Opinion

Shaping of a new and dynamic work landscape

Sandeep Sinha | Updated on June 22, 2021

Soft skills and critical thinking will play an important role in allowing individuals to excel in this new landscape   -  H Vibhu

The need of the hour is to empower the workforce to operate in a non-linear and creative work culture

Every minute of the working day must be productive and accounted for – a mantra that defined the efficiency focussed work culture of the late 90’s, when I first entered the world of corporate India. It was a time when one’s professional success was directly proportional to his or her ability to follow processes and pre-defined metricised goals. However, the past two decades have seen a significant shift, both on the demand and supply side, dictated by the redefined lifestyle of the millennials and GenZ.

It took merely a decade or less to literally transform the way music is produced, distributed and experienced. The video format underwent a similar transformation. I still remember those video cassettes and the very first dish antenna that was precariously placed on my balcony when we were growing up. Online shopping came in as another game changer and shook the retail industry. While these market disruptions transformed the overall consumption pattern, they also created a whole new stream of work that required skills that weren’t easily available as well as careers that never existed till a few years ago.

The game changers

The past year and a half have not simply accelerated the growth in these tech-based verticals but led to the creation of completely new verticals and start-ups that cater to a whole new virtual world of work and school. Society underwent a massive change in online behaviour, with many first-time users being added to the online world of retail as well as media consumption.

Overall, OTT platforms have seen around 30-40 per cent spike in paid subscribers over the past year and video streaming platforms are expecting around 20 per cent growth in viewership this year. Consumer trust also saw a significant rise, indicating that this change in behaviour is here to stay. From online learning platforms to online fitness classes, there is a whole new market that caters specifically to the virtual needs of the new world.

Creative solutions

These new tech-based start-ups have also created a need for niche skill sets to create, curate and deliver the content as well as receive and address feedback in real time. Following a set of pre-determined guidelines or goals, has been replaced with the need for smooth transitions, on-the-spot creative solutions and quick, confident real time responses. While there will be abundant data available real time, the need to analyse and repurpose this data in a meaningful way will create new opportunities for analytical and creative thinkers.

Artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), robotics will continue to expand and create demand for specific skills. In the past there was a surge in demand for engineers who could execute the technology and that will continue, but the next few years will also see a surge in demand for individuals who can offer ‘out of the box’ thinking to take that tech to the next level, irrespective of their ability to code.

As the time gap between product versions reduce significantly, the need to build a more creative, innovation focussed and dynamic work culture supersedes the need for efficiency. Simply improving the current version of a product or a service is no longer the holy grail. It is the pursuit for the ‘next big thing’ that will continue to disrupt markets and create new work.

While work spaces have witnessed significant disruption, the new-age workforce also faces a unique situation with personal and professional boundaries blurring like never before. While work from home might have initially promised a better work life balance, the zoom calls soon began intruding meal times with family and work commitments quietly crept into the weekends. Boundaries are essential to maintain a sense of order and in this case to protect professionals from burning out.

Mental wellness

Somewhere in the midst of the pandemic, the previously neglected concept of mental wellness started to take centre stage in all health and wellness related discussions. Corporates started noticing the fatigue setting in and individuals started taking their mental well-being a lot more seriously. From enrolling in meditation sessions, to practicing gadget free days, to even enrolling in courses on spirituality, the new-age employees are increasingly committed to work towards holistic wellness that includes mind, body and soul.

While online fitness classes saw an increase in enrolments, healthy eating with a focus on produce and its origin saw a significant increase in organic and hydroponic trends.

‘Mindful’ living

Most health coaches now include sessions on ‘mindful living’ and yoga and meditation experts now find themselves amongst the most followed fitness influencers. In the past few months corporates also invested in hotlines with dedicated counsellors. While the pandemic will hopefully reach its logical end soon, a lot of these changes are here to stay, creating new work categories in the wellness space, as well as forcing individuals and corporates to reflect on the importance of a healthy work life balance that promotes mental wellness.

While the work space and employee expectations transform, the approach to work will also witness the impact of these changes. As individuals continue to seek a holistic life with work being a part of it and not the entire sum, the gig economy is set to accelerate further.

Focus on delivery

Industry bodies have been conducting several studies on this parallel economy and just before the advent of the pandemic had predicted India’s gig economy to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 17 per cent to touch $455 billion in the next three years. Besides, even organisations will need to eventually re-engineer their outlook to a more delivery focused approach. Similar to a project delivery model that brings together experts from different fields including freelancers with a set goal and timeline.

Once the project is delivered, the group disbands and experts are free to seek new opportunities and delivery groups. Thus, the focus shifts to high impact and goal-oriented outcome rather than unwieldy processes. A lack of formal structure will also allow employees room to grow, learn new skills and keep creative thinking at the forefront.

In order to unleash the power of the future work landscape, it is important to equip and empower the workforce to operate in a non-linear and creative work culture. There is a need for constant upskilling. Soft skills and critical thinking will play an important role in allowing individuals to excel in this new landscape. Mental well-being will continue to play a pivotal role both in creating a new work category as well as in allowing new-age employees and corporates to experience the power and productivity of a more fulfilled and purpose-driven work life.

The writer is Managing Partner, Lumis Partners

Published on June 22, 2021

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