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  • Writer's pictureRonnie Ray

The Changing Workplace

An average professional in this day and age spends 13 years of their life working. Apart from sleeping, work is the second highest time investment that we make, though surprisingly screen time is catching up rapidly. The progress of civilization has ensured that over the last 150 years the amount of hours worked during a lifetime has actually shrunk by half, and leisure time has increased nearly six fold (US data). The figures will vary across countries and regions, but the overall trend is similar. The interesting question is what has been behind these transformative changes and which ones are at the forefront in our workplace today?

The answer to this question lies in the bedrock of economics and social evolution.

We can intuitively understand that productivity gains based on technology have made it possible to get more done in much shorter time. While machines and industrialization were the prime drivers for the initial productivity gains, it is the digital transformation and instant access to information that has dramatically reshaped our lives in the 21st century. The advent of AI, exemplified by the collective attention on language model based chatbots and other innovations, portends even more dramatic change in the years to come, at a pace much faster than what we have experienced.

What about social evolution? Understandably, communities and societies have to reach a level of per capita income to afford more leisure time and there are many parts of the world that remain disadvantaged. However, the globalization of information via social media apps on mobile devices has been by itself an enormous driver of social change. (I posed this question to one AI bot, ChatGPT, and it instantly authored a 500 word essay on this topic with numerous examples including the Arab Spring and the Yellow Vest movements). Increasing access to information also means that the pressure on changing social mores and attitudes is rising across the world. At the same time, the backlash to hold on to the past may be at the heart of the politics, trade, and economic de-globalization phase that we are currently experiencing.

So where do we go from here in our professional work lives?

  • The last few years have proven that remote work is possible, though the pendulum is swinging back for now.

  • Progressive companies are dismantling the fixed vacation hours at work and leaving it to their employees to decide how much off hours time they need and when.

  • The availability of new AI augmented work tools promise to get more done, while also suggesting that we learn new skills in order to remain relevant.

  • Automation and robots in the near future - will start to help us on our daily manual chores.

  • Freelancing is on the rise, as more professionals look to balance freedom and flexibility outside of a typical employment contract.

More profoundly, the evolving aspirations of the working professional indicate a need for higher meaning, purpose and impact in relationship to our work. Throw in the markedly different attitudes of the younger millennial or the Gen Z early employee and the workplace, as we have known it is ripe for massive change.

That raises new thoughts around a new form of work or organizational dynamic that is -

  • more imbued with the spirit of independence and ownership not hierarchy

  • flexible yet aligned with the greater purpose of the collective

  • more decentralized and global rather than being constrained by local skills and structures

  • while retaining the responsibility for delivering directed outcomes with adequate legal accountability and recovery

These are some of the questions among others that we hope to explore in this blog. Let us know your thoughts on what you think are the major changes underway to a new future in work.


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