I took a Lyft to a meeting recently, and my driver was a highly educated, experienced, fascinating person who shares my passionate curiosity about everything. In a short ride, we talked about everything. He drives for the opportunity to talk to people and exchange ideas.
His newest insight? He says, “I’ve learned to want less.”
“It’s not difficult to do,” he told me.
We’re meeting a lot of people who are much less interested in these post-pandemic days in making their mark on the world and are much more interested in finding a comfortable place in the world of work. A lot of thinking has shifted from the job I gotta have to the job I can deal with. In many circles, ambition is plummeting like a bird that had a sudden heart attack in mid-air and is now lifeless, floating in the sea. In many circles, ambition is suddenly dead.
We’re finding people calculating the least amount of money they’ll need. These are not your slackers of the 90s. They are educated people with valuable skills who have always lived on middle-class or upper-middle-class incomes. They are not only defining how little they’ll need, they’re defining how little they’ll do. As much as possible, they’re done with work.
Those who define themselves as the new Digital Nomads are also a fascinating part of the new workforce. They’re not necessarily defining how little income they need or what are the boundaries on how much they’ll work, but where they are able to travel is more important than who they’re working for. They’re scanning for opportunities to work while they travel and a job that’s 100% remote lets them work from any location.
We’re living in a bi-polar employment world. Although inflation is astronomical, the economy is thought to be basically sound. Entrepreneurship is on the rise, with more new ideas than ever to create products and services for a better world. Some professionals are finding employment at twice the pay, although with a tech recession looming, some of these job offers are being rescinded. There is a round of job slashing in many of the technology sectors.
In a post-pandemic world of employment, the following seem to be some of the emerging realities:
- Work for Most of Us Is Fundamental. It’s a firm part of the human experience. It is built into how the world functions. We are made to build something bigger than each of us as individuals. People live shorter, less healthy lives when they don’t work. They are more susceptible to depression and ill health. The economy works on the basis of full employment and new generations of consumers.
- Remote Work Will Not Only Continue, But Grow. With the technology of today, remote work was inevitable even if there had not been a pandemic. It would have simply taken longer to become a part of the workforce. In many cases, even the hybrid model of some time in the office will be artificially unnecessary. The time clok—clocking in and clocking out—is largely a result of the Industrial Revolution and will continue to be the norm in manufacturing. Pre-Industrial Revolution, the majority of work was done remotely in homes and shops.
- 1099 Jobs Work Will Continue to Be More Attractive. People with marketable skills who work on an as-needed basis for companies will be in high demand and can command an excellent wage. They will need to be able to market themselves, but can achieve a good standard of living with a great deal of freedom as they grow their skills, network and marketing ability.
- AI Will Require People to Be Agile. I used to think that the rapid advance of AI would obliterate employment over the next twenty years, but I no longer think that. AI will eliminate jobs quicker, from grocery checkers to high-level surgeons. I believe that the same dynamics of technology creating more jobs than it eliminates is still true, but reinventing yourself for the jobs that will be created will require focus and agility to remain employed throughout a whole career.
- People’s Independence Will be Limited by Their Bills. Speaking quite bluntly, those who proclaim their independence from regular work will be strongly influenced by their bills at the end of the month. 😊 At some point the great resignation of the last months of the post- pandemic era will be jolted by the “great repentance” of finding that the end-of-the-month bills suddenly require more income than they thought. In quite a few cases work will remain a stark necessity.
The biggest challenge of the post-pandemic era will be holding a cohesive workforce together. We are convinced that electronic surveillance is not the answer. Employees in some cases find that their computers are programmed to deliver where their browsers and their brains have been that day. In some industries, productivity-monitoring is necessary because it’s a purely production job. In most cases, if an employer cannot inspire employees with where the company is going and what it is accomplishing, the organization cannot succeed.
We are actually quite passionate about the value of work and its amazing impact. In one generation people were cleaning lamps at home and lighting candles. A few decades later because of Thomas Edison, we were flying into brightly lit cities. There are organizations that are laying the foundation for tomorrow. Being a part of one of these organizations is a legacy that I believe is worth the effort.