Explore the Future of Work Recap

On Thursday 2/13, Workspring hosted a lively discussion about the Future of Work. Panelists included Drew Jones, an ethnographer exploring design, innovation, and employee experience design and partner at Austin coworking space Conjunctured and Sam Rosen from Desktime as well as John Pipino, who goes by Pip, a consultant at Doblin with Workspring’s Managing Director Danielle Galmore serving as moderator.


courtesy of Workspring

The discussion was in support and response to Drew’s book [The Fifth Age of Work][2}.

What is the Fifth Age of Work?

It’s one defined by:
* mobility
* connectivity
* ubiquitous wifi
* accessible networks
* coworking

Here are some takeaways:

Who’s doing future work now?

Activity Based Work (ABW) is a model pioneered by Veldhoen + Company. Under this model, you can work where you want with a locker and laptop. In ABW workplaces, utilization rates top 85% vs 40-60% in a standard workplace Should be something more corporations see as a sweet spot. ABW Employees aren’t required to come in but most do because they’ve created a work environment they want to be in. Get people’s best energy and allow people to build work around lives.

Some companies, like Nike, 3M, Google, are doing it and outpacing their peers in terms of innovation and productivity here in the US.

Why isn’t it happening as quickly or pervasively in the US?

Most American corporations don’t want a democratic work place so resistance to new ways of working is still the norm.
And, even after the economic recovery started, things stayed pretty much the same because people were excited to have a job.
There are well intentioned managers and leaders but this kind of change will be easier to pull off in private versus public corporations.

Must corporations adapt?

If predictions bear out, 40% of young workers will opt out of corporate work. That talent drain means corporations won’t have the vibrancy in leadership to be innovative

The Social Contract is no longer working.

The Social Contract (I work 40hr/week for 50weeks/yr and in return I am given security) that has been in place since the Industrial Revolution is no longer working. Folks are no longer willing to sacrifice fewer decision making rights for security. Younger workers aren’t buying into the Social Contract. They feel burned by watching their parents be downsized. 75-80% do not want to work for a large corporation.

What happens when they do adapt?

When companies embrace it, the seen resistance doesn’t last long. Fewer meetings! More egalitarian work places! More innovation!

This new model works with new workers because the next wave of workers isn’t the Alpha Male generation. There is a new and different set of values coming with millennials.

When companies invest heavily in the space (Twitter, FaceBook)and build amenities and features that aren’t at a house or at Starbucks, people will come to work. Serendipity happens.

The rock will roll.

Pip argues we have to be patient with corporate America as they can’t turn on a dime. There’s an optimism that goes with the field of design. The rock will roll. We have to build culture before we can implement changes. Leadership sets the vision, employees reset the culture. We are already seeing a new emergent trend in coworking within a company.

What about security in shared workspaces and ABW workplaces?

There’s a perceived issue that outpaces the real concerns. Security is an accelerant to free agency. Technology will help build the systems needed.

And, we’ll continue to rely on each other via things like Airbnb’s verification, which combines a human element and social verification.

BUT. How will we know if work is happening?

There are many metrics and processes to track productivity. Most leadership still believe Taylor Time & Motion studies where time at desk = productivity.

Work life interrupts our personal lives. At Dobin, they accept and account for the counterbalance, that personal lives will interrupt work lives. Work to be willing and outwardly supportive about that. Trust people to manage their time and their work, though this is admittedly harder scale well.

Trust people to manage their time and their work.

You lose out on serendipity and cross pollination if you only worry about productivity and try to prevent brains from talking to the feet.

So people are working. Are they engaged? What is Employee Experience Design and is it different than the buzz-y Employee Engagement?

Employee Engagement is top down, a motivational concept. Employee Experience Design considers more than whether someone is “engaged” at work. How long is the commute? What’s my physical space like? If you think about employee’s experience you’ll build better work systems and better work places.

So, then, what’s next for work?

  • More innovation.
  • Seamless access to spaces which supports just in time and on demand work.
  • Security that makes it easier, safer, better to work from anywhere.
  • Digital platforms that supports connection when offline.
  • Connect online to find each other offline, connect coworking talent working on all kinds of projects.
  • Increased availability of the types of benefits we used to assume from corporations and institutions.