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.

82 replies
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  1. Celeste
    Celeste says:

    Can’t come soon enough for me. But what about health insurance? No longer employer-based? One spouse is going to have to have a traditional job to get health insurance. Or the worker himself if he or she isn’t married.

  2. Scott Messinger
    Scott Messinger says:

    Before you get the deluge of comments about why this won’t work, just let me say that it sounds like a reasonable view of the future.

  3. Tiffany Monhollon
    Tiffany Monhollon says:

    I agree that things seem to be trending this way, and that the evolution – or revolution! – won’t all be seen in the coming year. I think the concept of total life/work convergence these trends point at is what a majority of people want. And they are becoming more possible through technology, and policy is slowly, slowly following after. It will just be a matter of organizations choosing to align to this or not, and that will be interesting to watch. Because culture plays so heavily into these decisions – organizational culture as well as geographic culture.

  4. Lauren
    Lauren says:

    As a Gen Y’er I love what you say and I agree 100%. You hit it in the second paragraph when you say “Generation Y's demographic power will provide critical mass for big change.” I know my generation has some faults, but I think our outlook on living a well-rounded, meaningful life and integrating our work & personal lives will help make change for the good.

  5. Amy Vachon
    Amy Vachon says:

    I love your predictions! It made me smile very widely to read your vision of both parents working part time and caring for their children part time. This is my life, and I love it!

    And you are spot-on in pointing out that our work/life choices will be dictated by our wish for happy lives rather than our settling for drudgery. This point is missed in almost everything I read about men doing more childcare or women working more; articles drone on about how this is happening because something external is forcing men to diaper and clean and women to work. No! Let’s make this about men WANTING to be with their kids and be full partners at home, and women WANTING fulfilling careers. Life is good.

    My husband and I are dedicated to helping bring these changes along, and it is great to read them today in your words. Thanks, Penelope, for a fabulous post!

  6. Alexandra Levit
    Alexandra Levit says:

    Love it, Penelope, and it all sounds pretty plausible to me. Realistically, though, I think we're going to see these changes implemented en masse over the next 5+ years. Once again, great thinking!

    Best,

    Alexandra Levit

  7. Dale
    Dale says:

    Penny,

    In my humble opinion, there will always be hierarchy. Humans are at heart wedded to the concept of the pecking order.

    At times, that hierarchy will be flatter than others, but there will always be one.

  8. holly
    holly says:

    Here’s hoping you’re right! Seems awfully idealistic… the product of a generation with no real disaster, war or economic crisis, I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. Too good to be true.

    As to healthcare, “traditional” workplaces are offering less and less anyway.

  9. Mohamed Shedou
    Mohamed Shedou says:

    I think these predictions sound more like dreams of visions of what we wish the future and life to be. However I am not against that, it’s good to dream, that’s how creativity and change take place. But I do think that most of these things are already happening and will probably continue to grow, in my opinion they will not be the general rule any time soon. They will be the choice of some people, not of all, and more important, they will simply not be possible as a CHOICE for all.

    I like one reader’s comment about health insurance. My dream is we’ll not need health insurance anyway. The same way every one will be consultant in the predictions, everyone will know how to take care of their health. The ugly practices of medicine and drug companies today will no longer be there, and people will believe in natural healing more than drugs :)

  10. Jeff
    Jeff says:

    You seem to assume that Gen Y will change the workplace rather than that the workplace will change Gen Y. We’ve seen a similar situation turn out differently as the hippies became the yuppies and corporate america failed to embrace free love. I don’t expect this generation to turn out differently. The status quo is a result of a certain optimization over hundreds of years and the problems that remain remain because they are hard problems. That being said I do hope to see a shift toward more equity in parenting.

