The New World of Work. Is it really new?

by Thom van Wijk
ScaleHub Blog The new Way of Work

As long as there’s a future, there’s going to be a future of work. And as with any “future of”, we love to make predictions about it.

Predicting the future used to be something weirdo’s (insert favourite Back to the Future quote) and scientists had a Monopoly on. And way (way!) before, we used to burn and drown forecasters of any kind to shut them up and keep the future right where we liked it: in our own control. Some regimes still succeed using this approach but it has become a bit of a drag since the arrival of the world wide web.

Now, predicting the future is a serious business model. And it’s no different with the future of work. Predicting the future is not only good for business, it’s good for our ego’s too (don’t cringe, we all have one). Talking about the future shows just how much “with the program” we are or better yet, how much ahead of our competitors we are. Predicting the future, we can still (try and) shape it to our liking. Talking about the future you can make bold statements; it’s nice to be right until someone has to prove us wrong. And how exciting is it to challenge the status quo? 

No one really knows what the future holds; we’re all trying to shape, create and control it although nothing is ever as uncertain as the future (insert favourite virus). In case you were looking for a nice topic of conversation with a coworker: Does the future even exist?

Is the way we are working really new?

We didn’t need a pandemic to acknowledge that the world of work is a dynamic one, but has work – once again – really become all that new? Wasn’t our desire for flexibility years in the making? Wasn’t the “Work from Anywhere” what was coming our way, anyway? Aren’t we all just doing what we were doing, in the best way we know how to, like we would do in any given situation?

We have yet to find out just how much of what we have learned from working during the pandemic is going to stick and what will fade or will eventually be traded back for old habits – will we really shape the future of work or will we just try to reach a new status quo? For now, it seems like we’re nowhere near a settlement on the subject of work, but I dare to question just how “new” it will be.

The New Way of Working has lost it’s new

As long as we can’t travel to the future, “the new” is the next best thing to give us that spark of excitement. “The new” has the ability to surprise us – good or bad. It’s what makes us feel alive and connected, and what keeps us away from the dreaded Groundhog Day: same sh*t, different day.

And this is where The New World of Work, or The New Way of Working enters the conversation I’m trying to get to. Because: why do we keep calling it “new”? As opposed to, for example: The Now World of Work, or The Present Way of Working. 

When does something stop being new? 

“New” in the context of work seems to have lost it’s new, like the word “modern” sounds anything but modern. Even the pandemic doesn’t seem to be a strong enough force* to catapult us away far enough to move on from our so beloved “New Way of Working”. 

*Not suggesting that “post-pandemic” should be our new reference, although there’s probably no escaping it.

To me, the term “The New Way of Working” is losing its meaning. The pandemic has knocked out its last breath. When we reach the real post-pandemic situation we’ve been longing for so much, we deserve a fresh name to give our next era of work a good kickstart. 

Why not make it a challenge: What will we call our Next World of Work?

New Way of Working fatigue?

Never waste a good crisis they say. Our newest New Way of Working is already proving to be another great model for business, that’s for sure.

However we call it, it’s hard to keep away from the suggestion that the world of work is something you constantly need to keep up with. Something you need to be invested in. If we keep on trying to give it exciting names – yes, I too have that tendency, I too feel that urge –  we will keep on creating a (non-)sense of urgency for something that is as old as, well: work. Or do we need that excitement to keep up our best work? That’s the whole point to business models I guess, the not-knowing. But some things are sure, like: it’s never a bad idea to question why we do what we do and try to improve from there. And a new business model is born: I should start renting out rooms for improvement – oops, I’m doing it again 😉

I would like to invite you to take part in this discussion. I’m curious to find out what your experiences are on the topic. Do you experience any New Way of Working fatigue?

And since I brought up the challenge*, how about:

“The Whatever Way of Working Works”.

Not exciting enough? I’m confident you can do better. 

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* Challenges’ not your thing? More into history than futures? Here’s an awesome Retrospective on the history of work Atlassian created. Enjoy!