SIX THINGS WE LEARNED FROM TODAY’S 'FUTURE WORLD OF WORK' EVENT
Where are we heading? What will it look like? What’s the future for my business, sector and profession? This year, our Festival seeks to answer the big questions, by discussing and debating the future of work.
Today visionary designer Wayne Hemingway sat down with employment relations expert, David Coats, celebrated design & innovation author and academic, Jeremy Myerson and alternative education and creative skills champion, Robyn Dooley, to tackle these critical subjects head on.
The session was typically insightful offering an in-depth look at the issues. It was full of facts, theoretical arguments and intelligent viewpoints. But we haven’t got time for that now (you really should have been there). So, here’s 6 remarkable things we learned from today’s future world of work session. Enjoy.
- THERE’S NO POINT PREDICTING THE FUTURE
Somewhat alarmingly, David kicks off our session on the Future World of Work by declaring that predicting the future is futile by quoting Danish physicist, Niels Bohr: “It’s difficult to make predictions, especially about the future…” Nevertheless, we continue.
- WORKPLACE ADVANCES ARE ‘EVOLUTIONARY NOT REVOLUTIONARY’
David talked about heavy-hitting subjects like zero-hour contracts, the decimation of jobs due to automation & AI, the gig economy and globalisation, but felt that this was a continuation of a long-prevailing trend, rather than a sudden revolution. “The world of work is always in a state of flux. It has always created winners and losers”.
- THINGS ARE BETTER FOR WORKERS AND THINGS ARE WORSE
The panel talked about the changing design of workplaces, from classroom-style offices with supervisors and structures, to the warm and flexible, bean-bag laden socio-democratic offices of modern times. But don’t be fooled, explained Jeremy. “Such offices know what they’re doing. They want you to work for longer, they want to keep you working and we usually do.”
- GOOGLE STAFF SLEEP AT WORK
As if to prove the point, David regales us with an amusing tale of Google’s London HQ being so comfortable and plentiful that some staff decide to live there indefinitely. Sleeping in the snooze pods, eating in one of the three 24-hour restaurants and presumably saving more than a fair amount of cash on those ever-expensive central London rent rates.
Although David did admit that such behaviour was ‘discouraged’. “It’s paternalistic, in many ways. It’s the employer trying to look like they’re ethical and they care”.
Robyn was asked about her thoughts on this trend for fabulous ‘dream’ offices, shrewdly replying “It sounds like home, but it’s not something I’d ever want. Terrible for work/life balance.”
- ENTREPRENEURSHIP STARTS WITH A REVOLUTION IN EDUCATION
Wayne asked the panel about how young people can be encouraged to become entrepreneurs instead of employees. “They have the ideas, they have the energy, they have the guts, how can we help them take that next step?”
Robyn presented an interesting take on a solution. “We need to teach confidence. Technical or theoretical skills are fine, but if you don’t have the confidence to put this knowledge into practice, what good is it? Employers need to do more too. They can’t just keep going on about the skills gap all the time, they need to do something about it.”
- FUTURE BUSINESSES NEED THERAPISTS & DOGS
Wayne asked the panel to predict the ‘biggest change’ the world of work will face. Jeremy talked about aging workforces. David talked about his belief that Brexit would ultimately bring greater change than many are expecting.
But it was Robyn’s answer (admittedly a bit idiosyncratic) that seemed to really say something about the convergence of work life and personal life. “This is a bit out there, but I think workplaces of the future will need a therapist. Employers will need to consider the emotional intelligence and wellbeing of staff more and more.
Wayne agreed, explaining that his office (House of Hemingway HQ) already has a number of therapists, in the fine form of ever-faithful dogs. “We’re a dog-friendly office and when there are no dogs the office feels very different. Who will we walk? Who can we cuddle? They change the environment so much, for the better.”
Overall this session was fascinating, funny and well thought out. It’s true, predictions about the future don’t always pan out, but by anticipating problems and debating solutions we prepare ourselves for challenges and strengthen our resolve for when (and if) those challenges arise.
This 40-minute session is one of many at #BusinessFest but it goes some way to tell you about the sheer variety and outside-the-box thinking we have seen this year.
Join us for our final day tomorrow. It’s all about sport, culture and travel, sadly no dogs, or therapists, but plenty of future thinking, discussion and debate. Here’s my big prediction. Our final day is going to be the best one yet. Join us.
Read more about the session's speakers:.
Director and Learning Designer
Founder & Fashion Designer
*The Future World of Work strand was brought to the Futures Stage by Culture Liverpool, which has - in partnership with Liverpool’s Foundation for Art and Creative Technology - commissioned artists to create a ‘series of provocations’ addressing the question: "With AI set to take up to half of human jobs in the next two decades, what does that mean for society?"