    As opposed to some of the other commenters I see the shift towards blended work life/consulting to be horrific. The reason employers are pushing for this shift is that it frees them from certain legal restraints (limitations on when they can fire, duty to provide benefits, labor unions) which means the shift is a net gain for employers and a net loss for employees. I think your tendency to romanticize the “blended” life comes from consulting too much with 20-somethings who are healthy, don’t have dependents, aren’t thinking about retirement, and can move back home with mom if they get fired. Also it’s one thing to give up “messing around with MySpace or Facebook” as your guest blogger said to work on an office memo and quite another to cancel going to a movie with your kids because a manager just emailed you and needs that memo now.

  11. Lauren
    Lauren says:

    Regarding “The end of consulting,” this is already happening in some locations. Just yesterday, freelancers at Viacom walked out and some of them have been “consulting” for as many as three years, without the same benefits enjoyed by full-time employees.

    http://gothamist.com/2007/12/11/viacommie_freel.php

    I agree with Jeff’s comment about the ramifications of this shift (particularly in regards to employee protections and benefits). I also recognize that some companies want to actually keep their talent and may not be so keen to adapt this model. I consulted earlier this year at an organization where a good deal of employees had been consultants that were later brought on full-time. It will be interested to see how that prediction plays out.

  12. Shane
    Shane says:

    I find many of your remarks to indicate not a revolution, but a return. When I think of how things used to be 80, 100 years ago (in general here – of course there were exceptions), yes it was a man-work, woman stay-at-home, but if you look at what was actually going on, the single wage that was “earned” by the man was supplemented in many ways by work that the woman did – sewing, perhaps selling produce from the home, etc. In addition, the woman didn’t sit at home and do nothing – that is boring, you are right, but they never did. They were active in their community, their church, local clubs and service organizations. In those days such organizations had no paid staff, all the women who worked at them volunteered. Now, they are all paid, in the name of “equality” so that women feel “valued”.

    What we’ve just done (or are doing) in the changes you foresee is to continue to tie men and women’s worth to their income, their cash flow, their salary. Volunteerism is devalued, and more and more people continue to become more self-absorbed and self-focused, to the detriment of all. Instead of thinking in terms of community, or in terms of family as a unit, and finding value in contribution to that unit, we continue to be broken down into individuals, and family is becoming more and more an arrangement of convenient alliance.

    So yea, you’re bang on, but I don’t see these changes as positive.

  13. Milena
    Milena says:

    While I think the ideas outlined above are great for someone like me who hopes to have kids and still work, I think a few things must be considered.

    Changes such as these should happen organically, not by arbitrary government rules. In France for example, there are mandated laws that have the noble goal of making the work experience more equitable. Workers can’t work over a certain number of hours for example, and the French government claims its for their own good. The problem is, there are still workers who WANT to put in more hours, but now they can’t.

    And these are just the kind of people who will continue to be a force to be reckoned with. You cannot ignore that there are workers who ARE willing to sacrifice family, health, etc. in pursuit of prestige and wealth. I think these individuals will continue to earn the highest pay and best positions because of those sacrifices.

    Additionally, when we are competing globally with countries and workers who are thirsty for what we've enjoyed for a long time, they are going to work harder, better, faster, and smarter than us. Has anyone read “The World is Flat by Thomas Friedmand?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_World_is_Flat

    If you are at all interested about the future job market and economy, you might want to. Or for a more cerebral read, try Brink Lindsey's “Against the Dead Hand”

  14. Nick
    Nick says:

    Sounds like it would be a nice world, but I’m a little skeptical.

    A lot of this is predicated on employees “holding the hammer” in terms of power in the relationship. That makes sense if the workplace shift due to demographics plays out the way some commentators think it will. But the world has a way of evolving in unpredictable ways. And worker power goes out the window if the economy tanks. Gen Y has not lived through a tough job market – ever.

    A couple specific points – “The End of the Grind” assumes that people have an OPTION to pick and choose when and where and how much they work. Not everyone has the option to pull down $90k+ and ramp down work hours. Many will continue to struggle to make ends meet, to feed the family, to pay the mortgage (or rent). You can be as community-minded as you like, but when you’re deep in debt your choices are considerably more constrained.

