Virtualisation Kills Industrial Age 9-5, 5-Day Workweek

By: Creating Future Us

July 21, 2020

It’s increasingly clear that Working From Home is going to become A – if not – the norm, post-Covid 19. Not only will it be a valuable boon for businesses in terms of avoided medium term costs, but it’s equally popular with a large swath of workers. This is the snowballing of a structural change that technologies have been driving and enabling for the past decade, in the name of efficiency.


Many companies, not least the tech behemoths, have told employees they may never have to return to the office. A recent HR survey found that 62% of employers plan on keeping people working from home until experts agree it’s safe to go back to work, and 93% of 18- to 34-year-old employees who worked from home during the lockdown want to continue home-working to some extent post-lockdown.


Between an on-going improvement in internet infrastructure, from speeds and bandwidth, routers and security, to applications that run on top, such as voice, video, virtual conferencing and online collaboration, the tech tools have been quickly falling into place to accelerate the decentralisation and disaggregation of the traditional office-hub work dynamic.


Now comes the most interesting challenge: the psychological and social innovation required to adapt to this structural shift. Knowledge-based businesses and workers will drive this change, but as a second order effect, ecosystem businesses that support them will also need to adapt.


Think of the newly empty city commercial centres: the shops and restaurants that were built to service them, the office cleaners and maintenance staff…they and many others will need to adapt to this new reality.


Furthermore, this may bring into question the 9-5, 5-day work week. In an age where knowledge workers labour, learn and train from home, shop and conduct much of their personal business online, does this Industrial Age construct need to persist?


Through this construct, work/life balance has been imposed by office hours…what will shape the new lines of demarcation? What implications will that have for business culture, productivity, innovation and talent retention? Let alone supply chains, stakeholder engagement and the definitions of ‘work’? What will happen to rush hours and national infrastructures built to support work commutes?


Covid-19 is not going to be the last pandemic to spread, and it doesn’t appear that there is coordinated counter pressure to reverse this decentralisation. While businesses will likely require a collective space going forward, who can predict today what that space might stand for, operate as, or serve (it will depend on the business model, sector, stakeholders involved, etc.).


No doubt the next wave of major innovation will be to enable the psychological and social adaptations necessary for accommodating humans’ evolution: that of judgement and intuition based on cues from the senses.


Examples of greenshoots underway are companies contemplating new, location-based remuneration policies. Others are experimenting with how ‘work’ is measured and yet more are looking to utilise virtual and augmented reality, to provide substitute sensory cues.


The S in ESG is going to be revolutionalised over the next decade, as is the stakeholder map. Investors and boards will be grappling with the value creation and destruction arising from decisions related to this wave of social innovation.


We welcome hearing from you if you experimenting with, decided on, implemented or observed similar practices.