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Future of work

Technology offers flexibility in the workplace


Peter Cheese

Chief Executive, CIPD

The future of work has probably never been so hotly debated, from how AI and machine learning could displace skilled roles to robots taking on more manual tasks. For people, technology in all its forms can be both an enabler of better jobs and roles, or a disabler, reducing the human skills needed, and the autonomy that people have.

Finding the right balance that drives positive economic outcomes while also ensuring that people have meaningful roles has brought attention to the idea of ‘good’ work. National and local government manifestos increasingly feature the need to build an economy around ‘good’ or ‘fair’ work, encouraging us all to focus on people and not just technology.

Today, there are many challenges in the workplace. These include high levels of stress, low levels of engagement, jobs not utilising or developing people’s skills, slow progress on diversity and inclusion, and questions about leadership and management to name a few.

These issues affect individual well‐being and also their ability to be productive.

We must address these issues proactively, and certainly we cannot assume that technology by itself will somehow make this all better.

Technology can take us out of the 9–5

One of the great opportunities we have is in creating more flexibility in where, when and how we work. Our notion of a standard full‐time job has been with us for decades – the Monday to Friday routine of 9 to 5. Yet, so many jobs don’t have to work in this way, particularly with technology that can connect us wherever we are.

The future of work should be reimagined to see how technology can free us up.

Survey after survey shows that many people would like to be able to flex their work commitments and are looking for better work‐life integration.  More flexible working is also one of the most impactful ways we can create opportunity for everyone, helping to sustain more diverse workforces and access to skills.

Training managers to best support flexible workforces

The future of work should be reimagined to see how technology can free us up. To take away some of the more routine – and frankly duller – aspects of work, to enable good jobs and roles, and to allow us more flexibility in how we work. Mindsets and cultures will have to shift from the hierarchical, rules and process driven models of the past. We will have to train managers how to empower and manage more flexible, remote and diverse workforces, and to ensure that people are still properly protected, rewarded, and developed. That surely will help us all create better outcomes from work, for people, for organisations and for the wider economy.

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