“Future of work” is not a new concept but the speed at which it smacked us in the face was a surprise. Mass panic of the pandemic has forced the future of work to become the new world of work. Adjust or die (okay, that might be a little bit dramatic but hey, I’m one coffee down already at 6:33am, so a littled psyched).
Evolving to the future of work
Seriously though, only the dinosaurs are missing the point. Adapting to the new world of work is the new evolution, for businesses and their people. There is nothing to fear but it is going to take some adjustment. Sure, the current crisis will end but what happens then? There will always be natural and sometimes not so natural disasters, pandemics, power interruptions, resource shortages, conflicts or other disruptions to prevent employees travelling to work.
No doubt, the world has changed. Are you curious how the pandemic has impacted workplaces (and in some cases, set a new norm)?
Working from home
As of June 2021, the Australian Government reported 67% of Australians were working from home. In contrast, 42% of Australians were working from home pre-covid. I love the picture in the article of the adoring dad, smiling down on his cute kid, as they sit at the laptop. Quality time indeed. Or is it? Is it really the dream we have all been sold of the laptop lifestyle and a life spent with our loved ones, while at work?
I notice they neglected to add the photo of the kids having a punch up, throwing tantrums, pulling on dad’s shirt or spilling juice from their poppa on his laptop. Anyway, I digress.
Home schooling is becoming more common in 2021 but there are real concerns about the effectiveness of this method. Teachers and parents alike have expressed concerns that children are robbed of face to face interactions, proper resources and a dedicated teacher to guide them. From the parents’ point of view, they are struggling to balance their own workload, with these new demands to play teacher as well.
Flexibility comes at a price. Some employers will allow flexibility with work hours, as long as the employee is willing to sacrifice some of their personal and family time. After all, it sounds fair right? If you bring your family and personal life into work, perhaps it’s fair that you take your work with you on family trips, weekends and vacations.
I wonder if the future of work will allow your boss to appear at your family picnic as a hologram. Or between you and your partner when you are about to share an intimate kiss, so they can remind you your report is not done yet. Oh bugger. Perhaps I have just given them some new ideas. Are they watching?
Anyway… what exactly will the new employment contract look like? I would argue, this needs to take flexible work arrangements into account. Perhaps we need to set clear expectations from both perspectives.
For all of the window dressing and snapped images of people living free and wild, as they run through the park, research shows we’re moving less than before. Even if you’re one of the people who makes time for your daily walk, run or other exercise, there’s another challenge. We’re no longer walking from the car park to the office, taking the stairs, walking to get our morning coffee or walking with our friends to get lunch.
Pre-covid deaths from heart disease were about 5 million globally but the real impact of today’s non-activity will show up in a couple of years. This will indeed become a health crisis and so far there is no single needle or shot to fix this. Change in diet and lifestyle is the only known preventative measure.
What needs to stop?
I’ve been repeating myself like a cracked record (for those of us old enough to get it) long before the future of work arrived. The idea of 9-5 has no basis in the fututre of work, other than those were the hours required during the industrial revolution. Employers need to stop measuring the number of hours people have their bum glued to a chair. Sitting on your arse for a long period of time is not the only measure of productivity.
What needs to start?
Perhaps it’s more effective to measure outcomes, even effort. After all, I can sit here for 8, 10 or even 12 hours, like my colleagues. Whether I produce half of the results or twice the results of my colleagues, seems to have little impact on how I am paid, recognised or rewarded. Nor is sitting on a chair always the most productive use of my time. Sometimes I am more effective when I can walk and talk on the phone, more inspired when I can work outside or healthier when I’m not going blind while I stare at a blue screen.
Future of work solutions
The future of work can be bright, however, there are a handful of challenges we need to fix. We’re already finding solutions to setting boundaries and getting active. Certainly, there are as many opportunities as there are challenges. The new world of work is here to stay and that’s a good thing.