I’ve been churning a probable revolution for a few months now. The way we work will have changed beyond all recognition within two, if not one, generation/s.
When I mention this in passing, a propos of other conversations, there’s 10% vehement agreement and about 50% vehement disagreement.
“Well, that might work for a company like yours, but it would never work for government/ manufacturing/ health / [insert workplace here].”
But the fact is this is not a lifestyle choice, or a nice-to-have, but an evolutionary change being driven by necessity.
Globalisation, digital and care will all force change, even if we firmly believe our own industry is either immune or inflexible.
On one hand, we are facing out more and more.
I’ve been meeting accountants this morning, both with practices that deal predominantly with owner-managed businesses in Suffolk. Not a breeding ground for international trade, you’d think: but in the context of our own international work, the dominance of overseas clients across a wide range of industries became clear.
Overseas means different time zones. Good customer service means availability at your clients’ demand, not your own.
Digital is the enabler of much of this, and digital is also a 24/7 place.
Again, customer service requires at the very least predictable social media access on line, but often earlier, later and at weekends.
Business communications too now happen by email on phones, and increasingly these are people’s first and last daily check.
There has to be a pay off, doesn’t there? These both indicate a need for people to become non-stop workers; on line more often than not and available round the clock.
It’s not sustainable, and again, the counterweight is driven by need. That need is care.
We have an aging population, reducing pension pots, expensive childcare – call it the sandwich generation, the squeezed middle, call it what you will – but the truth of the matter is that families are going to have to deliver care for their young and old to a greater degree than has been the case.
Now, with digitisation comes, not just constant contact, but also workspace flexibility. If you’re accessible wherever you are, you don’t have to be in one place.
Home working, flexi-working, job share and other progressions from ‘going to work’ to, simply, ‘working’, will grow out of these combined needs.
The positive impact of that is that communities stand a chance of forming again.
As working behaviour changes, life and work have the opportunity to become more connected. We can be ourselves across the various channels of our lives, not jumping between ‘work self’ and ‘home self’ boxes.
To draw this back to business benefits, lowering the barriers between work and home also gives the next generation access to industry, allowing them to become aware of opportunities that they can prepare for.
And since we are all likely to have to work for many more years, this style of work facilitates a more sustainable work/life pattern.
I firmly believe that, as it rolls out, it will also help to create sexual equality; since the responsibilities which have commonly been applied to men (work) and women (home) will equalise too.
There’s more about this now, in the media and on line: it’s a revolution to watch with interest and to prepare for.