The dawn of the new office: is this the end of management as we know it?

The dawn of the new office: is this the end of management as we know it?

The New Work Smarts report, the latest in the New Work Order report series from FYA, has found that in the future the way we do every job will change. By 2030, we are going to work more independently, require more initiative, and learn more on-the-job, rather than being instructed and managed daily.

The reduction in management will occur in part because many of us will increasingly work remotely, sometimes for ourselves and sometimes working for others such as sourcing work through digital platforms like Uber and Freelancer. To ensure we’re able to navigate this shift, educators and industry need to be developing the capacity of future employees to work autonomously, with reduced management, and a lot of self direction, equally to developing technical skill sets.

Tarah Barzanji, a Principal with the data analytics firm Alphabeta, who collaborated with FYA to deliver the New Work Smarts, explains that report surveyed all the activities or tasks that people do in their jobs, and uses this to forecast how those activities (and the skills required to perform them) would likely change in the future.

“We linked these activities or tasks to the skills that were required to complete them and found that skills such as management, instruction, and supervision were being reported less, including a substantial decline in the amount of time people were being supervised and coordinated,” Tarah said.

In some instances, the shift in workplace setting and environment may result from working primarily in online digital platforms (such as in marketing or IT), where staff are geographically scattered and are pulled together on project teams as needed. Whereas in other cases, people may decide to cut out the middleman and go directly to the customer or client, leaving less time for both management and instruction (such as with self employed freelancers).

“In the data, we see that people are being managed and instructed less. This may be because organisations and businesses are increasingly operating in flatter structures, replacing traditional hierarchy structure. Instead of having a direct supervisor everyday for your job, people may be forming dynamic teams around particular projects or tasks.”

“This means that employees need to be fluid and able to work collaboratively with other staff from different areas of the organisation.”

“There are many possible explanations for this phenomena. It might be that people are working more remotely and that organisations are structured in flatter, more open and collaborative styles. It could also be an increase in freelancing and casualised work or because people are working remotely for their company where the emphasis of work is online.”

Technology has also greatly enabled the flexible working life. But demand for digital access to services (for example lodging tax returns online) is an undeniable diver in the need for the workplace to change; public participation in digital life feeds compels industries and workplaces to digitalise.

So what can we do to prepare young people for these changes in the working world?

“One of the key findings from the report is that young people will need to learn on the job,” Tarah said.

“If we are going to be receiving less formal direction, we need to be continuously learning on the job and picking up things quickly; including integrating new data and technology into your working life constantly. This requires a different mindset in our education system. Young people need to be equipped with an openness of mind and a willingness to learn micro technology skills regularly, rather than thinking once their formal education is over, they won’t need to learn anymore.”

Employers, for example, can support young people by giving them space to do that learning, and supporting them to embrace new technology at work. For example an employer can encourage their staff to do a micro-credentialing course. By doing so, employers can value and encourage initiative, and support new ideas.”

These changes to work aren’t necessarily a bad thing. They show that Australian working culture is evolving to reflect the push and pull of the economic and technological environment. As our workplaces become increasingly transient and flexible, we need to prepare young people to be able to work productively and creatively in unconventional office environments.

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