5 Ways The Future of Work will Change How We Live Forever.
Gleaming cities, streamlined transportation, breathable air. It all sounds like a scene from a 1950’s retro-futuristic sci-fi movie rather than our own future with its escalating wars, riot-breeding economy and rotting infrastructures.
Somewhere along the way, it appears we’ve all come to accept that the price we must pay for our civilized society is long hours, low wages, pollution and stress — but does it have to be that way? And what can we do to make the world of work a happier and more productive place?
The key word here is ‘flexibility’ so here are just a handful of ways our society can develop without exploitation, poor mental health and the destruction of our environment killing us off before we even reach retirement.
· Car-pooling. When I worked for Microsoft briefly in the late 90s, one of the first of many surprises that awaited me happened as I drove to work. As we traveled to the tech giant’s mega-headquarters in Redmond, Seattle, I was amazed to see just how few cars there were on the road. Mentioning this to my companion, she informed me that the company had advised all employees to operate a car-pooling system to reduce the number of vehicles traveling to and from Microsoft. This seemed to me, at the time, to be an excellent way to cut down on the stress and pollution of the daily commute as well as ensuring that employees made it into work on time. Although the practice started after WW2, the internet has become responsible for its resurgence in recent years and Europe now boasts over 16 million users. One day, future generations may see motorways dismantled as private transportation becomes a thing of the past.
· Job-sharing. Over the following years, I investigated the practice of job-sharing and its place in the new era. In the future, I thought, wouldn’t it make more sense for young families trying to raise children to split one job between both parents instead of the current system with its outdated ‘breadwinner’ model? One of my former co-workers (now happily sharing a job with his designer wife) explained to me recently how, in his former role as a head of a large ad agency art department, he would leave home in the morning before his children awoke only to return long after they’d been put to bed. Weekends? Forget about it. After his third holiday cancellation, he decided the six-figure salary and company car just weren’t worth the time spent away from seeing his kids grow up. Many companies are now accepting how traditional workplace models are changing and are implementing reduced hours and job-sharing schemes as a way to hang onto their most talented employees.
· The New Working Week. The old practice of working from 9–5 has to be re-written. So many workers turn up for work on Monday only to spend wasted hours attempting to re-acclimatise into the appropriate mental state to start the week. On the other hand, employees have to vacate their work stations just as they start to fire on all creative cylinders. Although many job categories in the future will continue to operate under the old system, where possible, workers will be able to choose when and where they fill those hours. For example, employees in certain fields may choose to complete their allotted hours in larger blocks of time, thereby freeing up the later part of the week for other activities.
· Working from home. It might sound great to be able to get to the office in 10 seconds, work in your pajamas and take six hours for lunch but many people find the lack of structure difficult to adapt to. While the positive aspects are many, off-site freelancing can be a lonely profession and won’t suit those who prefer to work in a team. However, from a mental health viewpoint, it makes sense not to go into work every day. In a recent survey carried out by the American Institute of Stress, it was discovered that one million US employees miss work each day due to workplace anxiety. One way or another, CEOs of the future will have to make going to work a less depressing experience and educating the next generation of company directors to encourage their employees to work off-site could be a major step forward in rectifying the situation.
· Off-site companies. I ran into a friend recently who told me that, back in the 90s, he managed a team of 15 animators working on two floors of a downtown building. Two decades later, however, he’s now running his own company from home. “Back in the day, I would have to spend a couple of hours each day struggling through London’s tortuous transportation system to attend meetings with clients,” he told me. “Now, I can do it from my home studio on Skype.’’ He sees the de-centralisation away from large cities as part of a wider picture. ‘’I’m not the only one who has deserted central London’s sky-high rates for more affordable premises closer to home. Why pay for an office in the city when your workforce is happier and more productive working off-site? Most of the time, they really don’t need to travel so their wages go further without cars, gas and parking tickets eating into their wages”.
As more and more of us use the digital cloud, the need to be in an actual physical workplace becomes less important than what we do within it.
And researchers have found that the daily commute increases stress and feelings of isolation with, according to this study, many women complaining that travelling to and from the office each day increased their feelings of impatience and fatigue. One of our forecasts at Tweak is how, with the app, a laptop and access to the web, our artists will be able to work from anywhere on the planet.
None of these ideas are particularly new or unique to our current way of working — many of them have been around for decades — but by building modern working structures based on their proven success, we can improve the quality of work while eliminating lateness, days off and work-related mental illness. It won’t be easy: for one, many jobs can simply not be done off-site. But for an ever-expanding group, the ability to order one’s environment and schedule will lead to a happier, wealthier and healthier nation of workers.