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The future of work


Vumi Msweli

The world of work has evolved rapidly in the past century having faced several revolutions. The first industrial revolution began in the 18th century, it resulted in mechanisation, enabling access to energy produced by steam engines.

Whilst the 19th century gave us a new source of energy brought to being by gas, oil and electricity making the combustion engine possible, in so doing changing the means of transport across the globe. The 1960’s led us into the third industrial revolution bringing us electronics and introducing us to the computing power of robotics, whilst the past few decades brought us the fourth industrial revolution led by the Internet. This has created an information age which has driven globalisation, established the knowledge economy and changed the face of work forever.

The future of work is a highly debated and speculated topic with many fearing the emergence of artificial intelligence, increased capability in robotics, expansion of big data and the ever growing foot-print of the internet of things may just eradicate the dependency on human capital.


My view isn’t so pessimistic, I am of the opinion that the way, and how we work will evolve. With increased connectivity across the world, I suspect the rise of flexibility in working hours and the gig economy becoming a norm. In looking at working hours more and more employers are focusing on productivity and outcomes as a pose to physical presence. This has already begun in many multi-national conglomerates. I recall working in Dusseldorf, Germany for a large organisation who gave staff a schedule as to when they could come into the office. There was more staff than the office facility could accommodate so when it wasn’t your day to come into the office you worked from home.

This created a culture of online meetings and allowing many staff to live in the neighbouring Netherlands, as they only had to be in the office three days a week. This allowed the organisation to lower its overhead expenditure by having their staff productive at home.This flexibility I believe commences the societal acceptance of the gig economy. The gig economy is in a sense, the largest shift in how we work. It will move the existing norm of having full time employees to project based contract workers. Workers will work remotely lending their expertise for a project that has a finite time period. This will allow workers flexibility in geographical location, project selection and organisations to work for whilst the companies themselves get to reduce the overheads related with having permanent staff, and the costs of having physical premises whilst being able to acquire expertise from across the globe at competitive prices to fulfil on company projects.

An easily replaceable skill that can be replicated by artificial intelligence is in grave danger. A good example of this is the decision by some accounting firms to no longer take on first year article clerks because it is more cost effective, to have some of the more mundane work digitally automated. If indeed this is the future of employment, the onus becomes on workers to develop niche expertise that corporation’s will seek after. Never before has it been more critical to evaluate one’s unique value proposition in the services that you provide to the company your work for.

How easily replicated are you there? How can you create a beneficial service offering that can help meet key business objectives across various entities, and potentially multiple industries? The future of work has never been more interesting. The future of work requires the modern workforce to be flexible and self-driven in order to thrive.

Vumi Msweli is a South African born career coach, international speaker and CEO for Hesed Consulting, a consulting firm specialising in career coaching, leadership acceleration, women empowerment, team dynamics, facilitation and training on the African continent. Vumile has worked in Europe, Asia and across the African continent.

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Vumi Msweli
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