The future of work and the workspace

Published: 11 July, 2016

Categories: General

The future of work and the workspace

Written by Helen Bührs
Principal and Managing Director of Inscape Education Group


The definition of work and its space according to google is the activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a result. The activity can be completed in isolation but typically we gather in groups to realise a result through team effort in a cohabited environment.

Similarly the definition of family; A fundamental social group in society typically consisting of one or two parents and their children cohabiting and completing mental and physical activity to achieve desired results indicate a pack mentality whether at work or home.

Research indicates that these definitions are outdated.

According to the Department of Basic Education, in 2008 some 481 994 ‘double orphans’ were enrolled in ordinary schools. Another 1 661 275 children whose mother or father had died (single orphans) were enrolled in school.

Two generations ago, the typical American family consisted of a father, a mother, and three or four children. In contrast, in a recent survey that asked respondents what constitutes a family, a woman in her 60s wrote the following: My boyfriend and I have lived together with my youngest son for several years. However, our family (with whom we spend holidays and special events) also includes my ex-husband and his wife and child; my boyfriend’s ex-mother-in-law and her sister; his ex-wife and her boyfriend; my oldest son who lives on his own; my mom and stepfather; and my stepbrother and his wife, their biological child, adopted child, and “Big Sister” child. Needless to say, introductions to outsiders are confusing (Cole, 1996: 12, 14).

These two vastly different parodies are indicative of the change in family structure and dynamics that we experience in 2015 globally. The result, the world’s future workforce battling the contrast of independence, lack of belonging, sustainability and self-indulgence expressed in a world where truancy is rampant and impacting communities at large.

In the UK alone truancy has soared by 40% in the last 20 years, with more than 62 000 children a year now skipping school without a good excuse. South African statistics of this nature are hard to come by, however, we understand that according to STATSA that 17.5 percent of children and 36.4 percent of youth aged 15 to 24 who dropped out of educational institutions cited a lack of money to pay for fees as the main reason for dropping out. By the age of 22, around 52.7 percent of youth were not attending an educational institution or working.

In a thesis on truancy, Gauteng psychologist Dr Monkie Muriel Moseki lists, among the reasons, personality factors such as poor social skills, learning problems, scholastic failure and low self-esteem; school factors such as poor facilities, poor teaching, overcrowding and bullying; and family factors such as poor parental involvement, child headed households, violence in the home and substance abuse.

The new norm.

Bring in the growing number of companies committed to re-imagining workspace, all of which offer open, collaborative co-working spaces, complete with on-site amenities and frequent networking opportunities to inspire collaboration, innovation and creativity.

The target audience for this disruptive model is the worker who is tech savvy, mobile, and sees work as an “experience” rather than merely a place to go to every day. According to Wikia’s “Limitless Generation” survey of around 1,203 Gen Z-ers, this generation spends almost every waking hour online, with only 44% reporting that they even “unplug” during religious services. The bottom line is that for this generation, staying digitally connected is like breathing. These youngsters are most likely from the complicated American family referred to previously.

According to Jeanne Meister on Forbes, for workers of all generations, working is now more than ever considered an “experience,” rather than merely the source of a pay check. I am, however, concerned that the attempt to create playgrounds in which the newest generation can be optimally productive forgets the deeper rooted issues brewing in the background.

A breakdown in societal groups as we know them by definition, whether simple and singular or complex redefines the individual within the pack. The change in the structure must impact on the way we engage with groups including those at work. An authenticity to each individual’s reality whether it be an intentional rebellion of the system, a truancy, if you like or an ambitious attempt at asserting ones sense of responsibility for a broken society will define company structures going forward.

The work environment of the future addresses the circumstantial needs of individuals. A space that provides individual connectivity – not necessarily in person to people who are independent from the system.

Individuals who realise their impact and yearn for a sense of belonging, however, aligning with a brand or corporate identity is a thing of the past.

Driven to regroup in an attempt to self-gratify and drive lifestyle in a perverse trusted online environment on the move, at the playground, multi eventing or whilst learning in spaces determined by each person’s chosen responsibilities.

We will see the rise of child headed companies made up of a diverse set of talents that engage outside of business hours using language and technology on their terms whilst achieving results instantly.