    “The End of Hierarchy” – whether we like to admit it or not, people actually like hierarchy. They like to know where they sit in the ladder. Compensation and perks are generally tied to some type of hierarchy – unless everyone works on commission. As an interesting proof point, the founder of McKinsey Consulting tried to eliminate hierarchy, with just three levels in the organizations. Very quickly, the employee base latched on to administrative designations and turned them into hierarchical levels, despite the founders best efforts (an interesting example of employee democracy). Eschewing the hierarchy is generally something people do once they’ve climbed it and satisfied themselves where they sit (or can sit) in it.

    Anyway, I enjoyed the post and found it thought-provoking, but I can’t help thinking that the predicted changes, if they come to pass, will accrue largely to a hyper-educated professional elite and not the masses.

  15. Milena
    Milena says:

    IN CONCLUSION: (the rest of my comment was cut off sorry for being annoying)

    Er, of course only after you've read Penelope's book – : )

    These books will blow your mind, taking your conception of what it will take to compete in the job market to the next level.

    The hard work mentality won’t go away. Even if American Gen Yer's want it – what about the other countries who are still living in the equivalent of our Wild West? China? India? These workers are smarter than us and will not be whining for flex time. At least, not yet.

  16. Kenneth W. Gronbach
    Kenneth W. Gronbach says:

    Penny,
    I enjoyed your predictions. My views on the work place are very macro and I see changes more dictated by the sizes of successive generations as they migrate through the work force. Generation X for instance will probably enjoy the changes you list as they will forever be in the driver's seat because for every ten jobs the Boomers leave behind there are only nine Xers to fill the seats. A sellers market. Generation Y, on the other hand, is huge and will overwhelm the job infrastructure exited by the Xers. They will experience high unemployment and make many concessions in a buyers market. One thing is for sure, we will see unprecedented diversity even at the “C” level because the bigots of the G.I. Generation who have held major board seats are almost all dead.
    Ken Gronbach

  17. Norcross
    Norcross says:

    Most of this sounds reasonable to some degree, but I’m not sure I’m on board with the blending of the “work friends” idea, at least for people in a more standard office setting (which I don’t believe will ever go away).

    While I do have some friends at work who I also spend time with outside of the office, the vast majority of people aren’t in the same vein as me when it comes to art, music, movies, politics, etc. These people, while certainly nice people and I have no issue with, I’d have ZERO interest in spending my “personal” time with. And I’m sure they’d say the same as me.

  18. Jeff K
    Jeff K says:

    I would view it more as the end of “big” consulting, or rather the flattening of consulting as companies (and people) realize you don’t need to be big and famous to add value to an organization. With all their job-hopping and desire for responsibilities, I expect to see more 20-somethings consulting to Fortune 500 companies.

    I don’t think this will be a problem for “regular” employees. Like Lauren mentioned, if anything, it could make companies work even harder to keep the ones they have.

  19. Lucky Kalanges
    Lucky Kalanges says:

    Love the concept, but I’m not so sure. Maybe for 20% of the workforce the physical workplace is unnecessary, but there is still a huge number of jobs that require that people to physically be in the same place. No advance in technology will ever change that.

    But I’d love the workforce get greener, healthier, better balanced lives. Companies will someday realize this kind of workforce is better for the bottom line than what we have now.

  20. Charlie
    Charlie says:

    To add to “the end of the grind,” I predict that the microbusiness will be king.

    It is getting easier than ever before to start very small enterprises with which people can make a living doing something they love. This is because technology has lowered barriers to entry and made costly advertising obsolete. You don’t need to sign a lease to open a shop, and everyone skips commercials with DVR.

