The gloomy orange sky in Auckland this week was a disturbing phenomenon. As we started the working year with the Australian fires concerning us, I wondered if this and the many crises we are experiencing are affecting the way we think about the work we do within our super-connected world.
In Sir Richard Branson’s book “Screw Business as Usual” (2013) a reframe on business as we knew it to address the issues we were (are) facing was offered. Excerpts from Branson’s book suggested that the transformative change required implied that ‘work’ will not be the same as we know it by 2020. At that time the Future of Work Institute, based in Australia, proposed that we may be forced to re-configure work to be a “desirable activity in its own right”. They believed that a shift in the way we use and value money and address the increasingly critical needs of our planet would have to happen.
The six drivers of change as identified by the Future Work Skills 2020, have arrived. These were identified as: extreme longevity (people were living longer); the rise of smart machines and systems (taking away repetitive tasks); a computerized world (new communication tools); super-structured organisations’ (social technologies and new forms of value creation); and a globally connected world (placing flexibility and diversity central to operations).
With all the visioning about the future of work back then, I’m reflecting on how work has changed and where we are now.
I’ve noticed that the old structures of siloed, hierarchical organisations are history. We have leaner, more agile businesses that through technological advances are responding better in a super-connected world. Employee retention is critical so supporting employee wellbeing, finding ways to provide greater flexibility and remote access where people can work from anywhere is important. Thankfully greater diversity and equity have also been embraced.
Academia and research institutes have brought science and business together, nurturing new startups that bring huge potential to solving real-life problems in new and better ways. Services in health, education and community development are still working on ways to build greater levels of collaboration in order to more effectively address the needs of growing populations.
In this super-connected world, there is a sense of urgency and a new ‘normal’ has been created where precarious work and rapid change are constant conditions of our work.
While these ‘urgent’ socio-economic and political conditions are impacting our workplaces every day we hear about disastrous events, species extinctions and the collapses of ecosystems. The environmental impacts are requiring a response. As well as this, people are highly motivated to better manage life itself in ways that are restorative and more meaningful.
The rate of change and the greater need for restoring communities and the environment here and overseas is now a critical focus.
New ways of working to earn an income and creating value are happening. In the creative, social and environmental sectors entrepreneurs are driven to make a difference by finding ways to add value. Social Enterprise is now a mature concept for doing business.
There is phenomenal interest and growth in green jobs, sustainability, well-being, and diversity specialist roles providing meaningful work for a few. Local initiatives in sustainable communities and horticulture, aging support, health, and well-being are more evident. Yet many of these roles are experiencing workload and ‘relevance’ pressures as competition for funding increases.
Although there is much to be anxious about today I am encouraged that new ways of thinking and working together are happening. Individuals are motivated differently and many people are proactively demanding accountability and answers to the ‘real’ issues. They want to be involved in change. Others with fewer options will struggle as technology replaces more jobs, workloads increase and there are greater pressures on life and families being experienced.
As career management specialists for CareerEQ it is our role to guide and support our clients through the changes that impact them within the context of these new opportunities and pressures. There IS plenty of work to be done; we all simply need to identify what is important to us and how to transition to work that is aligned.
2020 is here. We are all in this together. The question we need to ask is, how can I do my work in a way that matters to me?
Kaye Avery, FMCDANZ