It seems that the future is all that anyone wants to talk about these days. No matter the industry, “the future of _____” is a topic to be sure. In the automotive industry, companies are off the road to perfect self-driving vehicles. In the food industry, scientists have begun experimenting with lab-grown steaks in an effort to make agriculture and aquaculture more sustainable. In the world of finance, revolutionary technology brought by blockchain, in the words of KPMG, “poised to change the future of accounting, payments, trading, and collateral management.”
The future of laboratory, of course, is no exception to this course of discussion, In recent decades, the development of new communication tools and the exponential increase in the amount of data and information has also opened. A term which you can no doubt have come across is Work 4.0. While it may sound like a software update, it extends beyond the screen you’re reading this from. But just what exactly is Work 4.0? Simply put, the Concepts of New Work, Industry 4.0, and Work 4.0 all describe how to do it. However, to better understand what the future might hold, we need to take a look at our past.
Work 4.0: how did we get here?
The transition from hand production to machine production beginning in the 18th century-more commonly referred to as the Industrial Revolution marks a keystone chapter in human history. With the introduction of new production systems using water and steam, the physical power of machines has been learned. This newfound knowledge has achieved many aspects of daily life, and as a result, the world saw an unprecedented rise in population.
The Second Industrial Revolution continued to contribute to the rise of mass production with the help of electrical energy. Inventions such as the conveyor belt facilitated new technologies as well as the telegraph and railway networks, which in their turn contributed to the surge in movement among people-another keystone chapter for mankind.
The third revolution of work, known as the Digital Revolution, saw the replacement of mechanical devices and analogue electronics by digital technology. The sweeping changes brought on by the Digital Revolution include the widespread adoption and use of the computer, cellular phone, and the internet.
Up to now, the use of machines has been limited to helping humans in a physical capacity, through either power or agility. However, we are beginning to use the machine’s intellectual capacity, with the most prominent example of this being the self-driving car. And so here we are at Work 4.0, the fourth and latest revolution in the world of industry and laboratory.
Predicting the future of work through megatrends
Work 4.0 is not an airy, futuristic concept. Just like the previous previous revolutions that preceded it, Work 4.0 wants to embrace many aspects of our daily lives. There are many hypotheses we can make about what the future of work will look like by observing today’s megatrends. Coined in the 1980s by the American John Naisbitt, megatrends are long-term developments which have a global character, and whose momentum and influence over several decades.
Among the current megatrends identified by the Zukunftsinstitut, the following will have the largest impactin the way we work.
- Digitisation: In a 2018 report by McKinsey, it is estimated that 20-25% of all tasks in Switzerland may be automated by 2030. However, signalling a need for reskilling in the workforce.
- Connectivity: Along with digitisation, connectivity is one of the most influential megatrends of our time. Social media, instant messaging, and apps are setting a new standard for how to interact, connect, and collaborate with others. One of the challenges is to navigate through the new code of conducts of Work 4.0.
- Urbanisation: As more people flock to urban centres, cities are becoming powerful players in their own rights in the global economy. Concentrated areas like Silicon Valley have single-handedly been responsible for disrupting some of the world’s longest-standing business models. (Uber or Airbnb, anyone?) There is no doubt that in the future, urban areas will play a huge role in shaping the way we live, think, and work.
- The “Silver Society”: “Around the Globe”, “The Globe of the Silver Society”, “The Society of the Silver Society” surprisingly-work.
- Individualisation: With increased, connectivity, mobility, and longevity, we, therefore, see a trend toward greater individualisation. Those who are younger are discovering and embracing their freedom of choice: the freedom to decide where they live, what they consume, and how they work.
As these megatrends engender a new workforce that is more mobile and more flexible, it’s up to companies and policymakers to redesign the existing business models and policies to usher in this new era of work.
Viktor Calabrò is Founder and Executive Chairman of Coople, Europe’s largest on-demand staffing platform. He also co-authored the book Flexible Workforce and what was named Swiss Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst and Young in 2014.