  21. Delaine
    Delaine says:

    definitely see the work place bending to the pressures of gen Y for life balnce that works especially for child rearing and parent care.
    Hierarchy though will continue to be important (1) hierarchy will reinvent themselves to remain relevant especially for seeing trends and changes needed to grow, (2) we’ll still have too much to do so we have to decide who to keep happy and hierarchy will find it’s way in the priority even if we’re not staying at this job for the next 30 years.
    I doubt most of these things will “end”, but that there will be more flexibility and ownership for figuring out how we work best.

  22. Kathryn
    Kathryn says:

    I just want to know when we get the flying cars ^_~ (Man, I hope I’m the first to make that joke.)

    I don’t know, Penelope, this all seems a bit too Utopian to expect it anytime soon. I think most of these changes won’t be implemented to any significant degree until 15-30 years from now when Gen Y fills most of the positions of power. Even that timeline assumes that (1) the attitude of Gen Y has not changed and (2) Gen X actually retires on schedule. Given the model of the Boomers, I’m not sure that I would bank on 1 and I’m not too confident about 2, given the advances of modern medicine and the fiscal irresponsibility of modern Americans.

    On the other hand, change won’t happen unless you work for it. So maybe convincing myself that all of your points are true will help make it so.

  23. Matt Bingham
    Matt Bingham says:

    I believe things are heading in that direction already. But I wonder how far it will go. I mean, think of it – A company could have employees all over the country. Could a project really get done with a disconnected project team. I say yes. The biggest road block is people need to touch, fell, and smell what they are working on and trying to pry themselves away from that mindset will be a challenge.

  24. Jennisess
    Jennisess says:

    Some of these “predictions” may come to pass, but if they do, it’s only because they’re already taking place. I think it’s really presumptuous for everyone to keep assuming that Gen Y is going to change the workforce-the only thing that Gen Y has changed so far is the fact that now instead of getting a job and taking care of themselves after college, they move back home with their parents and try to “find themselves” for ten years. I am only in my early thirties but having worked as a recruiter and manager for most of my working life, I can say that many Gen Y’s I have interviewed are unmotivated and not driven at all, and for those who do have a little ambition, they quickly transform themselves into the mirror image of their Gen X counterparts when they move into the working world. While it may also be true that the option set flexible hours may be a growing trend in companies where their product is service or consulting, businesses that actually produce a viable product require more structured environments that do not allow a high level of flexibility. While it would be wonderful to think that everyone would have the opportunity to have a great work/life balance and set their own hours, it’s highly unrealistic to expect that it will ever be an option for more than those who already have a high level of autonomy in the workplace.

  25. Phil
    Phil says:

    I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who was thinking of those ad’s in the 50’s of the homes of tomorrow and how things will be…jetpack included.

    I am sorry, but the Gen Y stuff is just another fad on how to stereotype a group. What happened to the Gen X’ers everyone was worried about. How have they revolutionized the workplace? It will be the same with the so called Gen Y’ers. The whole thing with the Gen Y’ers are that they were raised with more “me” in their philosophy than the previous groups. Does that mean they will change the work place? Nope. All that means is that they will try to get their way in whatever they do until they realize it isn’t working. Companies are not adopting the philosophies PT preaches. My place of employment even took away jeans Fridays because it was being abused and looked unprofessional, so we definitely aren’t being swayed by Gen Y philosophy.

    Gen Y’s vast demographic are not going to be a strength in numbers movement that causes these “revolutionary” changes. There will just be a lot of unemployed snots because they don’t know how to adapt themselves.

    Women don’t stay at home anymore because it is hard too financially. Those who do stay home and hate it are just like any of our mothers who did the same thing. Boredom isn’t a new concept. It is harder now though because with college education being more prolific, that means large social circles are lasting longer than they did say 30 years ago when high school was the end of the big socialization. Now females are extending that social circle much longer because of the great increase in numbers of females going to college and beyond, so when they do stay home, it is much less tolerable being alone.

