If, like me, you have had the pleasure of working in an office environment during the past 15–20 years or so – think back to your earliest, pre-personal computer, pre-e-mail experiences. It’s almost impossible to make comparisons with a typical ‘day in the office’ now. The pace and scale of an individual’s office work today is dramatically different – but, hold on, because things are not about to settle down. Demand and expectation will likely increase further. Our most critical work skills in the future may be our ability and discipline to assert order and control to our working lives, so we don’t burn out and can get that elusive work/life balance right.
We have all probably at some time ridiculed aspects of our parent’s outlook on life. Their generation, of course, grew up with very different influences, values and priorities. The scary thing is that our children will, or more likely already do, view us with that same air of bemusement. Absorbed as I am now in my world of ‘anywhere e-mail and internet’, courtesy of my i-phone or my wireless laptop, I was recently taking my father, who is now in his eighties, through his first steps in using e-mail and the Internet, allowing him to belatedly join the technology revolution. We were both abruptly brought back down to earth, however, by my ‘24/7 textmessaging’ teenage son who informed us, quite seriously, that ‘e-mail is for old people’. It hurt a bit – but the thing is, I know he’s probably right. It’s not just my father who is struggling to keep up with today’s technology. But, of course, there is much more to the future of work than technology, which we need to exploit, but not be driven by. The energy and ideas of youth need to be balanced with the knowledge and wisdom of business and life experience. There are probably four generations now shaping the workplace, all with a potential role to play. It won’t be easy to get it right.