Generation Working Life Image source: The future show

“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future” John F. Kennedy

It is no secret or surprise that we are moving through a period of phenomenal change at the current time. This has impacted all areas of our lives, but nowhere more so than in our working world. One of the biggest changes, arguably is the move to a completely networked society. According to the organisation Ericsson this has led to many other knock on changes. Indeed, in its recent report “Next Generation Working Life”, Ericsson argues:

“The digitisation and information flows are putting pressure on organisations to be organised differently. This will fundamentally change working life and the activities we engage in”.

One of the changes as Ericsson sees it is that there will be a blurring of all of the boundaries between working and private life for individuals. Indeed this can already be seen and has been seen for quite some time. With the advent of mobile phones that have been able to connect to the internet, workers have been expected to not just take calls but also in some cases deal with emails after hours. This means that people are continually drawn into work. While that has been negative in some regards, with people feeling as if there is “no escape” from work, it has also offered considerable opportunities too. One such opportunity is the ability to work flexibly both in terms of hours and place. This means that people can work across varied locations very effectively, when managed and organised properly to do so. It allows people to be able to freelance more effectively as well. Another fundamental change is that organisations realise that creativity is the way in which competitive advantage will be achieved, and consequently many are working towards finding ways of being more innovative to be able to keep up in a fast moving environment.

All of this has led Ericsson to propose eight themes that show how working life is adapting. According to Ericsson these themes are:

Quest for meaning – people want to work for and buy from companies that have authentic values. This means companies have to focus on hiring the right people that share those values, and show employees how their contribution really makes a difference.

From tasks to missions – employees and organisations need to place emphasis on creating value rather than worrying about when, where and how the work is completed. This can be more cost effective for businesses and more motivational for employees. It makes it more challenging to recognise achievements however, and those that need structure and guidance may find it hard to be able to thrive in these new environments.

Cultural gravitation – people want to identify with their companies and want to work for companies with a sense of community. One of the challenges with this that Ericsson highlights is that there can be integrity issues between individuals and the organisation. On the plus side a greater cultural identity with an organisation is motivating and retains staff.

Two-way flexibility – in the past organisations have been taking advantage of flexibility by having employees working longer than before, but now employees expect flexibility and freedom at work. Employees need to be clear about what they want and be good at setting boundaries to be able to succeed with this. Setting this up in the first place can be a bit time intensive for organisations

Do-ocracy – in the new working environment people will take more responsibility for dealing with problems and working towards their goals. This can be a very stimulating type of environment to work in, especially for those that have an entrepreneurial spirit, argue Ericsson. However, such a culture does need careful guidance to make sure that people are all pulling in the same direction.

The power of serendipity – an open minded culture will exist that will encourage good ideas and people will meet a wide diversity of people. This is good for some but challenging for confidentiality and also for individuals that are introverted.

The exchange place – interpersonal exchange that leads to meaningful results will be a key feature of the future work place. On the down side this may mean that organisations have to cede some control, and again, introverts may not enjoy it.

Consumerisation – people will be able to choose the equipment that they use and work within their own individual needs and preferences. They will not want to work within strict IT policies that do not serve them.