    I don’t buy into this Gen Y revolution at all. I am not saying you have to work yourself to death, but you cannot expect a company to bend over and take one for the team because you don’t like the rules already in play. There is nothing wrong with wanting an easy job that pays great. I am still looking for the opening for TV or mattress tester, but until I find it, I have to work my day away like everyone else and I don’t blame my company for it either.

    P.S. I am still waiting for the self cleaning bathroom.

  26. Dave Atkins
    Dave Atkins says:

    I think these are trends for the future yes. But they are trends within the large company, white collar sector of employment. The same forces–generational change and information technology–will have profound impacts on working and service class workers and I just don’t see the same outcomes as likely. There are many combinations likely in the future. That’s good because not everyone wants to live the way you describe. So I don’t think it’s all going to change, but there will be more options.

  27. LP
    LP says:

    There is a saying in Vietnam: “When the old men die off, we’ll have liberation.” The young folks were saying this about communism, but it’s true also of the tyranny of the workplace (at least in highly developed countries). I’ve seen the changes that Penelope lumps together as ‘gen-y’, and they’re happening, but only as the older, wedded-to-work employees retire. So these changes are most obvious in the young industries, like anything related to the web. However, an interesting problem here is that the baby boomer gen is not all that eager to retire — they’re healthier and sticking around longer, so we can expect to see that in non-youth-dominated industries, these changes could be a LONG long time in coming. Literally, not until the ‘old men’ die out.

  28. BadgerFan
    BadgerFan says:

    I like the idea of no stay at home parents and more sharing, but this assumes that there is income equality to start. There are many marriages where individuals have selected professions with wildly different pay scales (ie a doctor and a teacher).

    When the time comes for child care you may want to have the shared care scenario but it may be financially impossible. The value of each partner’s time is so different in terms of income that it would make no sense to split care time 50/50.

    Very interesting ideas though.

  29. Jim C
    Jim C says:

    I’m sorry to say it, but this column strikes out.

    We already have people who work part-time and telecommute so they can stay at home. It’s called the “mommy track,” and no one takes those people seriously, career-wise. They have chosen a career path with no prospects for advancement, no management potential, and no direct contact with the customer. They also have limited themselves to the kind of work that can be done at a desk. (And that is very limiting!)

    You predict the end of office life. Well, maybe. But most people don’t do their work in offices! You can’t telecommute if you drive a bulldozer, a delivery truck, or a combine, or work in a laboratory, a retail store, a factory, a forest, a mine, a hospital, or a school. For the people who produce goods and the people who serve other people directly, there will always be “office life,” although it isn’t in an office.

    You predict the end of hierarchy. I have just one question: Who will sign the paychecks?

  30. Colin
    Colin says:

    Unfortunately most of my points have been made already, but just so we’re clear:

    1) demographic mass = buyers’ market for labor, not a quorum for change.

    2) Not all jobs can be delivered via telecommuting

    3) Apparently we’re not typical, but the missus stays at home with the kids, which she finds substantially less dull than being on a corporate grindstone – and she’s one of a good number that we know who are doing the same thing.

    4)

  31. Austin
    Austin says:

    @Shane

    It’s funny how you never see people clamoring for men to contribute the community by working free. I’m not sure what the quotes around “equality” are supposed to be saying here. The fact that I want to get paid for my skills just like you do is no joke.

  32. Colin
    Colin says:

    blast, hit enter too soon…

    4) “the end of work friends?” No thanks, I want to talk about something different with different faces who share my interests, not my i.d. badge. 40 – 50 hours a week is enough.

    5) blending work and life? Look, I am happy to trade approximately 2000 labor hours per year for my salary, and I’m willing to work odd hours when required – but it’s a job, not the core focus of my life.

    Some of the items on this list are perfectly laudable employment goals, but a large portion of it reads as “if I think it’s a good idea for me, then it’s a good idea for everyone.” You may want your employment to define and consume your life in some kind of overwhelming convergence of Calvinism and externally-oriented self-actualization*, count me out.

