The way we work, and more importantly, our view of work has changed over time. In the early 2000s’ conversations on work centered on automation and robotics, then came the gig economy and contract employment exemplified by solopreneurship, and crowdfunding. Work became more central to our sense of self.
Unfortunately, this resulted in the rise of extreme working hours with no increase in productivity. Then, the pandemic – and work evolution was turbo-charged. People began to work at home and many more reappraised their jobs and found them lacking. For the Z-Generation, work became less important to their identity than for Millennials, and overall, they found themselves earning much less in real terms than previous generations.
We talk about technology and automation in the abstract and we are slowly realizing that they, alone, won’t solve our greater problems. We need to recognize the economic and social issues that shape our world and then create the technology to improve them – not the other way around. There is a strange disconnect in how society perceives design. People need to realize that those who work in technology, math, and science are designers. For example, writing blockchain code is designing how we’ll live in the future.
The subjects that young people are taught are stuck in the past. In primary school children should learn the arts but should also be schooled in programming and finance. People entering higher education have become consumers, paying a corporation (university) to buy a degree that society places less and less value on. It is a commercial transaction, which in many cases is linked to a financial arrangement (a loan). Higher education has become a commodity.
Everyone wishes that they could have work that has a clear purpose – not just working to earn money but doing something that has value. Technology does not fulfill this goal. Thus, we see the ‘Great Resignation unfold.
The internet changed the way we work. Virtual meetups were the norm during the pandemic. Before 2018 work was limited to cubicles and static conference room meetings. However, most workers have decided that although virtual meetups are valuable, they don’t want to work out of their dens full-time. Surveys tell us that people value the office for social interactions, team building, and as a place where they can concentrate on work without distraction.
So, what we have learned is that people perform best when they are not confined to an office environment but thrive best in a combination of in-office/out-of-office workplaces, and what’s best for the organization as a whole.
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