Union Views: The future of work is flexible

In 1930 the British economist John M Keynes predicted that technological development, in time, would make us so much more productive that the working week would be reduced to 15 hours.

We are still not there. If his prophecy is to come true, there must be a fundamental change in the way we work.

Keynes’ prediction of technological development was accurate. Unfortunately, the ways in which we co-operate and organise work have not changed. With industrialisation, we began to count working hours. It became normal to arrive at factories and offices at fixed times of day, and still is. But society has changed, and we have technologies that enable us to change how we work.

COVID-19 disruption
COVID-19 was a disruptive force. It provided an opportunity to organise ourselves more flexibly. This is not merely a matter of whether we can work from home sometimes. Keep in mind that organisations structure themselves to address the tasks to be solved, and that a flexible organisation is not the same as a borderless organisation. 

The boundaries or necessities to be borne in mind when we organise ourselves will differ from company to company. The nature of the tasks may require some personnel to be in the office from nine o’clock until three, while others need not. Our jobs and functions differ, and the organisation must take this into account.

Let us experiment 
The pandemic enabled us to try out new structures and processes, including working from home. Our processes and tasks need not be reinvented. Instead, we should experiment on arranging ourselves. Making changes requires an experimental frame of mind with trials that run for short periods of time. Then we evaluate, adjust and experiment further.

We tend to fall back into the ways in which we have always done things. Otherwise, we would by now be working 15-hour weeks. But I expect that my kids, when they enter the job market in maybe 10 years’ time, will laugh at the thought that everyone in their parents’ generation set off for work at the same time, every single day …