    *culturally Calvinist, not religiously Calvinist.

  33. jcricket
    jcricket says:

    Penelope’s first problem is that she thinks all this will be a good thing or is a result of actual desires to move in this direction by the workforce at large.

    For example, more women work mostly because income has stagnated for the middle class and expenses have not. “Household income” has only risen to the extent that a second person now has an income.

    If income inequality goes away it’s because everyone is being paid (comparatively) less, not because women are making more.

    More people blend work/life because their employees demand more work than can be done in a normal day, so there’s no option not to work from home, in the evenings, on weekends.

    Plus, the whole “we’re all consultants” completely ignorant of the reality of everyone outside of the privileged few who might actually be able to make demands on their employers.

    The idea that the next 20-30 years will be transformative in a positive sense for the average worker is just laughable, unless we start recognizing the growing disparity between the power of corporations and individuals.

    Otherwise “free agent nation” is not a boon, but a massive problem for almost all those that forced into it.

    Penelope – I suggest you take off the rose colored glasses and talk to some real people (not 23-25 yr old bloggers prattling on about work they’ve never done). Read “The Great Risk Shift” by Jacob Hacker, or “Nickled and Dimed” by Barbara Ehrenreich. Study some basic economics and get back to us when you understand where the world is actually going.

    Then maybe you’ll understand while some of your points are correct, none are a good thing.

  34. Arlene
    Arlene says:

    Penelope, all that sounds great. But I’m firmly on the side of jcricket (above). Sounds too good to be true because..it is.

    I just don’t see where American workers have any leverage. If companies don’t want to pay for Americans, however talented, connected, and hardworking they might be, they will outsource entire lines of business to India or China in a heartbeat. Americans have been scrambling for 30 years to learn ever-newer computer technology, devouring books on career change, and endlessly upgrading their credentials. Despite all that hustling, wages have remained stone-flat for the same period.

  35. Wendy
    Wendy says:

    Many of these predictions will require changes to how people live in cities. Old style sprawl will not allow for new styles of working. How can you balance work and parenting if you live 50 minutes from your employer or your clients or the people you need to collaborate with. Yes, sometimes you can use technology but sometimes there is no substitute for F2F.

    I blogged about this in more detail at allaboutcities.ca

  36. leslie
    leslie says:

    This future will work best in countries that have national health care plans that cover all workers regardless of whether they are employed at a big corporation or work with a variety of clients via the internet.

  37. Kathy S
    Kathy S says:

    I don’t know about working part-time but when I have kids I would want to work less overtime and the same for my husband. We’d probably opt for time off instead of cash bonuses and try to find jobs that don’t involve too much travel. Unless you’re workign at McDonald’s how can you just get your employer to let you work part-time? But, yes, working from home part-time is definitely a possibility for us. But, just like you left New York to go to Wisconsin, I’m probably going to leave California and go somewhere with a lower cost of living. I think this is a new trend, leaving big cities to afford a house.. at least during the years that you are raising kids.

    I agree about the work friends bit. I’m friendly with everyone, especially in California it’s very laid back here. I chat with co-workers all day using a chat application and we always talk about stuff from outside work. Plus, we added each other to facebook and that led to inevitably talking about our personal lives.

    I don’t want to be a consultant? I heard the pay is good.. but you’re overhead to any company you work for and you’re easily disposed of. And, you have to constantly change job sites. Too much adjustment for me.

    Yes, Hierarchy is dying although it certainly isn’t dead.

  38. Jeff C
    Jeff C says:

    In every generation, there are people who will maintain the status quo, and I’m willing to bet that those people are more likely to be promoted (and thus preserve the status quo). With that said, I can see some of these changes coming, just as more people demand them, and more companies offer them as a way to attract talent – or get talent to stay.

