The Latest

THE LATEST

THE LATEST THINKING

THE LATEST THINKING

The opinions of THE LATEST’s guest contributors are their own.

Work Will Never Be The Same Again

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on July 23, 2021 17:10

1 user

Technological disruption has been changing the workplace for decades, but the pandemic focused attention on new ways to work, and new challenges to manage the processes. In fact, a redefinition of the concept of work.

One of my favorite management gurus is Reg Revans

He predates the term 'Management' in its modern sense. From his experience as laboratory assistant to Einstein at Cambridge University he developed an approach to improving organizational performance, based on a belief that solutions often lie with the practitioners, the people at the bottom of the organization, and not with top management. This made him the first non-medical person ever to be admitted as a Fellow to Guy’s Hospital in London.

This approach came to mind when my daughter in law, a nurse working in a medical insurance call center, had to follow my son to a new job in a small town. COVID had already forced them to work from home. Management was very unhappy, but after more than a year it is now accepted that working from home can be more productive than being herded into a room where their work could be observed directly.

Workplace reality. Photo Alexander van Wyk, with permission.

Consultants have for years been trying to move corporations away from surveillance of workers, from measuring business, but management fears remain that freedom would be abused. The interaction between workers, the so-called ‘water cooler chats’ would disappear, and for some managers that was a problem. Initiatives in the early 2000s did not result in great changes. Yahoo, in 2013, put a stop to all remote work in the interests of productivity and a sense of identity. Tim Cook of Apple apparently believed personal interaction justified calling employees to the office three days in the week, after the effects of the pandemic had been studied.

Universities and schools were forced to change their way of teaching, and even as the first waves receded and vaccines became available, many wonder if teaching would return to pre-pandemic patterns. The problems of lack of personal interaction, exchange of ideas in meetings, human warmth, all these need to be solved in a new environment. Is there a future for brick-and-mortar universities?

But first, what is work? Hunter-gatherers did not consider their daily routine work, it was life. Antoine de Saint Exupéry wrote that a man driving a pickaxe into the ground wants to know the meaning of his work, a convict doing the same is humiliated, a prospector achieves stature. Prison is where a pickaxe falls without purpose, with no bonding with the community. “We yearn to escape that prison. Modern workers, monitoring screens and gauges, these are the modern hunters for error, for problems, for meaning. Yet we consider this work, and highly stressful work at that.

How will the workplace change in the near future? How will work be considered? And most important: How will society reward this work?

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on July 23, 2021 17:10

Comments

comments powered by Disqus

Video Site Tour

The Latest
The Latest

Subscribe to THE LATEST Newsletter.

The Latest
The Latest

Share this TLT through...

The Latest