The future of work is a subject studied by experts across disciplines, from technologists to human resources leaders, who usually project a range of scenarios of the future workplace.
The Institute for the Future of Work, a think-and-do tank in the UK, has adopted a different approach. It has produced a Good Work Charter to serve both policymakers and practitioners. The 10-point charter includes the notions of access (everyone should have access to good work), fair pay, fair conditions (everyone should work on fair conditions set out on fair terms) and equality.
The institute’s co-chair Naomi Climer, who was recently in Mumbai for the Engineering the Future of Work conference, spoke to Mint about the charter and the future of the workplace. Edited excerpts:
What’s the idea behind the charter?
We thought it would be helpful to describe what good work looks like because just talking about it felt a bit too general. The idea was to come up with something that would mean we could have a very structured conversation.
We did it because one of the things the Institute for the Future of Work wants to do is to come up with practical tools.
Although we are writing white papers, we also wanted to come up with some practical tools, which would help governments and businesses to think about goodwork rather than just work.
How could something like ‘good work’ help economic output?
My co-chair, the economist Sir Christopher Pissarides is convinced that work is a really good place to start if you want to build a strong economy and that there’s a big difference between good work and just work.
If you can focus on building good work, economic growth will just follow. He believes the two are inextricably linked because good work leads to productivity and productivity leads to a healthy economy.
And what about ethics?
The big focus at the moment we have on ethics is the fairness angle. In the work context, there are algorithms that are known to be biased, and they are the ones making decisions around recruitment and promotions. That’s a really tangible, immediate issue, which needs legislation and needs companies to be more conscious of.
The bigger ethical question is around the way data is being processed and whether that’s fair.
What are the differences between millennial and Gen Z workers?
From what my colleague Mandeep Maitra (chair of the IET Engineering Future of Work Steering Committee) was saying sometime ago, millennials are still looking for stability, maybe more than Gen Z. I think it’s a bit early to know just how true that is.
I do think that Gen Z wants to do things that matter and they seem to care as much about life, as they do about work. And I think that’s quite healthy.
I like that one of the things we think of at the Institute is that may be we should redefine work. So, bringing up children is work, doing something charitable is work, you may not be paid for it, it may not have a fancy job title, but we should just reconsider what work is anyway. And that if you’re contributing to society, in our minds that is work. And so, I think Gen Z have figured out that they want to do things that matter.
Millennials and Gen Z definitely seek flexibility in their work. They like the idea of being able to work from home. A friend’s daughter works for a company that allows its employees to work from anywhere in the world. She’s a software programmer and she’s based in western US. The company allowed her to go live in Barcelona for six months and work from there. It’s unimaginable that I would have had that kind of opportunity when I was her age.
So, I do think that the whole nature of what a job means and what working for a company means is going to change drastically.
Any observations for India?
If you can create good work in India, that could be fantastic for the economy but it will also impact the whole global future of work.