    I’m definitely a fan of flex time, and I can see the blending work and home life coming into play. Especially lately, I’ve wished that I could work on some of my projects at home, just because it’s a better environment. I do better when I’m in a comfortable environment that doesn’t include tons of distractions, and why anyone thought that cubicles were a good idea is beyond me. Work is important to me, something I take personally, and I’d rather bring something home and do a good job on it than leave it at the office and let it be mediocre. Though I don’t want to bring it home every night, either… I have a life, too.

    As I was reading these, what struck me was that so many of them were about people with kids. What’s going to happen to those of us who don’t have kids (and may plan on not having kids)… will we get similar allowances and opportunities, or will we be left at the office picking up the slack?

  39. Jo
    Jo says:

    A very interesting topic you have brought up! But I disagree with some assumptions you have made.

    The end of gender disparity and The end of the stay-at-home parent:
    I tend not to agree with you on this point because we have seen a trend in the opposite direction.

    Highly educated women with high powered jobs are dropping out of the workforce and choosing to stay home to raise their kids. This was not anticipated by feminism and I dont see the trend moving in the opposite direction anytime soon.

    Of course there are men who do the same thing but the ratio is like 1 man for every 99 women who choose to stay at home.

    Lets face it; earning a living fulltime in the workplace can be very stressful and women have realized that having the option of staying home is not such a bad gig!

    Another reason that I dont see the end of the stay-at-home parent (mom) is because women will have to give up too much in order for men to stay at home as much as women do now.

    The fact is that, contrary to popular belief, women are valued much higher than men in our society. That’s crazy you say? Let me explain:

    If you work backwards from what skill level it takes for an individual to reach a certain standard of living, women can reach the medium standard of living which I think is about $40,000 a year just because of the value of her potential as a mother and male companion.

    A man on the other hand must develop skills in order to reach the medium standard of living. Rarely can he be a skilless stay-at-home-dad and reach the medium standard of living. Of course it happens but how many women marry “down”, really? Very few. Even Maureen Dowd wrote that educated skillful women still marry “up” these days.

    So in order for there to be egalitarian parenting in a relationship where both roles are the same, women will have to actually reduce their standard of living a great deal in order for this to occur. I dont see this ever happening.

    Anyway, that is my 2 cents. So do you think that I am from the dark ages? :-)

  40. Masindi
    Masindi says:

    Are you talking about this in the context of developed countries like the Northern America and Western Europe?

    I don’t think Asia is ready for this although my wife and would be happy to do independent consultancy work sometime after five or six years from now (that is, when our skillsets are more fine tuned).

  41. Sherry
    Sherry says:

    As a baby boomer I am looking forward to these changes in the workplace because they give someone like me flexibility to “semi” retire. At this stage of the game, I may be as far up on the ladder as I will go so the game is over and definitely less appealing anyway. I’d love to work from home (or the beach) and be a “consultant” in my area of expertise as well as work fewer hours, and have some choice over the work I take on. The changes can’t come soon enough. I just need $$$$ to get my Gen Y’s through college!
    However, as one person mentioned above, the health care coverage is one that will have to be revolutionized to acccomodate your viewpoint. I hope someone in health care insurance is reading this!

  42. apronk
    apronk says:

    “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.”

    —> Each parent will work part-time? Unfortunately in most markets part-time job benefits continue to disappoint. Usually no or little health coverage, and less vacation time as well. My husband is a stay-at-home dad. What’s important to me, is not only to take personal/vacation days to spend time w/ my son, but to take them to spend time w/ my husband. This part-time shared parent scenario seems like a likely way to rarely see your spouse again. Not for me.

  43. Kelvin
    Kelvin says:

    Hmm… This is definitely a different point of view. We’re light years away from anything you’ve predicted over here in Asia, I think. But perhaps one day, it will be the end of work as we know it, even in my home country. ^_^

  44. Jessica
    Jessica says:

    “People will choose to work as a way to keep the job of raising children from being dull and aliening.”

