The future of work

The switch of a significant percentage of humanity to remote and hybrid work is changing the way people see it and is likely to force companies to take a more individualised approach with each of their employees

Around 100 years ago, the economist John Maynard Keynes predicted a 15-hour working week. “He was so optimistic after the end of World War I that he thought robots would do the work for us”, said Paula Marques, executive director of Business Transformation at the Nova School of Business and Economics, on the day of the Galp Open Days event dedicated to changing the world of work. However, in order to further develop human intelligence when adding a machine, above all to work better rather than more, “we need to rediscover what humans do best, which can be used together with the best that machines have to offer”, she argued.

As far as Paula Marques is concerned, being at home and cut off has been a huge challenge to humanity. “It's one of the worst things that can happen to people and only usually occurs when a person is being punished”, she stresses, to defend that what happened to humanity, after a significant part of the population was forced to work remotely and, more recently, in hybrid mode, also needs to be studied based on anthropology, “in order to understand how we connect in a more digital world”, she explained. Focusing on our limitations enables us to understand how we can improve our connections, the way in which we communicate and establish a culture between us. And “due to the fact we need to be connected, we need to learn how to improve our communications to enable us to be together in the digital world”, she added.

Qualifying People

“One of the most important things is to provide people with the ability to define their limits in relation to working from home”, said Sofia Natal, Global Transformation Leader at IBM, adding that, given this, “the company gave them some ideas in relation to the company's values ​​and limits for accepting things”. In early March 2020, the month in which the confinement measures were implemented due to the pandemic, the company launched a commitment on what it would be like to work from home, “establishing guidelines for people to take care of themselves, to be more flexible with each other and to question the rules and to establish their own in accordance with the new requirements”.

In turn, Hector Ibarra, Regional Group Director at Fjord, Accenture's design and innovation consultant, said that when people switched to remote work, his company strove to replicate what takes place in the physical environment in digital format. “That´s what we did, regardless of the products or services we were creating, because that's what we knew how to do and what we could attempt to copy”, he explained.

Remote work instructors

However, due to the fact that new recruits “need to learn little things such as saying yes or no to leaders, reporting, etc.”, the company began a programme that provided the newest members with “a partner to support them and to monitor how they were progressing and what they were doing”. This is because “it´s hard to create a culture through the digital format, when we´re away from people and can´t observe how they behave and understand the way things happen in the workplace”, argued Hector Ibarra.

One of the first things IBM did when they closed their doors and sent their teams to work from home “was to appoint instructors to help both our own and our clients´ personnel in their work and the use of these tools in collaborating and communicating”, explained Sofia Natal. She also argued that one of the most important things in the world of work today “is for organisations to listen to their employees to obtain feedback on what is going on”, as “work will become increasingly personal”.

A study conducted by Accenture this year on the future of work revealed that “50% of those surveyed were rethinking their lives and more than 33% were planning to do so”, said Hector Ibarra. In other words, more than 80% were using the present moment to reassess their lives. A significant percentage also stated that the hybrid model will be the best option for work in the future. In his opinion, these results show that “there is a huge opportunity to rethink the way in which we are going to work in the future and to design products and services for the new needs being created”.

Integrated, but free

Personal change is a process in which we need to take into account not only what is changing, but each other´s values too. Things like “having a sense of belonging, of being involved and connected, while wanting to be different, free, and having a choice”.

Paula Marques defends this, emphasising that we mustn´t forget that people are very different and, therefore, “need to have different contracts with their employers”. She explains that what attracts and motivates a person´s choice has basically been the same “since Athens, before Christ and Florence and Lisbon in the 15th century to the present day”. She puts diversity in first place, or in other words, the possibility of a person being different in the teams and companies they work at. On the other hand, when a person joins a new company, they also want and need to learn. A person´s final basic need “is the mental freedom to acquire knowledge and to speak, and the physical freedom to travel or change, if they want”, added Paula Marques, pointing out that “we are now so focused on new trends that we forget everything that´s been with us for centuries and that will force us to find our future”.