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Guest blog: Shattered. Broken. Dispersed. Work.

6/13/19 1:36 PM

According to a study by the World Economic Forum, the number of emerging jobs will increase from 16% to 27% between 2018 and 2022. At the same time, one tenth of the existing job descriptions will vanish. It has been forecast that more than 65% of the children starting school today will come to work in jobs that do not yet exist at the time when they start school. Work is falling apart at an accelerated pace.

Pop Brixton is a temporary project that has turned disused land into a creative space for local, independent businesses in South London.As the nature of work changes, the places where work is performed are also becoming more diverse. For example, Pop Brixton, built on a wasteland as a community project, is an event venue and the home of a community of independent retailers, restaurants, street food startups and social enterprises.

Today, in June 2019, we are living the era of the fourth industrial revolution, a time that will affect us in ways that are still difficult for us to even imagine. We are experiencing a revolution in which the physical, the digital and the biological worlds come together in new ways, challenging even what it means to be human. Work, life and the ways in which we find a connection to one another are changing.

Buzzing around us are robots, artificial intelligence, platforms, location independence, productivity requirements − stress. As humankind, we are suffering from chronic stress, mental and physical noise, and at the same time as we have access to all the tools needed to communicate with each other. According to a recently published study, the more we use digital communications tools, the lonelier we feel. Loneliness is one of the greatest problems of our time.

The article "Power of Hidden Teams", published recently in the Harvard Business Review, sheds light on the importance of teams that are formed hidden from any organization charts. The article points out that employee engagement is at its highest when the work environment offers two types of environments. A permanent team, often based on an organization chart, creates a sense of security in employees, whereas a team indicative of on-demand work and beyond any organization chart provides employees with an opportunity for meaningful discussions that support their own goals. According to the HBR article, in the future work should always be organized in a similar manner as on-demand work. World Economic Forum studies on the future of work give support to the same idea.

From community to meaningful discussions

Often, when talking about work environments and co-working spaces, the discussion shifts to work communities and how they become formed. There is already an international phenomenon emerging, in which the community formed by the work environment is no longer the most pressing reason to use a particular space, but the needs are examined at an even deeper level. People talk about Social Atmosphere − the meaningfulness of discussions. The size of the community may be quite small if the person involved finds the conversations useful. This is also exactly the case when building teams at different levels.

The Canova Hall bar and restaurant also offer hot desking.Canova Hall Brixton, located in the former workers’ hall of Britain’s first department store, attracts professionals by offering hot desk services in its trendy restaurant and bar. 

In the future, it will be impossible for an employer to provide a work environment or a sufficient number of work environments for the employee. Providing a work environment is not part of the employer’s core business activities, nor, in my opinion, should it be. Providing work is. I strongly believe that in the future we will see "Bring Your Own Work space" ideology come to companies. It could quite well be possible and cost-effective to let employees bring with them a work environment and a community with its meaningful discussions that best serve their needs.

A step back

After the first surge of teleworking, we have heard some debates and even strong policies on how some companies have introduced mandatory office days to bring employees together - instead of offering an opportunity to work remotely. The idea is based on the notion that the commitment to work breaks down when the employees do not encounter each other often enough. However, the latest studies show that this is not the case. On the contrary, it seems that those working in a decentralized model are most engaged in their work. Here, such factors as teams hidden from the organization chart and the importance of self-management enter the picture again.

The meaningfulness of the community and the related discussions is often the precious element that communal work spaces can provide for companies. We will certainly see a major change in the profiles of communal work spaces as the cultural change progresses. In Finland, we are still at the very dawn of the development of such a culture. The cafe, freelance and startup cultures are doing a good job for liberalizing thinking. It is clear that the culture first develops in smaller co-working spaces and spreads throughout the industry from there. We are beginning to see the first spaces and communities specializing in certain sub-cultures. We are part of an amazing future: work will never be the same as it is today. The change will genuinely bring us closer to each other, as human beings.

We have invited guest bloggers, experts in their fields, to share their knowledge, thoughts and ideas with our readers. We hope these blogs will engage a larger audience to discuss various topics related to workplaces. Please click here for all our guest blogs. If you want to hear more about how we at Rapal contribute to the development of work environments around the world, take a look here.

Tero Helenius

Written by Tero Helenius

Workspacetraveler and independent coworking, retail and design professional.