For a lot of people, the idea of work was once sharply defined, constant and concrete – occurring at a fixed time (nine to five), in a fixed location (usually an office), and with little variation for years, until retirement and the carriage clock beckoned.
Today, work comes with fuzzier edges. Retraining – often multiple times – is now commonplace, as the concept of the “job for life” recedes into the past. More people than ever are working from home, which can lead to lower overheads and more productivity for businesses, but can also make communication tricky and remove the social, human side of work. Zero-hours contracts can make work more flexible for part-time employees, but have come under sharp criticism as some employers abuse them to get around employment and minimum wage requirements. And there is much talk of how automation and AI in some industries can be more efficient, and give people more time for the less-repetitive aspects of their jobs. But how will reducing these aspects of work affect workers whose jobs are unskilled?
There are huge opportunities to make businesses work better, for both employers and employees. But whatever the issue, and however work changes, it won’t stop being a human concern.