Future of Work

The fast growth of co-working spaces in London

The growth of shared, flexible urban workspaces for startups and SMEs (small and medium enterprises) is now a striking, and very visible feature of British cities. Over the past decade or so, startups and small firms in retail, manufacturing, arts, the cultural industries and the digital economy have been making creative use and re-use of urban spaces – through […]

Digital labour markets: The hard questions

In 1770 Wolfgang von Kempelen presented a sort of robot called the Turk (hidden inside there was, in reality, a person operating it) that could beat humans at playing chess. The robot toured Europe, eliciting contrasting reactions about the future robotisation. The first digital labour market for the trading of micro-tasks was tellingly named Amazon Mechanical Turk and presented […]

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    The gig economy reshapes how people work – and what they learn (or don’t)

The gig economy reshapes how people work – and what they learn (or don’t)

The trend has a catchy name, melding the vibe of edgy jazz clubs with the tech savvy of the smartphone era: the gig economy. And it’s catching on, especially among Millennials; a Brookings study found that the number of Americans, many of them young, employed as freelancers, contract workers and in other nontraditional work jumped 60 per cent between […]

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    Buffer: ‘Why we abolished the office and became a fully remote team’

Buffer: ‘Why we abolished the office and became a fully remote team’

Two years ago, our already fully remote team of then 50 people decided to close down our only remaining tie to the traditional workforce, a small office in San Francisco. Here’s why we decided to be a remote company in the first place, how it’s going for us, and what’s next for a company with no office.

First, let’s look […]

Slacking it? The problems of technology at work

Slack, if you have never come across it before, is an instant messaging application. As the company itself explains, it is ‘team communication for the 21st century’ and one intended to result in work having ‘less email’ and becoming ‘more productive.’ They claim that their ‘customers see an average 48.6% reduction in internal email.’ We can all relate to […]

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    Gig economy: Disruption can bring benefits for workers and consumers

Gig economy: Disruption can bring benefits for workers and consumers

The world of work is being transformed, driven by rapid developments in technology, globalisation, and demographic change. Now, the concept of ‘employment’ itself seems to be increasingly past its sell-by date. A proliferation of new, online platforms has made access to paid work easier and more efficient than ever before by instantaneously connecting people who have work they need […]

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    Co-workers and makers: New public policies and corporate strategies for the city

Co-workers and makers: New public policies and corporate strategies for the city

Collaborative movements and communities—co-workers, makers, hackers, and fabbers— stir tremendous controversy because they expose all the paradoxes and contradictions of the ongoing transformations of work practices and capitalism. Work is being redefined by the growing number of entrepreneurs and freelancers while organisations are being transformed by a new work ethos. The ‘do-ocracy’ is establishing itself as the favoured organisational […]

Why robots aren’t the enemy

It is scary fun to think that the robot buddy who is making life a bit easier and products a bit cheaper will next week steal your job, that the bot that reads your laptop cookies will destroy your freedom of choice, or that super-intelligent algorithms mean that we will all end up working for machines. I propose, rather, […]

The coming jobs boom in the age of intelligent machines  

Central to the election of President Trump, the populist support of Brexit, and the distrust of so many institutions at the heart of the modern world, are concerns about the future of work; Who or what has taken my job? what are the jobs of the future? How do I – or my kids – get them? Where are […]

Future of work: making a living from cutting our own hair?

There is currently much debate on the future of paid employment in light of technological advancements within a range of areas, such as speech recognition, robotics, artificial intelligence, etc. Evocative imagery is presented ranging from a rather prosaic future of self-driving cars and lorries to the digital immortality of bodiless beings. I wish here to emphasise more immediate and […]

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    Future of Work: taking the blinkers off to see new possibilities

Future of Work: taking the blinkers off to see new possibilities

Anybody relying for their information on the current headlines would find it hard to make sense of what is happening in the labour market. On the one hand, the news media are awash with apocalyptic forecasts, often backed up by studies from reputable organisations such as the US National Bureau of Economic Research , the Oxford Martin School or […]

Work 4.0: How Germany is shaping the future of work

How to shape the future of work

In November 2016, the German Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, headed by social democrat Andrea Nahles, published the white paper “Work 4.0”. It’s the result of an 18-month dialogue process mapping out the challenges for the world of labour and injecting policy proposals in the political debate. The dialogue involved a wide […]

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    Employees v. entrepreneurs: Have the two categories become irrelevant?

Employees v. entrepreneurs: Have the two categories become irrelevant?

Most debates about work today focus on the joint evolution of entrepreneurs versus employees. Some academics believe we are moving towards an entrepreneurial society. Others focus on the increasing precariousness of work, but clearly qualify the thesis of a move towards an entrepreneurial society. In the context of this short reflexion, we simply want to question the categories themselves.

Entrepreneurs […]

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    Why there will never be a robot-entrepreneur and why it’s important

Why there will never be a robot-entrepreneur and why it’s important

Robot by geralt, Pixabay, under a CC0 licence
The debate is quite old. Machines, and then robots, have always brought fears and fantasies about unemployment and the brutal disappearance of skills and meaning.

With the rise of the so-called industry 4.0, fear is back. I believe that more than ever, it is a justified fear. Technology has never been more likely […]

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    New online live music agencies have oversized power over musicians

New online live music agencies have oversized power over musicians

North Charleston 4th of July Festival, by North Charleston, under a CC-BY-SA-2.0 licence
The impact of the internet on recorded music is well-known, as are its effects on elements of live music such as ticketing and broadcasting of performances. But here I will write about something that has been less well-documented: the way new web platforms affect the labour market for […]

The long read: What will we do in the post-work utopia?

The Refusal of Work: The Theory and Practice of Resistance to Work. David Frayne. Zed Books. 2015.

Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work. Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams. Verso. 2015.

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There is today a preoccupation with the idea of ‘the end of work’: whether in chronicling the decline of permanent careers in the age […]

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    Online job auctions are more successful when bids are open for all to see

Online job auctions are more successful when bids are open for all to see

The “gig” economy is here. Companies like Freelancer.com and Upwork connect millions of freelancers with employers for on-demand work. According to a national survey conducted by research firm Edelman Berland in partnership with Upwork, 34 million people in the U.S. — approximately one in three workers — now work as freelancers. Those freelancers work as software developers, graphical designers, […]

Working in the cloud means working all the time

Technological advancements, such as Artificial Intelligence, Robotic Process Automation or Big Data are often considered major drivers for the future of work. Current debate on this topic mostly focuses on which tasks and jobs will be delegated to machines and how employees can deal with the uncertainty of career choice. In a recent report, the World Economic Forum provides […]

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    Service Automation: Robots and the Future of Work – Book Review

Service Automation: Robots and the Future of Work – Book Review

Service Automation: Robots and the Future of Work. Leslie P. Willcocks and Mary C. Lacity. Steve Brookes Publishing. 2016. 

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Booming headlines such as ‘Half of All British Jobs Could Be Replaced By Robots!’ and accompanying shelf-metres of popsci may be giving the particularly forward-looking a few sleepless nights. Yet these works rarely spur us to imagine the nitty-gritty […]

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    Automation should complement professional expertise, not replace it

Automation should complement professional expertise, not replace it

Will your next doctor be an app? A cost-cutting NHS wants more patients to act as “self-carers,” with some technologized assistance. A series of flowcharts and phone trees might tell parents whose children have chicken pox how best to care for them—no visits to surgeries required.  Or a mole-checking app might tell a worrywart when a given skin discoloration […]