The truths we know about working life are undergoing some dramatic changes. New behaviors and emerging technologies are changing how work is organized and the activities we engage in. This is driven by a number of themes that are expected to fundamentally change working life. Join us and explore.
1. Quest for meaning
Defining the purpose of individual contributions
Instead of only focusing on compensation and benefits, or the title on the business card, it is increasingly important to contribute to society. To play a meaningful role is crucial, and it is no longer sufficient for companies to just give money to charity and have a corporate social responsibility (CSR) section on their website. People seek companies whose visions and purposes are grounded in genuine values.
“We don’t hire people that can just do the job at hand. The mission has to resonate with our employees personally, which is why we need to engage the whole individual.”
– Noom Inc, New York City
”Companies that employ “the right people”, i.e. people who share the same values, see a greater level of commitment and efficiency; thus, these employees are more often better brand advocates.
For established companies without clear ideals, it is challenging to find and express a true story for the brand that people really believe in. For large organizations it can be hard to define how each individual contribution matter.
2. From Task to Missions
From time in the office to value for business
The shift to focus on value-creation marks a major change in working life. Both employers and employees focus more on actual value creation and end results, rather than on exactly where, when and by which methods the work is done.
This creates a much more flexible and cost efficient work environment, and increases the motivation and sense of freedom of the employees.
When companies no longer regulate and measure traditional parameters like work hours, new and more comprehensive methods for assessing achievements are required. Such methods are not easily developed. The work culture is also characterized by a sense of freedom coupled with responsibility, which can be very demanding for those who need clear structure and guidance
3. Cultural gravitation
From colleagues to communities
A strong work culture that can mobilize employees is often described as important as it can improve the quality of everyday life for employees. People tend to seek companies with a sense of community and internal culture, with which they can identify.
”The culture of the company really produces the DNA of the product. If you launch a product, of course strategy is important and you need to plan, but the company culture will be reflected in how other people receive the company and who will want to work there. Culture always beats strategy.”
– Alex Martini, Co-Working Space Entrepreneur
Management teams have a more holistic view on their staff, and fostering a common cultural identity and sense of community are prioritized since they are key motivators for performance and the willingness to stay with a company.
The organizational culture needs to be defined and reinforced, and some employees can feel distanced from such a culture. As boundaries between “the employee” and “the individual” become unclear, integrity issues can more easily arise.
4. Two-way flexibility
Adapting to the era of connectivity
Flexible working hours in combination with constant connectivity can prove difficult to deal with in a constructive manner. It has traditionally been primarily beneficial for employers, as it most often led to employees working more than scheduled, but now people are expecting flexibility on their own terms.
“The most flexible companies will get the best talents, and companies will raid each other for talents. Flexibility will be a matter of negotiation, no one will accept a job that they don’t think is flexible enough.”
– Dave Gray, Management Consultant and Author
As long as the employer respects the boundaries between work life and private life; flexible working hours and freedom at work will have a positive impact on employee efficiency, goal-fulfillment and general health.
A flexible culture requires individual dialogues with employees, which can be more time consuming in the short term. In order for this type of flexibility to be successful, employees must be able to express their needs and set boundaries for themselves.
The era of DIY mentality
There is an emerging workplace culture characterized by a clear spirit of entrepreneurship and DIY mentality beyond pre-defined work tasks. People take a greater individual responsibility for solving problems and achieving goals.
“Henry Ford and Alfred Sloan created the ‘big company’ as we know it, and revolutionized how companies worked. Today, it’s more like ‘I want a girlfriend, I create Facebook’.”
– Richard Donkin, Author
In organizations where everyone takes individual responsibility and work on their own initiatives to solve problems and reach goals, operations can run more swiftly and efficiently. Such work environments are more stimulating and rewarding for entrepreneurial people, and companies fostering a do-ocracy culture can be more innovative and adaptive.
In order to create this kind of culture, much control has to be relinquished. But if not guided at all, employees risk running in different directions without seeing a common goal. A culture that relies on much freedom can also be demanding for people who need clear structures and much guidance.
6. The power of serendipity
Optimizing exposure to others
Constant exposure to other people and environments is crucial for successful business development and adaptation to ever changing market conditions. Organizations “plan for” random encounters between people with different backgrounds and competences in order to increase the opportunities for innovative ideas.
“Today working life is arranged to cater for functions – in the future you might have ten different functions working together for six months and then dissolving and regrouping in another incarnation. There is an array of disciplines and personalities working together to innovate.”
– Ryan Anderson, Director of Future Technology, Herman Miller
This open-minded culture not only sparks vital ideas but also develops people on a more personal level, as they get to know people they would not otherwise have met.
There are concerns and risks with openness; it raises issues about company control and confidentiality. Introverts can also find this culture hard to thrive in.
7. The exchange place
From physical working space to meaningful exchange
There is a shift from storing and controlling employees in the workplace to making sure that the exchange is meaningful and rewarding. The working environment should primarily be designed to optimize the quality of interpersonal exchange.
“Space will be developed and managed by theatrical directors that are creating the social environments where creativity is most likely to happen. It is more open-ended – it requires a new entrepreneurship – and bringing together different type of competences like you would in a theatrical production.”
– Frank Duffy, Architect and Founder of DEGW
Focusing mainly on interpersonal exchange-related activities, rather than storage of employees, who rarely are at their desks anyway, is a much more cost-efficient use of space.
This requires organizations to create a workplace of meaningful exchange, as well as progressive strategies for enabling employees to work from outside the office, in terms of technical infrastructure. It also imposes that organizations will have to give up some control over employees. Such an environment can also be stressful for introverts.
Individual preferences shaping the work environment
People want their work environment to be adjusted to their individual needs, and preferences and experiences from the private sphere are applied at work. They are unwilling to compromise their know-how by abiding to IT-policies that are not advantageous.
Everyone is allowed to choose their own equipment here. If they want to have two screens, then that’s what they will get. We do anything to make sure that they work as effectively as possible.
– Noom Inc., New York City
As people can be more comfortable with their work tools and other elements of the work environment; efficiency, confidence and well being at work increase.
Since employees will have diverse needs and preferences, implementing many different requirements can be time consuming and costly, and organizations must understand how much the return of these investments is, which is very hard to calculate.
The optimistic stance
Starting your own business will hopefully be easier. In the future more people will start their own business from an innovation or idea or choose to work as consultants instead of being employed.
The critical stance
Employers will require more flexibility to be able to adapt to the market quickly. Those who are resourceful will thrive in this environment. But the those who are weaker and less connected will lag behind.