Get Regular Updates!
Search

People

The new future of work

The future of work is here, and it has caught us all by surprise.

The new future of work

It wasn’t automation or AI that changed everything, but a virus.

In the past month, almost everyone who still has a job is now a remote, flexible worker who uses video and chat apps to communicate with their colleagues.

In the past 3 months, Zoom’s active user base has grown from 10 million to around 200 million per day. Business-chat platform Slack recently reached 12.5 million concurrent users for the first time ever.

This new way of working is having all sorts of flow-on effects, from reduced traffic to increased accessibility.

So what’s changed, and what might continue to be different into the future of work?

This has happened before (sort of)

One way to understand what’s happening now and what might come next is to look at some precedents.

Dr Libby Sander, Assistant Professor of Organisational Behaviour at Bond University, points to the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles as an example of a previous change in people’s work habits that had a lasting impact.

“[It was] one of the first times where the city said you have to stay home, we can’t have this traffic. And that really introduced working from home as an option to a whole group of people that hadn’t worked from home before,” says Libby.

View Larger
Image|Los Angeles Metro Library and Archive
Los Angeles is famous for its traffic – but usually not in a good way.

Libby thinks a similar phenomenon will happen on a larger scale once current restrictions are loosened.

Now that everyone has had a taste of flexible work arrangement – like not having to commute or attend unnecessary meetings – people will be reluctant to go back to the old way of doing things.

“Now that we've had the chance to be forced to rethink everything, I think we're going to see ... a lot of change.”

“I think we’ll have more conversations about well, why can’t we have more flexibility? Can we work at different times of the day as we are now? Do we really have to meet face to face? Do we really need to meet at all? Are we just doing a lot of these things for the sake of doing them?” she says.

Making work accessible and inclusive

Another potential silver lining is the opportunity to make work more accessible to individuals who weren’t able to fully participate in the pre-COVID-19 design of work.

“Prior to this situation, research has shown that flexible work arrangements and working from home actually allows much greater participation in the workforce – of women particularly, but also of older workers as well. So there’s an enormous talent pool that’s available to employers,” says Libby.

During World War II, women took on many roles previously held by men. . Credit: State Library of Victoria View Larger
Image |

State Library of Victoria

During World War II, women took on many roles previously held by men.
Could a pandemic reshape our workforce the same way? . Credit: State Library of Victoria View Larger
Image |

State Library of Victoria

Could a pandemic reshape our workforce the same way?

According to Libby, flexible work arrangements allow people to better control their work schedule and environment to suit their physical or family needs. And as a result, people are more productive working from home.

Death of the handshake

So what might we lose in this new world of work? Possibly the good old-fashioned handshake.

Traditionally, the handshake has been a symbolic gesture with the power to unite, divide, seal deals, and broker peace. In Western culture it often forms the basis of our first impressions made and received when meeting someone, particularly in the workplace.

View Larger
A strong handshake has long been a bastion of traditional masculinity in the workplace, but will it survive if we kick the habit?

According to Libby, there’s been some speculation that the slow spread of COVID-19 in Japan – despite a very high, dense population – might be because it’s also a low contact culture. Japanese people tend to bow instead of shaking hands.

Due to the current pandemic, the general public is more aware of how viruses spread. And we’ve also realised the fact that we’re not that great at washing our hands properly. So in the future, could we ever go back to shaking hands without feeling a little bit grossed out?

We love science puns VIDEO

Republish

Creative Commons Logo

Republishing our content

We want our stories to be shared and seen by as many people as possible.

Therefore, unless it says otherwise, copyright on the stories on Particle belongs to Scitech and they are published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

This allows you to republish our articles online or in print for free. You just need to credit us and link to us, and you can’t edit our material or sell it separately.

Using the ‘republish’ button on our website is the easiest way to meet our guidelines.

Guidelines

You cannot edit the article.

When republishing, you have to credit our authors, ideally in the byline. You have to credit Particle with a link back to the original publication on Particle.

If you’re republishing online, you must use our pageview counter, link to us and include links from our story. Our page view counter is a small pixel-ping (invisible to the eye) that allows us to know when our content is republished. It’s a condition of our guidelines that you include our counter. If you use the ‘republish’ then you’ll capture our page counter.

If you’re republishing in print, please email us to let us so we know about it (we get very proud to see our work republished) and you must include the Particle logo next to the credits. Download logo here.

If you wish to republish all our stories, please contact us directly to discuss this opportunity.

Images

Most of the images used on Particle are copyright of the photographer who made them.

It is your responsibility to confirm that you’re licensed to republish images in our articles.

Video

All Particle videos can be accessed through YouTube under the Standard YouTube Licence.

The Standard YouTube licence

  1. This licence is ‘All Rights Reserved’, granting provisions for YouTube to display the content, and YouTube’s visitors to stream the content. This means that the content may be streamed from YouTube but specifically forbids downloading, adaptation, and redistribution, except where otherwise licensed. When uploading your content to YouTube it will automatically use the Standard YouTube licence. You can check this by clicking on Advanced Settings and looking at the dropdown box ‘License and rights ownership’.
  2. When a user is uploading a video he has license options that he can choose from. The first option is “standard YouTube License” which means that you grant the broadcasting rights to YouTube. This essentially means that your video can only be accessed from YouTube for watching purpose and cannot be reproduced or distributed in any other form without your consent.

Contact

For more information about using our content, email us: particle@scitech.org.au

Copy this HTML into your CMS
Press Ctrl+C to copy

We've got chemistry. Want something physical?