The brave new world of work

I am an economist by education and one of my favourite economists, John Maynard Keynes, wrote in 1930, in his book The Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren, that by the end of the 20th century we would all be working just five hours a week.

In 1996, Jeremy Rifkin prophesised the end of work altogether. In the 21st century, he predicted, employment would be phased out, at least in the industrialised world. Jobs would be taken over by machines and workers forced on to the dole.

The German sociologist Ulrich Beck, in The Brave New World of Work, published in 2000, claimed the work society was disappearing. The working environment of the future, he said, will resemble that of Brazil, with no permanent jobs, only informal and insecure labour. 

And Charles Handy, in his book The Empty Raincoat, said what is disappearing is the job itself.

These were some bleak predictions – but going by current trends, Keynes’s proposition is impossible and Rifkin’s, Handy’s and Beck’s seem implausible.

The next revolution in our workplaces will not be no work.  Instead it will be flexible work.

Flexible working has enormous potential to raise productivity levels, increase employee job satisfaction and create business cost-savings. Moreover, as our workforce ages and shrinks over the next 25 years, practical solutions that assist organisations attract and retain staff will be fundamental to the way companies retain their competitive advantage.

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