30. October 2020

Why we need to rethink work

The world of work is constantly changing. Nothing emphasizes this more than the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. From Zoom conferences and flexible working times to WFH, the way we work has changed dramatically to protect our health. “New Work” is the buzzword on everyone’s lips, and applies to all areas of our working lives. But what does it actually mean? Experts have been analyzing this exciting trend well before the dawn of the Covid-19 era.

Der Vitra Trendscout

We recently welcomed Raphael Gielgen, a man with a very special job. Raphael works as a trend scout for Vitra, specializing in the future of work. Every day, he looks at how we may all be working in five to ten years’ time. As businesses struggle with the uncertainty posed by the pandemic, well-founded predictions for the future of work are vitally important. There are many different ways in which the way we work could change in the future. But the trend scout was able to tell us about specific areas of change that are certain to come.

Is the physical workspace going permanently digital?

When it comes to the way we work, the year 2020 has seen the pace of change accelerate rapidly compared to the years before. Covid-19 and the associated health risks have meant that many employees can now do the previously unthinkable: work from anywhere. Gielgen believes that this will become a permanent feature of our working lives in the coming years. Another reason for this is that the people now joining the workforce grew up with the internet. This means that the digital connection they experience in their everyday lives is becoming part of work too. The sheer amount of data produced around the world is another sign of a fast-growing digital realm.

This is predicted to triple in the next five years. Online meetings and working from home are not just crisis measures. Quite the opposite in fact. This way of working is both more efficient and reduces costs. Many businesses that feared employees would be unproductive if they were allowed to work from home have found this not to be the case.

Despite this, we will continue to need physical workspaces in future. But they will change. The typical office room with a calendar and a pot plant is increasingly being replaced by more open alternatives that encourage communication. The trend scout sees enormous potential in intra-company networking. This potential is already being exploited in many places. Co-working spaces and shared offices are helping companies in all kinds of sectors connect with each other. Not only does this help them network, it also allows them to learn from each other. This model will become increasingly frequent in future, leading to as yet undiscovered synergies.


Time up for tried and tested?

Raphael Gielgen believes that a combination of digital connection and shared knowledge in the physical workspace will lead to changes in corporate learning processes. Businesses need to be in a “constant beta status”. This mindset will let them read the signals and regularly question the status quo. Business areas that prove promising will then be retained and expanded. It will still be possible to add additional work areas to help make the company fit for the future. According to the trend scout, every job has a sell-by date. The aim here has to be to prepare businesses and train employees so they can work in a variety of areas.

Green Economy

Alongside the service sector, Gielgen sees the so-called green economy as the biggest potential jobs motor in the future. Companies are going green as awareness for sustainability issues grows, with many global businesses signing up to the UN’s Sustainability Goals. Today, they design their products and services to not just serve the customer, but also help the environment. As a result, product and service portfolios are becoming more ecological and holistic. This is already creating opportunities for the coming generation of workers.

The future of work is a controversial topic, and is likely to remain so. For businesses, it is important to look at this issue with a clear perspective. With this in mind, here are the three most important lessons from this post:

  1. The pandemic is the most powerful evidence yet of how New Work is a vitally important issue that belongs on every business agenda. But even without the crisis, the world of work will continue to change.
  2. Companies must deepen and develop their areas of business in order to remain viable in the future. Saying “we’ve always done it this way” is no longer sufficient.
  3. Employees must be encouraged and supported to learn continuously. This is the only way that they can help businesses through structural change.

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