Skip links

Are You Ready for the Future of Work?

By ServiceNow Senior Vice-President, CAL Coach, Nishith Jain (IIM MBA)

In his book Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, David Epstein writes, “The bigger the picture, the more unique the potential human contribution. Our greatest strength is the exact opposite of narrow specialization. It is the ability to integrate broadly.” 

Keeping in mind the challenge of embracing the new future of work, companies and policy-makers across the Asia Pacific region have followed the lead of such organizations as the CDHB in New Zealand and started to set things in motion.

In 2018, in Australia, the “Select Committee on the Future of Work and Workers” published a report with recommendations for the government on how to prepare workers and businesses for technological change. They advocated the establishment of a central body, the introduction of stronger legislation, and the positioning of Australia as a leader in the development and ethics of technology.

In Japan, the government’s new “work-style reform” bill, which came into partial effect in April 2019, aims to change the country’s “death by overwork” culture and to challenge the issue of a declining population of working-age people. The government is pushing ahead with “Society 5.0,” Japan’s new blueprint for a super-smart society. The country is also in the process of reforming its education system to suit the needs of a high-tech age.

Teleworking (working from home, or remotely) is becoming more common in Japan, with 19 percent of companies providing the option in 2018, up 5 percentage points from the previous year. The government now promotes teleworking in the context of its work-style reform.

Similarly, South Korea is in the process of implementing a 52-hour workweek, in order to promote work/life harmony. As South Korean President Moon Jae-in said, “It will be an important opportunity to move away from a society of overwork and move toward a society of spending time with families.”

Singapore, with its ambition to be a tech hub for the Asia Pacific region, has embarked on a Smart Nation agenda, consisting of strategic national projects and digital government services. The agenda aims to transform the way its residents live, work, and play, and to create a culture of innovation and experimentation among its businesses and startups.

Preparing organizations for the Fourth Industrial Revolution was a topic of significant interest during the World Economic Forum in 2019 and is currently a top priority for governments in Asia. However, government policies will not be enough to make the shift. We need change at the individual level as well. Most people will have to deal with the changing and challenging times of the future for themselves, so it is best to follow the advice we’ve all heard: “Put on your own oxygen mask before helping others.”

Many of these trends have been accelerated by the current pandemic, which is making individual change even more urgent. Only a very small percentage of employers regularly permitted their employees to work from home before Covid-19 hit. And, the fact that they can work from home is something that most people have started to like. Since they may have installed all the necessary office equipment they purchased from a vendor like office monster in their home office, where they could work comfortably, people seem to have grown quite accustomed to the change, given that they may be saving so much money, by not having to pay for travel or food.

In fact, now, for the first time in modern history, three of our major social pillars-work, family, and school-are operating in one physical place, our homes. As a result, the work/life balance is becoming more elusive and morphing instead into a work/life blend, in which the boundaries between work and life have become blurred. Even in the best of times, work, family, and school are “greedy institutions,” each of which expects its participants to be “ideal” individuals. Workplaces, especially in Asia, encourage workers to strive for perfection and expect total devotion to the work. Likewise, families tend to expect perfect parenting skills; and now that children are learning from home, parents are expected to become “ideal teachers” too.

What is your response to the rapid pace of change around us? The best response is to learn and adapt. Here is how we can help your organization adapt to ongoing disruptions and thrive amid challenging times through our Adaptive Leadership Signature Program.