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Please come on in: the future of work will see you now

Please come on in: the future of work will see you now

The future of work looks vaguely familiar, but they do things differently there. For example, in the future:

  • You will not stay with any one company for very long. You may be employed, you may not. You may be contracted by project or by expertise for set periods of time. You may take on many different, concurrent tasks. However, it is highly unlikely any of us will stay in one job for long.
  • The jobs you choose will be based not just on your skills and experience but also on your values and on what excites you.
  • The work you choose will grow and develop your learning, but you will be free to take on a project that may not be relevant to anything else in your life or work.
  • You will be measured on output, not input. If your work has value, it will be appreciated. No-one will care where you did it or how long it took you.

Are you waiting for the revolution to begin?

Here’s the newsflash: it has already begun, the future of work is already the past: BT and the AA, for example, began adopting flexible working practices in the late nineties and BT began reducing its real estate footprint soon after; according to Mintel, already one in three of us stay in our jobs for less than two years; and many organisations are forging ahead with a variety of different working models to find better ways of working.

As for individuals being, well, more individual, official numbers for the self-employed in the UK were 4.6m in 2015, with the number of start-ups in that year exceeding 0.5m. The economy breaks down in a recession into smaller constituent parts as businesses contract, individuals are made redundant and many find themselves out of work, so this was to be expected. But there is something else at work here.

We are looking for more control over our lives: more flexibility, a better balance between work, family and social needs and a desire to do work that has meaning. It is becoming very apparent that we are prepared to compromise on income to achieve this, after all the self-employed tend to work longer hours for less money than their employed counterparts. However, we know that the technology is out there to enable this freedom and flexibility and can save us time travelling and speed up other systems and processes which gives back some of these hours.

Losing the office

With cloud and mobile technology, we are increasingly able to work when, where and how we want. Data is not stored on our devices, but is accessed, shared and updated online; software is also in the cloud; communication is faster, easier and cheaper (including many options for video); the office is in the palm of our hand.

The digital network also means we can access more people online: customers, collaborators, suppliers, support and knowledge. Our network is wider, faster and better enables knowledge, ideas and projects to be shared.

We finally have the means to realise the paperless office, only to discover we don’t even need the office.

The long tail

One of the outcomes of this transition to the digital age is specialisation. The connected economy brings us closer and enables finer targeting. We don’t need to be all things to all men, we can look for and supply products and services to a smaller audience than ever before and still make a living, because the cost of communication is so low.

This specialisation may reduce your pool of potential clients, but it also means there is less competition for that pool. It also encourages more collaboration in terms of complimentary knowledge where work on larger projects requires a pooling of resources.

Even within organisations, employees are likely to become more specialised and work on various projects in concert with others as businesses look to become more decentralised, lean and agile. And, even as an employee, you might find your employer selling you skills to outside companies.

Are you ready for the future of work?

So, if you are thinking about changing jobs or careers, if you are evaluating what is important to you, if you are not doing the things that you are passionate about, don’t sit on the sidelines waiting for an invite.

And don’t think you are too old for change. Of course, much is talked about Gen Y and the millennials, who have grown up digital, and certainly they are big influencers in the workplace. However, these changes are across all demographics. Gen x and the baby boomers are also reviewing what is important and coming to similar conclusions – the industrial-age model is no longer relevant (in fact, it hasn’t been for several decades).

So whatever age you are, whatever stage you are in life and your career, and whatever your industry and skills, the world of work is changing and giving rise to countless opportunities. Employers who do not see this are going to lose out in the race for the best talent and employees still relying on traditional hierarchies to hide behind are going to find themselves being thrust into the spotlight.

Change is happening and it is getting faster. We cannot sit still like we did a hundred years ago, we must be more agile, flexible and continually evolving and we must be prepared for change.

Don’t wait for an invite: the future of work is ready for you now.