Leal on The Future of Work

The Freelancers Union* is all about The Future of Work.  More specifically, it is about The Future of Workers, which is something I’m very concerned about.

This is also something that I talk about a lot.  A lot!

So, I was challenged by the title of an article by Krystel Leal, “Do we really need to talk so much about the future of work?” [1]

Hmm.  What is she driving at?

First of all, she doesn’t seem to answer or even seriously address the headline question.  But she, in fact, wants to talk and keep talking about the future of work.  So I guess the answer must be “yes”.

Her main points are that (a) things continue to change rapidly, so a worker will have to be flexible and continue to adapt for her whole career, and (b) everything else is pretty much moot.

More than coworking spaces, remote work, flexible companies, or digital nomadism, the future work model boils down to one big word: adaptability.

OK, sure.

Much of what she says is hardly new, though I have to say that she seems to be projecting recent trends way too far into the future.  Saying that the “terrain” is “digital” is not really accurate now, at least in most places and for most people.  And even if “digital” work continues to be important, the specifics will probably be radically different.  (Just as for instance, we are already seeing the global Internet fragmenting into multiple national and privately run sub nets.)

But this just makes her basic point more clearly:  it’s difficult to know what skills might be needed and what opportunities (if any) might be available, even in a few years.

She does have a good point that coworking, nomadism, and other “work models” aren’t really to the point.  You can do the same work in a lot of different ways, in different workplaces, with different contractual arrangements.

The real question is, what kinds of arrangements to workers like, and how can workers have a decent life.  Some workers like digital nomadism, some prefer freelancing, different workers find community in different coworking spaces, and so on.  As long as workers have good choices and are free to choose, this is the best of all possible worlds.

But is that going to be true?  We already see that the vast majority of workers in certain sectors are freelancers. If you have the choice of freelancing or not working, that’s not much of a choice.

We have seen arrogant companies simply ignore labor laws, eliminating what little legal protections their “contractors” might have as employees.  A contract that only one side controls is not much of a contract, and this is not so much “freelancing” as piecework.

For many workers, the choice is working from home or a coworking space.  This is essentially “bring your own office”, pushing the overhead of a workspace onto the worker. If this is not compensated for, then this is simply another pay cut.  So, actually, it might well matter quite a bit whether the employer or the worker has to provide the infrastructure.

Leal has a pretty positive view of this world, which, no doubt, is what she delivers for her clients.  I’m less sanguine about this brave new world.

Bus we both think it something to keep talking about.  And I’m sure we will continue to natter on, whether you want it or not! : – )

* Disclosure:  I am a proud member of the FU.

  1. Krystel Leal, Do we really need to talk so much about the future of work?, in Freelancers Union Blog. 2019. https://blog.freelancersunion.org/2019/12/23/do-we-really-need-to-talk-so-much-about-the-future-of-work/


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s