Work during the fourth industrial revolution

Julkaistu 08.01.2018. - Management Matters

There has been a lot discussion recently about whether your job will disappear due to automatization and robotization. Whilst this makes interesting reading, this discussion often fails to describe the new kinds of work that might be created, and how work may change rather than disappear. The future of work is not a new topic and this time attention is turning to how the so-called fourth industrial revolution will change the way people work in the future.

Research being carried out by a team at the University of Vaasa and Aalto Business School suggests that one way to describe what is happening as disruptive technology infiltrates the world of work is multiple forms of ‘decoupling’ – the decoupling of work and time, work and place, and work and employment.

In terms of work and time we are likely to see three main trends. First, work and society continue to ‘speed up’ which will increase the independence of work from the constraints of time. Improvements in computing power and real-time data mean that many work tasks will take less time. Second, there will be a gradual disappearance of the traditional 20th century 35-40 hour working week carried out as part of an 8-to-4 routine as technology enables people to allocate time across work, family and leisure more flexibly. Third, work and non-work domains will continue to blur. Technology enables people to use work time for non-work purposes such as personal emails, web-surfing and social media, which is increasingly seen as an acceptable way for employees to find work-life balance. However, technology also enables connection to work from home and during leisure time – the benefits of flexibility are offset by less time for relaxation and recovery.

The decoupling of work and time is closely linked with the decoupling of work and physical place. The future of work will be focused around the people we work with – networks – rather than a physical workplace. Looking at the greater use of teleworking and remote work arrangements, supported by mobile technologies, the future of work will be focused around the people we work with, rather than colleagues who sit in the same physical workplace. At the most extreme, we will we see more ‘digital nomads’, who combine virtual work and personal travel, becoming completely location-independent.

The decoupling of work and employment has already started. The rise of platform- and network-based organisations are transitioning work from traditional employment relationships to an entrepreneurial ‘gig-based’ economy, where employee-organization relationships become contracts rather than employment. In this world of work, your knowledge and skills become your ‘career capital’ and your career goals become a portfolio of interesting projects rather than a key position in one organisation.

The fourth industrial revolution will not only require organisations to rethink the organisation of work and how to manage a diverse range of digital workers. It will also require workers to rethink how they can thrive in a world of work that is less constrained by time, space and employment.


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Päivitetty 08.01.2018 - Verkkotoimitus