By Denise Brouder, founder of Swayworkplace
The flexible work revolution is here, and it’s happening in the suburbs.
In 2019 the conversation around the Future of Work centered around the Who’s Who of organizational digitization, with themes such as a robotic apocalypse and the evils of ethics-free artificial intelligence (AI) thrown in for dramatic flair.
In 2020 the conversation around the Future of Work became personal. Without any expectation or warning, we were instantly thrust into a massive, yearlong global work-from-home experiment. Together, we are enduring this deeply human experience and actively shaping the future of our work. In 2021, by all accounts, the pandemic will end, and we’ll regain our freedom of choice. We at SWAYworkplace predict that people will choose to work in more humanistic ways, where being both productive and personally balanced will be the sought-after pair that’s viewed as integral to business success. We have already begun the groundwork in developing the mindset needed to reach this destination. Check out our blog post for more on the mindset shift.
- The Emerging Trend of Work-as-a-Lifestyle (WaaL).
Work-as-a-Lifestyle is the opposite of work/life balance. The phrase “work/life balance” is a corporate term that assumes you have two separate and distinct lives that must be glued together to create a cohesive approach to productivity and, ultimately, happiness. By contrast, “work as a lifestyle” is a personal term that correctly postulates that you are one person, living one life, and endeavoring to make it count. The trend towards WaaL is most evident in conversations on finding meaning and purpose at work in a way that materially boosts employee engagement.
- The Flexible Workweek
In 1940, under the tutelage of a feisty Francis Perkins (U.S. Secretary of Labor), the 40-hour workweek was codified in the Fair Labor Standards Act. As a country, we innovated the workplace so as to organize the labor pool in a way that optimized worker health, safety and productivity. Almost 100 years later, we stand on the precipice of the next major innovation in the design of work, as leading U.S. companies move towards a flexible workweek to optimize worker health, safety and productivity for today’s knowledge worker.
- Suburban Coworking
In 2020 there were 1.9 million knowledge workers commuting to New York City from the surrounding suburbs. In 2021 there will be 1.9 million knowledge workers exploring local coworking options. It’s our prediction that this market will surge in 2021. We also think the offerings will broaden beyond traditional coworking spaces. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a trailer backing in and setting up a fully assembled backyard home office shed. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see an app feature that acts like the Airbnb for unused home or corporate office space. (This is my personal favorite, and it’s an idea we’re working on at SWAY!).
In New Jersey we have all the assets in place to drive this market: lots of space, office parks, parking lots, a massive population of previously commuting knowledge workers and a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem.
- The New Jersey Future-of-Work Ecosystem
The New Jersey State Future of Work Task Force is a shining example of a state-wide effort to proactively shape the Future of Work for its residents. If you include the tremendous leadership across the state that led to the recently announced Evergreen Fund, it’s clear that words have met action in the Garden State. I have personally experienced the unending support of the NJEDA and TechUnited:NJ communities, as they continue to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit of the State’s idea makers. These interrelated and combined efforts are unique, and will strengthen the symbiotic relationship between “innovation” and “New Jersey.”
5. Quick Round
- Personal Productivity Apps
We will see the development of technology products that will enable people to work flexibly. Think about an app that allows you to organize your work and personal life in one place. Think about a learning-and-development app that gives you the skills and tools to develop a future of work mindset on the go. (That’s a plug! That offering is my company, SWAYworkplace). Think about technology platforms for career coaching on the go.
- Community Colleges
I think our national network of community colleges is a hidden jewel. I predict that we will incorporate these learning centers into a statewide strategy to upskill and reskill workers at the local level.
New Jersey has lived in New York City’s shadow for a long time. In some respects that won’t change, but in fundamental ways it will. The flexible revolution is here, and it’s happening in the suburbs. The Future of Work is bright, especially in New Jersey.
Denise is the founder of SWAYworkplace. SWAY is the leading community for people and teams that want to master flexible work together, and it includes “Skills + Techniques + Coaching + Community” all in one place. Denise sees the Future of Work as an unprecedented opportunity to reimagine work in ways that will allow us to live balanced, purposeful and meaningful lives. She has a burning desire to develop a Future-of-Work mindset in every person. Denise holds an MBA from Fordham University and a BBS in finance and economics from the University of Limerick, Ireland.