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A commentary by Dr. Neha Chatwani, an organisational psychologist and founder.
The disruptive coronavirus crisis has mercilessly revealed the status of digitalization and technology literacy in the world of work across all industries. It has also provoked spontaneous business re-modelling and improvisation to ensure the survival of businesses and organizations.
Experts at the World Economic Forum have long suggested that eventually repetitive tasks will be replaced with technology and that new, more exciting high-skilled work will emerge. They have called on workers to engage in life-long learning, up- and or reskilling to remain productive and employable. At the same time, progress in the field of Artificial Intelligence has fuelled concern that tasks which require high cognitive abilities may also be carried out by machines in the future.
Dr. Neha Chatwani
... is an organisational psychologist with extensive corporate experience. She is the founder of www.theworkplaceatelier.com. As an academic lecturer and researcher, her published works include „Distributed Leadership“ (Palgrave 2017) and „Organisational Agility“ (Palgrave 2019).
The pandemic lockdown which offered a status assessment of this development presented a more differentiated picture. Most jobs in the healthcare industry, education as well as intensive manual labor jobs such as harvesters and construction workers could not be replaced easily. Most white collar workers could work remotely but were reminded of importance of human interaction for work. As technology develops further, harvesters may be found in android robots and virtual reality meeting rooms, may more closely emulate the true sensory experience of a real meeting. It is possible that in the future individual workers will be networked with each other from their homes and many may even be a part of different organizations, reflecting the predicted rise of the gig economy.
The pandemic has shown enormous social inequalities and the need for social protection and psychological safety in the world of work. The sharp increase in unemployment has not been balanced by the creation of new jobs and there is a staggering increase in mental health issues. In the new world of work mental health will be a central issue. Well-being is important for productivity and psychological safety is important for learning. Self-leadership and personal resilience will be imperative competencies for all workers and leaders will need to more closely embrace their duty of care. Work and workers can no longer be treated as a commodity. Humans will no longer simply be capital. In the shorter term, extensive reskilling will not ensure the needed talent. The war on talent will intensify, fuelling the importance of nurturing the employee experience at work.
In future, it is likely that we will work more flexibly committing to less and more valuable hours. The decrease in quantity of work will require a new definition of performance. This paired with the re-assessment of compensation frameworks, possibly in the spirit of universal basic income, will mean that we will no longer work for pay. The drivers for work will center around societal contribution and purpose. When this happens our notion of work is revolutionized and the dawning of a new economy in the 4th Industrial Revolution has arrived.
Author: Neha Chatwani
Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.