Re-humanisation of Work
So, Coronavirus has accelerated an already emergent phenomenon that is rapidly becoming part of the much-heralded “new normal”; digitally-enabled remote working. This much is very clear by now, but who will decide what’s normal in the post-crisis world? Give yourself a pat on the back if you thought, “middle-class, middle-aged white men” and then an extra one if you immediately thought, “.. and it’s not changing fast enough!”
Female energy and wisdom have always been a driver for civilisation’s most impactful innovations but so too have the accolades been attributed to dominant male voices by self-serving sycophants. The patriarchy, with its insidious male voice choir that sang its hymns of tacit oppression, is slowly and irreversibly being silenced. Today’s workplace is about borderless collaboration, slower and closer and therefore more intimate. For some, this will be a tricky concept to embrace, because the 20th-century notion of a workplace encased by bricks and mortar is baked into the psyche. After all, work is work, isn’t it? Someplace we go to; do the job and then go home to “kiss and cat” and “kick the spouse”; or the other way round if we’re lucky enough not to be traumatically confused.
Change is rarely easy and often discombobulating. Full engagement and highly tuned communication skills and emotional literacy are basic requirements to get out of then starting blocks. The workplace is being rehumanised as we enter a cycle of economic reconfiguring that invokes the 18th-century preindustrial era of the cottage industry, with the labour of highly skilled individuals shaping the templates of tomorrow’s factories. When the COVID fog lifts, the newly envigorated digital communities will have forever redefined what it means to be “place-based”. It’s has come to mean self-organised, self-determined and inertly creative. Corporates will continue to drift toward the low-overhead possibilities of digital working as long as the work gets done within the delivery window. But the 21st-century watercooler chats have escaped the corporate corridor; they are online, emancipated and shaped by humanity.
Working is Learning
Meaningful work has always been about learning to navigate uncertainty. In the old days, it was something that distinguished management and staff; the waged and the salaried. Staff worked by the clock to get the work done and the management team were expected to go the extra mile to provide the structural bulwark that dealt with the organisation’s wider needs. The resulting disparity was a black hole of organisational denial which was filled by the dark art of Human Resources whose quasi management role was to contrive practices for nurturing cohesion and corporate trust while keeping disputes away from the purview of lawyers and courtrooms.
“This is a Show Tune but The Show Hasn’t Been Written for it Yet!”Nina Simone
Fast forward to today and the structures may have changed some but they have not kept pace with humanistic needs and expectations of the people at the core of the industrial machine, workers. Therefore the disparity still exists and in some cases is widening. Although new structural proxies have emerged to bridge the gap, this time around the game has changed. The Vesuvian tools mentioned earlier that once were the preserve of the corporate wizards are now busily cultivating the muddled-middle. In the right hands, they are creating a new ground force of creative endeavour. The “gig economy” is a valiant attempt to put a name to a phenomenon. However, as Nina Simone put it, it’s a show tune alright but the show hasn’t been written for it yet.
It’s an economic challenge on a scale never seen before. What hasn’t changed at all during all this time is the fact that humans have a fundamental need to connect in order to make sense of any environment we inhabit. The instinct that guided us from era to era has simply become one of the most important skills for navigating the madness of the 21st-century in terms of the data tsunami we endure daily and which shows no sign of abatement. These skills offer critical layers of protection for us and we have in our hands the levers of control, free at the point of delivery and extremely powerful if used with skill and purpose. Otherwise, we can be sure we are the raw material from which the 21st-century powerhouses will fashion their products and erect new cathedrals to untouchable idols with unassailable powers.