The future work of trends

2011-02-12 14:13

There were looks of total disbelief and incomprehension in my office when I explained to my young team what impact the new labour amendment bills could have on their jobs.

We are a trends company so we have to walk what we talk, and a lot of what we talk is how to work ahead of the curve in a fast-changing world.

As an owner of a small business, the post-recession environment has taught me many valuable lessons, but I am lucky in that I track new trends on a daily basis. And because of the size of my company, I can shift and adapt at short notice.

In this tough and ever-changing business environment, flexibility is a precious luxury.

But flexibility doesn’t seem to be particularly valued in government’s proposed labour and employment amendment bills. For example, there are new clauses that prohibit temporary employment or subcontracting.

While the debates over the proposed amendments rage on, there are other curve balls that no one seems to be considering: post-recession work and career trends, and the next-generation workforce (the millennials).

Millions of people lost their jobs during the recession and this has sparked new attitudes, not only for the employer, but for the employee. Employers are understandably hesitant to employ large numbers of full-time staff.

The world may slowly be emerging from the recession, but employers remain skittish at the thought of committing to full-time positions when they have become accustomed to outsourcing and contractual work, and seen the benefits not only in productivity, but financially.

Many retrenched workers, on the other hand, are discovering the benefits of part-time positions, ­job-sharing, and contract or project work.

In some cases, being forced to take on two different part-time positions instead of one, full-time, 9-to-5 job, has been liberating.

It is how the world is evolving.

Today, forward-thinking companies are already redesigning their workspaces to adapt to this trend.

Gone are individual cubicles that were assigned to a specific employee. In their place are generic workspaces that operate on a “plug in and connect wherever you find an open workstation” concept.

It takes flexitime one step further and embraces a flexiworkforce.

In terms of the millennials, this way of working is accepted as the norm. One career for life is as outdated a concept as a cellphone without smartphone functionality.

But it is not only the understanding that you will have multiple jobs (and possibly multiple careers) in a lifetime, but that those multiple jobs can happen simultaneously.

This is not an imagined future; it is happening right now and my entire team works in this manner.

They write and research for me, freelance for other companies, but also manage their own sideline enterprises. And in doing so, not only do they learn to be self-sufficient, but gradually create jobs as their own businesses take off.

I don’t need to explain what the effect of this entrepreneurial system would be, especially in a country like ours.

If this is already the way the next generation prefers to work, it would be foolish to try to herd them into an inflexible work environment, especially when their “non-conformist” approach to earning a living is working.

The Department of Labour already estimates that there are 2.13?million South Africans classified as fixed-term, temporary or seasonal workers.

If this legislation is passed, these jobs will be placed in jeopardy and government’s pledge to create 5?million jobs by 2020 will remain a pipe dream.

» Chang is the founder of Flux Trends. Visit fluxtrends.com

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