Thanks to COVID-19, the future of work is now

We need to make the gig economy a dignified one, as it will certainly embrace the future of work, if not be the basis of it.

The term ‘future of work’ is no longer novel. It is no secret that due to COVID-19, our way of life has changed in a matter of weeks. Who hasn’t seen movies where human existence is threatened by force majeure? But no one would have imagined we would experience it ourselves. As it turns out, fiction surpasses reality. Change has come rapidly, and we have to deal with it now as ‘later’ no longer exists.

Many of us as forced to wonder — what is the future of work? Let us first acknowledging how little we know. Though we do have accurate predictive models, we are not quite sure how long the COVID-19 pandemic will last, how people’s behaviour will change or how they will adapt to the unpredictable situation. All we can do is make educated guesses to the best of our abilities.

What does work look like today?

The terms ‘remote’ or ‘remotely’ was usually associated with ‘far away in time’ or ‘from a distance’ and/or ‘without physical contact.’ Nowadays, these words represent a whole different concept — closeness.

We now know that remote work means getting close to our co-workers amidst the restrictions on physical contact. And we are adapting fast to this new working model. Technology tools like ZOOM and Google Meet have seen quick growth to meet our needs.

We are witnessing an interesting social experiment called the ‘future of work,’ but it is no longer the future and is happening right now.

The terms ‘remote’ or ‘remotely’ was usually associated with ‘far away in time’ or ‘from a distance’ and/or ‘without physical contact.’ Nowadays, these words represent a whole different concept — closeness.

From a psychological perspective, people seem to be less resistant to technology. Perhaps this has to do with the fact that an sizeable portion of the workforce is made up of millennials and those slightly older, who are anyway comfortable using smart devices. Also, social media might have prepared us for this scenario without ostensibly intending to do so. Advancements in technology in recent years has forced everyone to have the basic skills and knowledge of tools at least.

There are, however, a series of challenges yet to tackle.

How do you avoid the (often self-imposed) stress of being extra-productive with all the time that is now available? Some of us no longer must deal with traffic or getting from one place to another to make it to face-to-face meetings, or those over meals.

One of the characteristics of the new economies is being able to be global at the click of a button. Remote work can be requested anywhere in the world, at any time. And it seems that ubiquity is no longer something reserved for the gods. The question then is how can technology also become a facilitator of productivity while keeping the global economy running?

There is lots of room for improvement, and we are on the right path.

What will work look like in the (near) future?

Work will be exactly what it is right now as the ‘future’ has already made its way to our present realities. It is then important to know how to address one of the most prevailing obstacles of our ‘new now’ — building trust within our cyber-relationships (mostly focusing on daily transactions and remote working).

We know the world is heading towards an economic recession. We, therefore, need to try to make our new cyber reality as akin to real life as possible. This translates into having digital economies that want to be like the very jobs we used to have.

Perhaps blockchain will have the answer. Humans produce data every single day, and there have long been debates about its ownership. Web 3.0 may now be providing a rough path towards the democratisation of data, and thus providing the road to build trustable and traceable transactions.

Thus, by leveraging technology under the context of COVID-19, we might be able to build a protocol based on blockchain and Web 3.0 through which global connectivity and the gig economy will strive for new standards.

We know the world is heading towards an economic recession. We, therefore, need to try to make our new cyber reality as akin to real life as possible. This translates into having digital economies that want to be like the very jobs we used to have.

We need to make the gig economy a dignified one, as it will certainly embrace the future of work, if not be the basis of it. Bureaucracy will decrease, demand (and offer) will be much more agile and perhaps even with a larger sense of urgency. Competition will thus be redefined, and some former competitors may become allies to survive in a certain field of industry. Talent shall be revalued in terms of experience and diversity to truly achieve innovation.

The ‘workplace’ will no longer be an actual place. It will be our homes, or any location we want it to be, as long as internet connectivity is available. The gig economy will own predominant concepts such as freedom and autonomy, with connectivity as its basis. Instead of just seeing COVID-19 as a pandemic, we should think of it as a catalyst that turned the ‘future’ of work into the ‘now’.

Article by Silvana Lopez originally appeared on Observer Research Foundation website.

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