The New Year is a traditional time for predictions. So here are mine, for the workplace. I predict an end of work as we know it, of course. But don’t get jumpy – it’s not going to be here in 2008. It’s going to come sooner than later, as the next generation infiltrates the ranks of workers. The best way to be ready is to start adapting your thinking today, because the way we think about work now is going to become obsolete.
The end of gender disparity
Pay is equal for men and women until there are kids. This inequality will change when Generation Y starts having kids because the men are committed to being equal partners in child rearing. We see already that among Generation X men and women are willing to give up pay and prestige in order to get time with their families. Generation Y’s demographic power will provide critical mass for big change.
The end of the stay-at-home parent
Women have already widely rejected the idea of sacrificing their time with children to a relentless, high-powered, long-houred job, and men are following suit. Women have also found that staying at home with kids all day is boring. Institutions are responding — finally — to these trends. Parents will choose some form of shared care. Each parent will work part-time and take care of kids part time.
The end of the grind
People will choose to work as a way to keep the job of raising children from being dull and alienating. The Washington Post reported that given the choice, most women with kids would rather work part-time than either be with kids full-time or work in an office full-time. People will choose to work because they love what they do. Generation Y is more community oriented and team oriented than any preceding generation. These people will want to work to be part of something larger than themselves. Also, this generation sees work as a path to personal growth – something to look forward to.
The end of “work friends”
Peoples’ networks will be filled with close friends who do not distinguish between work/family/play. As people create more integrated lives, their friendships will also be more integrated. Peoples’ work habits and work connections will make daily life look more like a salon than an office.
The end of office life
People will work from home, from their friends’ homes, from the beach, all the time. The need to have a home office will decrease because Generation Y will never really learn how to work 9 to 5 in an office anyway. They grew up blending homework and friends while they multi-tasked in their bedroom, and once they enter the workforce, they extend this behavior to everywhere — work life and home life will be blended in a way that makes each more rewarding.
The end of consulting
Everyone will be a consultant so the term will be useless. Employers will decrease costs by making almost everyone a consultant. Employees will push for this to get more flexible hours. People already feel no long-term loyalty, and people are already project-focused instead of job-focused. On top of that, everyone wants to be a consultant “if they could just build up a clientele.” One of the best harbingers of this trend is Web Worker Daily – a blog aimed ostensibly at people who do not have cubicle jobs, but appears to apply to every worker in some way or another.
The end of hierarchy
Pecking order really only matters if you are hanging out at the office all day, reinforcing ranks. So the less time people spend at their desk, the less they will care about rank. And the more people are on their own, the more they will focus on their own skill set. There is little point in climbing ladders when you know they won’t be around at one place long enough to hit every rung. The question people will ask managers is not, “When can I get a promotion?” but rather, “What can you do to help me expand my skills set?”
So what does this mean for you? Don’t be constrained by old ways of thinking. And don’t be scared of big change. If you are honest with yourself about what you’d really like for your life, you’ll probably find that you fit in just fine with the future of the workplace. For most of us, it can’t come too soon.
The changes that are coming to the workplace reward people who have strong relationships, entrepreneurial spirit, and a talent to leverage. People who don’t love their work won’t get any. People who don’t have strong personal ties will have no idea what the point of work is. I think this is all good news, even for those who hate change.
But I wonder, what do you guys think of these predictions? Do they seem right to you? Am I missing something? Have some things already happened? Are some things so far off we shouldn’t even be talking about them? Tell me what you think.