The age of the single career that revolves around a single office or company with a fixed 65 retirement date is over. Most of us get this. Not only have career trajectories splintered, but the workplace itself has morphed into flexible WiFi-enabled shared spaces, purpose built for maximum adaptability. This is not just small startups either. It’s now perfectly normal for even large multi-national corporations to be sub-renting space from WeWork.
And for those on the move, there are even more flexible work setups, such as Copass, to connect you with spaces from Bangkok to Rio. The digital nomad lifestyle may not be for everyone, but the infrastructure to make it function seamlessly exists.
Businesses such as AGEIST rely on a team working across time zones in multiple cities to coordinate with the best talent, linked by Skype, Slack and WhatsApp. The team is in constant contact, but is almost never all in the same place, let alone the same time zone. Going from face-to-face communication to digital was technically easy, but less easy in terms of getting the tone and timing right.
Missing the visual cues of someone’s face and the tone of voice meant we had to learn digital empathy, which is not as easy as it sounds. It’s true that a young digital native can be less skilled at face-to-face communication, and it is also true that we older people are less good at digital face reading.
As we often say, all skills are learnable with an open mind, and looking fondly backward at how we used to work will not always serve us well in the modern hyper-flex world we are living in.
I never thought I would enjoy a shared community office, but it turns out they are fantastic engines of ideas, optimism and energy. Being surrounded by people, often younger, who are working on all manner of businesses and endeavors can be intensely motivating. The glass cubical surrounded by similarly-tasked workers is something that may be headed for a diorama at the Natural History Museum.
Of course, having no actual privacy with the typical thin walls separating WeWork-style offices or the open-plan layout can be a problem, and takes some getting used to. Thus, we often see people prowling the perimeter, furtively speaking on their cell phones. But maybe the extra steps gained on the walk is a positive side benefit.
These are just a few of the changes in the workplace which is constantly evolving. Are they adjustments? Of course. Are they better? It doesn’t matter; judging and comparing are not useful. What is useful is understanding that this is the way the world is and we can thrive in it as well as anyone if we enthusiastically embrace it.
As Darwin said, the race is not won by the swiftest, but by the most adaptable.