    What? Singing the praises of staying at home is not an exciting subject to me, but seriously, if it is that dull, get out of the house. Volunteer at a school, church or charitable organization. I wouldn’t say staying at home with your kids is boring. Sometimes it is, but in my experience, so are many jobs. Besides, quite a few women stay at home because most jobs do not pay enough to warrent having the job. The cost of child care is sky high. Even a part time job would require some sort of outside help with the kids. Very few people have the kind of expertise it would take to make a reasonable income working part time, even two people working part time. And what about health care? Retirement?

    I find it somewhat insulting to older generations that is the Gen Yers that are going to change the workforce. The older generations were just too stupid to think they could ask for change? Come to think of it, most people who ask for more time off to spend with their kids join the ranks of the unemployed. I serioulsy doubt that a company is going to change their policies for twenty somethings while forty somethings, with more valuable experience, are having to quit their jobs to enjoy the same time with thier families. Its weird, this middle class, having to work!

    This scenerio would only work in a booming economy where jobs are plentiful and ready for the taking. In the reality of p/t work, there would be quite a bit less frivilous spending which would make the economy adjust accordingly, and jobs would decrease. So good luck.

  45. phaedrus
    phaedrus says:

    It sounds like a reasonable view, but they are all things that I have heard for over 15 years now, and was told would never catch on, mainly by the Boomers.

    Now with the Boomers dying off(both literally and figuratively, some of these trends will finally see the light of day, and Gen Y will have the good fortune to take advantage of them, thanks to the foundations laid by those who came before them. Lets hope they realize this and don’t screw it up through their arrogance and entitlement complexes!

  46. Rich
    Rich says:

    I like where this post is headed, I would like to see Penelope’s thoughts on what the true catalysts are for these changes. Gen Y maybe large and unique, but so were the baby boomers and my how quickly they fell into line when 401(k)’s and home equitly loans were dangled in front of them.

    My guess is that the catalyst for these workplace changes are driven by the workplace itself and the value, or lack thereof, that big companies are offering to their employees (driven by those free thinking baby boomers)

    1. Loss of Loyalty- your ability to live & retire comfortably has more to do with your personal savings rate and ability to get a second job. Pensions are not safe and retirement benefits have been routinely cut over the past 20 years. Why do I care which big corporation I work for

    2. Elimination of line management – As baby boomers stripped companies of middle managers through RIFs they also created the roll of ‘project manager’. A job that requires no staff, limited face time, and can be done entirely in one’s pajama’s while watching sports center

    3. Thick hierarchys – If you put in 70 hour weeks, what are your legitimate chances of becoming an executive? Don’t believe me, look at how many company boards share the same membership. It’s an exclusive club. Why not spend that extra time at home with your kids. You may need their help when you retire.

    I think big business is driving employees away in droves and the Gen Yer’s are in a position to make it work (low expenses, high flexibility).

    One last rambling thought…in the perfect work utopia, who works in call centers, pays medical claims or takes out garbage?

  47. Jim C
    Jim C says:

    Rich, your last question is a good start, but carry it further. Those jobs are not all menial or low-paying.

    In that perfect work Utopia, who examines and treats patients, performs surgery, builds houses and roads, produces food, explores for minerals, mines minerals, refines oil, manufactures things, manages the factories, delivers the goods, teaches your children, cuts and mills timber, or delivers the goods to market?

    Short answer: People who don’t live in Utopia.

  48. Kate
    Kate says:

    I can’t be as optimistic, especially after reading Susan Faludi’s Backlash. While Gen Y does have great ideas and great momentum at present, you forget the power of conservatives, and their ability to hook into Gen Y in a way that they couldn’t with Gen X. As boomers get older, they become more conservative on average, and those are the ideas that are being instilled in the rising generation.

    I would love for there to be more child care, health care options, more options for flexible schedules, for more creativity, but get real. The long arm of the neo-cons will smack down gender equity through its insidious infection of society as a whole.

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