The orthodox canons around 9-to-5, office-centric work, and 8-to-2 “Old Schools” are delusions. The pandemic is not fading. We must reimagine our lives. More than half of the global workforce is functioning remotely. We are on the cusp of a prolonged period of hybrid working – from home and office in different proportions. COVID-19 has changed “the future of work”, even if we can’t envisage all the ways in which it will be different. Seventy-two per cent of all knowledge workers want a hybrid remote-office model moving forward. The new constellation of beliefs and practices will balance the efficiencies gained by remote work with the benefits of social interactions alongside the gains from creativity and innovation generated by working in person inside teams. This will happen in parallel with the tools we need in a digital-first world. Enterprises aiming for a competitive edge will drive engagement, achieve organisational agility, maintain alignment and empower teamwork across tasks and work sites.
Adopting a – “virtual-first” – approach will distribute the work across home, office and satellite midpoints. Workers will choose to work remotely or face to face (f2f) depending on the task. Inside virtual ready teams, managers will coach and motivate the squad. Data will be in the cloud. Access and security will be tailored for different working modes. Teams will use multiple Apps on platforms like “Slack” to achieve seamless virtual collaborations. This new culture prioritises trust and belonging.
We will retain the best parts of office culture while freeing ourselves from wasteful processes, from ineffective meetings and unnecessary bureaucracy. We will make new choices about where to live. Everyone will have clear expectations about flexibility, working conditions and work-leisure balance that we can’t ever undo. Government regulations that prescribe penalties for persistent irregularity and unpunctuality are now obsolete and are part of an aged mind-set from a previous era. Relics of past modes of control must give way to fresh ideas about managing productivity and how work is done. Rather than punctuality, regularity and presence, the promotion of teachers may soon pivot on the overall success or failure of the children attending the school to which the teachers are appointed. Digital schooling needs Internet Police who patrol the soft superhighways; watching traffic and on the lookout for predators.
COVID-19 has reconfigured the “jobs of the future”. So universities preparing students for those jobs and others which do not exist as yet, cannot carry on as before with the same old set of syllabi. Many old jobs will never return. New ones like data visualization whizzes are on the rise. COVID-19 has changed the skill set that employers are predicting that new workers will bring to the workplace or school. COVID-19 has shifted the value proposition of work and school. The employer must see at a glance the value that the new worker adds to the work that must be done.
Now it is work that chooses the worker. No one is expected to look for a job anymore. The work finds the skill or talent that is needed. Post-COVID-19 job descriptions that are managed and maintained by the CPO will headhunt the talent that is needed for senior civil service positions. So universities that offer useless degrees and teach outmoded skills will produce graduates who have no place in the future of work. What will happen in 2067? All of the students who graduated in 2020 will retire. But, from which jobs? Have we been preparing them for these new “jobs of the future” with old syllabi?
COVID-19 has subtly deepened the irrelevance of many work-less degrees that offer zero prospect of authentic employment. These shifts require universities and accrediting bodies to look closely at validation documents if learning organizations hope to benefit from tax payers’ funding for tuition expenses. Many beneficiary models consider employers, parents, society and the student as stakeholders who must contribute. Not just the treasury. These changes force degree programmes to be industry responsive and relevant. This in turn will create a shift from rolodex curriculum content to open source syllabus construction with industry experts, cutting edge behemoths and educators.
As businesses ditch strategic planning and opt for incrementalism instead, firms recognize that what they need most of all now are super-talented weirdos and misfits with odd skills and genuine cognitive diversity. COVID-19 makes existing recruitment models dilapidated. Timeworn job descriptions create moribund screening matrices that invariably exclude some of the most striking talent needed to move forward in a post-COVID-19 era. Even if we recognize that it is advantageous and in the best interest of the service that a vacancy be advertised to include persons not already in the service, we still face the conundrum of pre-COVID-19 job descriptions that anchor us in old ports that are distant from new destinations.
The implications for eligibility, appointments, and promotions are immense. COVID-19 has even revised the establishment books of schools. Primary schools now need an ICT non-academic staff to manage its leaning management system (LMS). This is not the faculty who teaches coding and IT. But a person who now manages the ICT backbone of the school keeping the child connected 24/7.