The Changing World of Work

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The Changing World of Work


As we celebrate Worker’s Day this month, it is time to reflect on our world of work and on how we as educators are able to use our influence to improve the varying sectors in society. The Covid-19 pandemic has, if anything, exposed the ills in society and the disparities that exist between the rich and the poor. We have been thrust into a chaotic milieu, where the structures, cultures and previous ways of working and living are being questioned and have to change. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the world into a radical and rapid change. This has directly affected each and every person on the planet. Our entire way of working has been moved towards online and virtual meetings. People who in the past did not think that they were able to work remotely have had to reset their views and find ways of unlearning past ways of work, and rapidly learning new ways of work. It is gratifying to see how quickly many people have managed this transition.

The concepts of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) and the immense impact that it would have on the way we work have been a popular concept and talking point for the past few years.  We have discussed how we need to teach and learn new skills to move towards digitisation and digital transformation within all work environments. Klaus Schwab, who is known as one of the first people to voice and write about the concept of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, had concerns that organisations would not be able to change and adapt rapidly enough in the face of this revolution. He foresaw large-scale disruption in the way of work, which were unprecedented in relation to the past revolutions (namely 1 through 3). In addition, he was concerned that governments worldwide may not be able to securely enable the requisite new technologies required in the 4IR.

It is against the backdrop of the 4IR that we also need to consider the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. This is a worldwide agenda which is envisaged to transform our world in every conceivable aspect. The deadline for achieving these goals is 2030 – not very far away! The reality in which we find ourselves highlights the necessity to focus on these goals, to eradicate poverty and to become sustainable in the ways in which we do business.

With the rapid transition to remote and virtual working, we have seen less traffic and congestion in the cities, which it seems is a good omen and possibly a positive move to alleviate the impact on our global environment. But what happens when we are all able to travel to work again each day? Will we want to go back to the way things were? Will organisations simply snap back to previous mindsets and culture of people ‘needing’ to work from the office?

This is the time for all of us, individuals, organisational leaders and managers, to reflect on past behaviours and be brave enough to embrace the chance to reshape our world of work even more, and to attempt to embed more equality and sustainability into our way of working and thus our environment.


19 May 2020