What Could Be the Future of Work?

I participated in a breakfast meeting yesterday, called “What is the Future of Work?” We had great discussions and I had more questions.

Technology advances help us change and (often) work better. In particular, I was thinking about automation and the changing cost of friction for work especially compared to my early work choices.

  • Depositing a paycheck now is easy. You make decisions once about where the money goes and the automation keeps working.
  • Finding and booking a flight or hotel is easy. You, not a travel agent, have the ability to choose where to fly, when, and what you’ll pay for.
  • I can create or buy images for my talks and posts. I don’t need an artist or slides in a carousel.

Some people no longer commute to offices. I coach, consult, and teach from my home office in addition to my on-site work. The cost of friction for my ability to work is limited only by my internet connection speed. (Yes, teams can work remotely too. See From Chaos to Distributed Agile Teams.)

Am I worried about automation “taking” people’s jobs? No. Every time automation has taken specific jobs, the people adapted to different roles, often for more money. Instead of doing mind-numbing boring work, they got to do something different.

The people adapted. They worked through their various changes and adapted.

Some people predict a “perfect storm” of change:

  • Many jobs undergo automation at the same time and many people have to adapt or go without jobs.
  • That automation occurs for a large number of people in one geographic area. (Think of factory towns when the factory closed.)
  • People may not have a lot of time to adapt. We all need emotional preparation time and time to learn to move through the Change model.

Regardless of where you live, the various US employment projections provide fascinating reads and potential insights. Take a look at Occupational employment projections to 2024 . (Several reports say 85% of the jobs we will have in 2030 don’t exist yet or didn’t exist just a few years ago.)

I won’t even try to predict what the future jobs will be. I do know this: We need to continue to learn and adapt.

Not everyone shares my perspective of learning and adapting. (What a shock!) In fact, our perspectives might be shaped not just by our income levels, but by our jobs and our perspectives of whether we are “anywhere” or “somewhere” people. (I originally read the WSJ article, but you have to have an account to read it.)

If you don’t have access to high-speed wifi, if you are bound to a particular place, and have limited alternative jobs with your current education, what will you do in the future of work?

I suspect we can succeed if we create and work at jobs that require a human touch. Or, if we create jobs that enable more technology for automation. For example, even if nurses use technology, no tech can help a patient by listening and hearing the undercurrents. No one else and no machine can write my books. And, even in low-code systems, we still need people to put applications or products together. I am not suggesting everyone move into healthcare or become a writer or some sort of product developer. Those examples are the ones I see now.

When we use human ingenuity, we create possibilities. Can we lower the cost of friction of some work? Can we make work more worthwhile for everyone involved? Yes, I’m optimistic.

And, if we build our resilience and adaptability and continue learning, we can create choices about what to do next and how.

My dear adaptable leaders, that’s the question this week: What could be the future of work?

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