The Benefits of Technology

Why you’ll work 80,000 hours before you die

From IT Wire By Beverley Head
Wednesday, 07 December 2011 16:22

The chances are, dear and gentle reader, that you will put in around 80,000 hours of paid work before you die. The good thing is that technology means you should be able to work anywhere, anytime; feeling like it’s time for a holiday yet?

Phil Ruthven, a futurist and the chairman of IBISWorld, said at a VMware event in Sydney today that technology and new workplace models were delivering new levels of freedom to workers. He said that workers today wanted to make use of the flexibility technology could deliver and be paid on output far more than input.

It was he acknowledged scaring many of today’s generation of a management “like a dog off a chain.”

Instead of paying people for the hours they were in the office, organisations were rewarding workers for their contribution, however and wherever that was delivered. What isn’t changing is the amount of paid work individuals are putting in during a lifetime, although longer lifespans are spreading the cumulative amount over more years.

Mr Ruthven said that through history people had typically performed 70-80,000 hours of paid work in a lifetime. Given the increased lifespan of today’s workers compared to those a few hundred years ago, the typical individual would today work about 1,500 a year over 50 years.

Two hundred years ago when life expectancy was lower people could expect to work 3,000 hours a year – but the cumulative lifetime total hadn’t budged much in hundreds of years, and Mr Ruthven said he expected it would remain much the same in the future. What was changing was the way people were working and this was largely thanks to technology.

Forecasting that the term “employee” might disappear entirely in the second half of this century, to be replaced by workers acting as free agents working on a freelance basis, Mr Ruthven acknowledged that this was leading to challenges not only for workers in terms of their ability to negotiate with employers but also for the organisations themselves. “One of the greatest challenges is how do you create an organisational culture in a virtual world?” he said.

While there were potential upsides for workers who might achieve new levels of flexibility and freedom (although Mr Ruthven remained silent on the topic of how anytime, anywhere flexibility could easily morph into all the time, everywhere enslavement for workers) there were significant risks for corporations. “It’s a big risk to have that degree of freedom and there is a risk that it could destroy corporations,” he warned especially where there was a dilution of intellectual property and lack of appropriate organisational culture.”
For enterprise IT departments which were currently grappling with the technology which might provide the foundations to allow workers more freedom, such as use of their own computers, remote access and cloud computing, the risk was that ultimately these IT departments might cease to exist in their current form and instead become service brokers, finding and hiring the right technology and talent from multiple sources.

VMWare vice president and managing director Duncan Bennet said that it was possible IT departments would over time transform from “providers of service to brokers of service” and that IT could go the way of corporate catering and cleaning – becoming almost entirely outsourced.

Now you’re ready for that holiday…

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