"The number of self-employed workers rose from 3.3 million in 2001 to 4.8 million in 2017 with the latter figure existing as 15.1 of the labour force"
The Office for National Statistics
Thanks to continuous technological developments, businesses across many sectors are seeing significant shifts in the way that they operate. The ways we carry out our day-to-day jobs, the roles we are assigned and the tasks we undertake have changed considerably. Since the start of the 21st century, we have seen the birth of driverless cars, digital currency, and a whole host of different social media channels burst onto the scene. Equally, how many of us have won an argument by whipping out our smartphones and checking Wikipedia? That would have been unknown at the turn of the millenium.
Bearing this in mind, we’ve decided to explore how much the standard working day has changed alongside these innovations, examining why the traditional office setup seems like such an outdated concept. Did you know that we spend approximately one-third of our lives in work — or around 90,000 hours if you insist on a figure — so it plays pretty a big part in our lives!
We’re all culpable of cursing our jobs, even at the best of times. For most of us, Sunday nights are the worst of times of the week, waiting on the impending dread of a Monday morning. Wednesday afternoon is a like a beacon of hope as we progress through the Instagram hype of #humpday, and Friday, particularly if you finish early, is like all your birthdays and Christmases have come at once. Most of us in modern Britain, for the past number of years, work a Dolly Parton inspired 9 to 5, meaning eight hours a day, five days a week. However, prior to Robert Owen’s introduction of the 10-hour day in 1810, the average person was subject to anything up to 16 hours a day, six days a week. Owen, a mill owner in New Lanark, coined the slogan ‘eight hours’ labour, eight hours’ recreation, eight hours’ rest’ — and he was right. So much so that, until most recently, his theory stuck.
Fast-forward 200 years, and we are now facing a new changes, thanks in part to the societal and technological developments we have experienced here in the UK. Back in 1930, British Economist John Maynard Keynes suggested that due to these advances, we would eventually only have to work a 15-hour week. Despite his prediction being untrue for most part, the freedom of freelance, working for yourself, and utilising technology has made that completely achievable for a few.
With 96 million paid subscribers and 207 million total users, Spotify is one of the world’s most regularly used apps. Having replaced the radio in most cars, thanks to the development of the aux port and Bluetooth, the app is a constant in many of our lives, and you guessed it — its journey began in a co-working space. The ‘new’ offices are everywhere, and we don’t just mean the likes of tech-savvy Singapore or Silicon Valley, most cities throughout the UK will have them. It is no wonder why so many young aspiring professionals are looking to get involved in co-working spaces, considering they consist of so many other talented individuals, prepared to assist one another. Throw in a business management graduate, a graphic designer, a marketer, and a writer and you have the ingredients for many great concepts. Cheap rent, continual support, and a relaxed atmosphere all contribute to the positivity. And we can almost guarantee a speaker will be projecting Spotify playlists on the daily.
Wi-Fi and on-the-move
Much like the numerous technologic advances which have allowed workers to amend their scheduling and day-to-day positioning, constant Wi-Fi availability has made professional life that little bit easier. Ten years ago, you could never have envisaged businessmen and women closing groundbreaking deals sat in Costa Coffee or McDonalds, but now it is completely feasible thanks to free public Wi-Fi. Major cities throughout the world have invested in free designated Wi-Fi hotspots enabling professionals to take their work beyond the four walls of the office — a nice perk if the sun is splitting the trees outside. Furthermore, so much has technology developed, automotive and aeronautical companies have now invested in Wi-Fi to take away from the boredom of long journeys. The Vauxhall Astra is one such car that has successfully tackled this challenge, offering a Wi-Fi hotspot through its OnStar package. The issue with these advances is they often tend to sound ingenious but in reality, they aren’t very practical. Thankfully, this isn’t the case with OnStar, with carmagazine.com noting that OnStar is just like the normal broadband you would get in the house.
The number of self-employed workers rose from 3.3 million in 2001 to 4.8 million in 2017 — with the latter figure existing as 15.1% of the labour force. But, why are more people choosing to work for themselves? Well, this is hardly going to come as a surprise, but working long hours to benefit someone else is by no means at the top of everyone’s list of desires — on the other hand, deciding their own schedule, working for multiple clients, and obviously owning their own business, is.
The traditional business model has shifted. Thanks to video calling, we can have a client on the other side of the globe, yet still check in with them every day. This has seen a significant rise in the likes of online coaches, such as personal trainers and nutritionists. In the past, this role depended very much on face-to-face communication — but when the client leads a busy life, so much so they barely have time to go to the gym in the first place, they want practicality. A quick chat FaceTime while sat on the train to work can be exactly that.
For the freelancer, they become a more well-rounded individual with an enhanced skill-set. Unlike facilitating the same employer on a daily basis, their life is constantly changing — it may be risky, but it can help you establish a more distinguished USP. Likewise, for the freelancer’s client or the business who they are working for, they save money as they only pay for the work they do.
Another major change in terms of the way we work is the establishment of flexi-time. If we take anything from the likes of Maynard Keynes, then consider that we should ‘work smarter, not harder’. Okay, we go to work for 40-hours a week, but how many hours of actual work do we do? Flexi-time is the ultimate benefit to an employee, regardless of a company car or daily fruit drop. For the employee it helps them strike a better work-life balance. Take for example someone who has a lengthy morning commute due to the traffic. By starting at 6am rather than the traditional 9am, they avoid congestion on the journey to and from work. A colleague who can bend their work around their life, as opposed to vise-versa, is more likely to be productive during their shift, be absent considerably less, and will be more inclined to act with loyalty towards their employer.
Simple adjustments, which admittedly do require compromise on behalf of both parties, will ultimately create a better workforce. Technological advances in terms of scheduling through the likes of software such as CRM and shared drives mean the standard hours can be altered. This in turn allows employees to attend evening classes, train at the gym, or even start and stop their work from home, perhaps where there is less distractions.
Technology combined with various social changes has significantly altered the way in which we work — and who knows, in ten years from now, we could be fulfilling the initial suggestions of John Maynard Keynes.