The Future of Work: Less is More
The way marketers work currently sits on the verge of enormous change. Like a tidal wave cresting over the horizon, there’s no escaping the inevitable, but unlike the tidal wave, there’s no need to panic. At DAZE Sydney 2016, we will be exploring how the correct foresight and preparation will enable us to embrace this change, working smarter and possibly living happier as a result.
It seems plain that we should be prepared for a world where a considerable increase in flexibility and variability of place, type, rhythm and style of working will become normalised. This will come from a transition from highly structured hierarchies, which emerged for command and control of physical manufacturing, to one where structures are much more fluid, and depend primarily on influence and capability.
While billions of people certainly still work in the often unforgiving physicality of the manufacturing era, the information economy runs in parallel, rewards ideas and creativity, and is rarely boring. Therefore, if the future needs less in terms of organising structures, then greater autonomy is possible, and that’s clearly correlated with increased productivity and happiness.
With this new approach, getting things done will require small, multi-skilled teams that are able to work together with little notice and high intensity for short periods. Working under these conditions will require high levels of self-starting, strong EQ to form viable relationships (both in forming such teams, and participating in them), all in addition to the skills actually required for the work.
Traditional structures of hierarchy will struggle with this – they are not usually agile enough to cope with such dramatic and continuous change. Traditional management will find it difficult to assess performance effectively if employees are exercising specialised skills across 3 or 4 teams working in a distributed fashion from locations around the globe. While this shift will provide increased freedom to choose how, when, and where we work, the caveat will perhaps be a required willingness to tolerate continuous ambiguity, and having to be more entrepreneurial in terms of cultivating relationships.
The tools that will enable this to happen will be delivered from the cloud, and whenever this occurs, work becomes about bits, rather than atoms, and can be done from anywhere there is connectivity, giving people the freedom to choose the work environment best suited to them.
Personalisation of the work environment may even go beyond that. The acceleration of VR technology could play a strong role in the visualisation of work, with workers able to select a mountain meadow, or quiet beach as their virtual environment, rather than just their desktop background.
This may sound like a utopian ideal, but it is one we can implement if we choose. Working from home, a corporate office, a co-working space, or even a mobile, rented office that drives itself to you all become options when the only barrier to productivity is connectivity.
This increased flexibility will certainly enable people to work under more comfortable conditions, each tailoring their work environment to create a world of work that is more personalized (just as today, we seek to give our customers a personalized experience), but the aforementioned ambiguity of such employment offers an interesting, if not troubling, parallel to the casualisation of the workforce that we are seeing more broadly across society as a whole. As DAZE Sydney 2016 will no doubt confirm, the future of work will be a radical departure from what has come before. It’s a change that’s already underway, but with foresight and the correct preparation we will be able to master this, the fourth industrial revolution.