The way we all work is going to change. One of the biggest barriers to employment in the coming years will be the rise of technology. But there is a middle ground to be found, which will end the 9-to-5.
The idea of working five days a week with two day weekends and a few weeks of holiday each year has become ingrained in society. But it wasn’t always the case, and it won’t be in the future. I’m lucky in being able to work wherever I am, at any time, and don’t see work and play as separate – it’s all living. I think this will be the case for more and more people in the future, to the benefit of businesses, countries and individuals.
As Google’s Larry Page and others have said, the amount of jobs available for people is going to decrease as technology progresses. New innovations will drive industries forward, but they will also reduce our reliance on people power. Ideas such as driverless cars and more advanced drones are becoming a reality, and machines will be used for more and more jobs in the future. Even pilot-less planes will become the reality in the not too distant future.
On the face of it, this sounds like bad news for people. However, if governments and businesses are clever, the advance of technology could actually be really positive for people all over the world. It could help accelerate the marketplace to much smarter working practices. One useful idea is for governments to provide tuition for workers to gain the technical skills needed in the new marketplace, in exchange for public service. We need more creative solutions too.
Could people eventually take three and even four day weekends? Certainly. Will job-sharing increase? I think so. People will need to be paid the same or even more for working less time, so they can afford more leisure time. That’s going to be a difficult balancing act to get right, but it can be done. If it works for individuals and works for businesses, everyone would want to spend more time with their loved ones, more time exploring their passions, more time seeing the world outside of an office and more time getting healthy and fit.
We fully embrace flexible working at Virgin Management and believe giving people more options on how, when and where they work will only continue. If you trust people and treat them as adults, they will repay you by working effectively and efficiently.
Most people are either already working flexibly, or wish they could. Choice can empower people to make good decisions and feel positive about their workplace, helping to keep great employees and attract new talent. If we all work smarter, we won’t have to work longer.