Is There a Work Revolution Underway?
By Colin Toll
There is no doubt about the contention that COVID has caused many changes to our everyday lives, our working life, and our economy. In recent weeks the media has carried many stories and theories about this very subject and how it is all shaping our futures. My particular interest is in the impact all this has on our careers, how and where we work, our businesses and in the end, on our nation.
I find that one of the foremost thinkers and writers on this subject is Bernard Salt. He is one of Australia’s leading social commentators and business analysts. He draws upon vast datasets to interpret the overall trajectory of social change in the past… and into the future. He argues that social and cultural change are rising forces that are reshaping the way we live, how we work and even how we form relationships.
A year ago, in August 2021, Bernard Salt in cooperation with ServiceNow explored the history of Australian ways of working and shared their predictions on how life and work may evolve over the next decade. Three key themes emerged which they predict will determine business success in the future:
Hybrid working is here to stay:
Businesses will need to adapt to widespread and long-term ‘working-from-anywhere’ (WFA) and ‘working-from-home’ (WFH).
Leaders will invest in hybrid wellbeing policies and technologies that connect teams and will unlock access to top talent and reducing exposure to skills shortages.
Whatever side of the fence you sit on, hybrid work is here to stay. Australians simply will not let it go.
Australians have long had a penchant for lifestyle and the big shift to hybrid working meant we adapted to have greater control over work hours, patterns and environments.
A ‘trust reset’:
The pandemic has reshaped attitudes to authorities and within communities, but technology will help build trust through transparency and traceability.
Citizen expectations to be connected and protected through government and business services will rise, with greater demand for real-time access to information.
The ‘pursuit of seamlessness, in everything’:
Tech will minimise the mundane and maximise the use of time at work and home, as admin is outsourced to digital tools. The digital delegation will take off at work, and business will benefit as employees reduce admin to focus on the essence of their task.
Helen Trinca is a highly experienced reporter, commentator, and editor with a special interest in workplace and broad cultural issues. In her recent article in The Australian, Helen writes:
“Who’d have thought the Prime Minister’s hopes of beating the skills crisis could be undercut by a bunch of 20-something social media operatives who spend a fair slice of the day and night acting out in their bedrooms?
That the future of the economy could be threatened by social influencers whose creativity and intelligence are being poured into homemade videos rather than commercial challenges in our high-rise CBD towers or labour shortages across the nation?”
“The rise of the gig economy, too, has been a concern to many who are rightly afraid of the development of a second class of casual, exploited workers. But we need to recognise, as PricewaterhouseCoopers chief executive Tom Seymour said in this paper this week, that gig workers are here to stay and need protection but not removal from the economy. The social influencer phenomenon may prove to be just one element of a very different approach to work, at least in relatively rich and privileged Western economies.
The agricultural and horticultural sectors here long ago gave up on getting enough locals to do the work. Ditto, truth be told, in the caring professions and in many service and labouring industries.”
The foregoing contains the thoughts of two of our most foremost thinkers on this subject and they are worth following for their future work and publications. Is there a work revolution underway? I think so. The changes to our lives bought about by COVID, technology and social media are, in my opinion, here to stay. The changes will evolve over time, but the initial phase is happening right now before our very eyes.