Work is very personal. Whether we're doing it, done it or looking for it, we all (want to) work for differing reasons. And for a brief moment in work space time there are an incredible five generations in the workplace - maybe not yours, but somewhere in the world.
So, when the concepts of the 'Future Worker' and the 'Future of Work' are casually tossed around, we need to be clear that these 'workers' and 'work' span over 80 years (1928 - 2012) so the future looks very different for each generation. From the 'Traditionalists' (born up to 1945) through to 'GenZ' (born up to 2015) each generation has different work experiences, expectations and plans for the future.
You hope that sooner rather than later the Traditionalists will take a well-earned rest - the last 75+ years has been quite a rollercoaster ride. So, then there were four - and probably by the mid 2020s many of the Baby Boomers will be cashing in their retirement cheques. And let's hope they don't spend them too wisely.
So, then there were three - and lets stick with these for the time being, as Generation Alpha or whatever they’ll be called (born after 2015) can be beta tested once GenZ have sorted us all out!
Whatever age you are and wherever you were raised in the world, we have all been captivated by tomorrow's world - fascinated by what may be, rather than what will be: from fanciful space travel, to gadgets, to clothes, how we work and what we eat. How much of that is our reality today? Sadly, for many of us dreamers, very little of it came true and the same can be said about predictions about work - what it is and who does it.
Of the black and white silent movies of the 1920s, Metropolis, released in 1927, is recognised as really the first film to deal with the future of our urban working lives. It was set in 2026! Juxtapose that with the present day fanciful scenarios about the radical and overnight changes to the world of work as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic and they all have one thing in common. It's not going to happen as they predict!
Let’s be clear - work and workers have been around ever since homo sapiens decided to stand up and be counted. The ebb and flow of life, the lessons from history, the rise and fall of empires, the continual discoveries covering all aspects of life (ours and others) plus our insatiable appetite for advancement does not disguise the fact that work is a fundamental aspect of us being human and at its core there are some constants and there always will be.
We work to survive, to give ourselves a sense of purpose and identity, to help others (near and afar), to 'make a difference', we have something to say or something to create, we need to feel powerful or we need to be lauded and praised. These reasons and so many more are why we work and why we will continue to work however much the world and space of work evolves.
Oh, and don't forget we are essentially social beings and work places are social as well as work spaces. So, let’s never lose sight of the fact that even if we have a crappy boss (and who hasn't?) we miss it when we no longer have it and we long for it when we're apart.
There are no issues with remote working, Zoom calls, cloud stuff, Google docs, virtual teams, four-day week, AI, robotics, agile working, 3D printers, connectivity, work stations, space stations, train stations, working from home or in a coffee shop, whilst running or catching your breath.
That's not really the point - these are all enablers and opportunities to work and if you know what you're looking for and are lucky enough that you have choices, then grab them with whatever you've got and make them work for you. That's the buzz now - for us lucky few we have sooooo many choices and opportunities to reshape our working lives and how we work to make it work for us. However, for most workers (yesterday, today and tomorrow), that ain't so true.
Yes - absolutely the world of work and the people doing the work are changing. That is indisputable but let's learn from the last hundred years of fairytales and keep our stories as real as possible.
GenZ Insight: How To Make Your Organisation A GenZ Magnet
Authors: Graham Scott and Guy Ellis
Publisher: The Message Medium
Pagination: 132 pages
Price: print £14.99 ($19.99); ebook £9.99 ($9.99)
Publication date: 31 July 2020
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Ellenor McIntosh, co-founder of Twipes, is an award-winning Forbes ‘30 Under 30’