The Changing World Of Work

The way we work is changing. From flexible working to the gig economy, many people choose not to work a standard working week or a decades-long career. After attending the “Brain Bar” conference, happiness architect Alyona Rogozhkina details how a Basic Income would better reflect current working patterns than the current system.

Alyona Rogozhkina, Happiness architect and Founder of the happiness at work project Sonas.

I felt inspired after visiting an event called “Brain Bar” on 1-2 June in Budapest. “Brain Bar” is a new, provocative conference supported by Wired Magazine, where scientists, policy leaders and businesses get together to discuss the future. The atmosphere is usually casual with a buzz of energy, debates and innovative ideas. Since my passion is happiness at work, I aimed to attend the talks about the future of jobs, productivity, AI, and circular economy to see how these areas might change.

One of the interesting debates was called “the productivity trap”, with panellists including Melanie Seymour (the Head of BlackRock Budapest) and Andrew Taggart, a Practical Philosopher. The most fascinating topic that the panellists discussed was the outdated idea that everyone should have a job. Taggart suggested that although this principle is rooted in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR),  the right to work for all would only be feasible if workers were “relatively unskilled”, and if the work was “labour-intensive” and of “short duration”.  The picture he painted was one reminiscent of the United States’ use of public programmes as a means of escaping the economic downturn of the Great Depression.

But the society we live in has moved on from the 1930s. Latest trends, like the rise of the gig economy, demonstrate that innovative workers tend to work outside of established companies. Seymour pointed out that BlackRock’s high performers are driven by incentives that are not purely financial. This, she said, is reflected in the newly implemented flexible time-off, including an allowance to go somewhere to travel for up to 3-4 weeks and get work done remotely. The reason for that, I think, is that talented individuals do not want to feel burned out or put under pressure by the often claustrophobic and stale corporate culture. The concept of stepping into an uncertain but attractive freelance career path is predicted to grow rapidly within the younger generations across the world.

Within this concept, the discussion touched Basic Income as a promising concept for future focus. Taggart provided an example of successful communities of ecovillages as a means of illustrating that living collectively can occur through an emphasis on internal economies.”  The following talk by Shamus Rae, the head of Digital Disruption at KPMG in the UK, emphasised the rising significance of Basic Income. Rae suggested that the rise of AI is transforming work from being career-focused to a relationship that is ‘connecting to work but not fully committing’. Interestingly, Rae made a point that many politicians understand the importance of implementing Basic Income but do not yet feel empowered enough to make that meaningful change happen.

Overall, I was glad to see that decision-makers from a range of industries were open-minded enough to discuss the important issues that we are all about to face in the near future. The main themes highlighted were that individuals’ needs are going to focus more on the value of work on personal development, its impact on society, and the need to seek out collaborative environments in which to work. In order to make the most of these changes, we must question how our basic needs can be better met while ensuring our intellectual curiosity is not destroyed in meaningless, monotonous or precarious work. 

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