The most important word for the Future of Work begins with ‘H’​ and it’s not ‘Human’​

Many are highlighting the need for organisations to become more human in our near and mid term future of work. Lot’s of books & articles abound on the topic- and there is nothing wrong with the sentiment or the idea. In fact it is a noble goal- (a theme, in fact, explored as part of our recent collaboration with the American Chamber of Commerce Ireland). Equally however, it is a vague concept open to multiple interpretations. Most of the ideas relating to a more human working world have been around for quite a while, and there seems to be a rapidly decreasing circle of fresh ones on the topic. Recent (past 5 years) content, both academic and populist, tends to say similar things in different ways. Of greatest practical utility and closest in essence to what an authentically human centred working world could look like might well be the research and growing real world successes of self-management and deeply co-operative organisation models.

But this article is not about ‘Human’. There is another ‘H’ word & concept that is critically important to the future of work and probably more useful. That word is ‘Holistic’.

The most important word for the future of work is ‘Holistic’.

The philosophical definition of Holistic is ‘characterized by the belief that the parts of something are intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole’. We need to start viewing the future of work in a more holistic way. As leaders when we think about moving to a ‘working from anywhere’ workplace we must also appreciate the associated changes that need to be made to the overall workforce model design, the critical changes to leadership style and also how the actual work gets delivered.

A holistic view on the future of work should include what we call the 3W’s- Workplace, Workforce & Worktask (3W Model (c) Future of Work Institute Cpl):

  • Workplace– refers to where work takes place across physical & virtual space 
  • Workforce– refers to how the overall workforce is designed, managed & motivated
  • Worktask– refers to the methods, technologies, tools and mindsets that deliver the work 

It must also take into account the existing organisational DNA, strategy and cultural norms aswell as broader external factors. The real challenges and the opportunities for organisations, and indeed for policy makers, lie between the interactions between the 3W’s. Any meaningful design needs to take an integrated approach in order to be ‘whole’.

In this context a useful definition for the Future of Work, developed by the future of work institute Cpl, is therefore as follows:

The ‘Future of Work’ refers to the purposeful study & the holistic, integrated design of workplaces, workforces and work tasks across multiple time horizons in the context of business & society. 

These concepts and more are further explored in our upcoming whitepaper ‘Exploring the Future of Work: Perspectives on the next collaborative advantage’ developed in partnership with the American Chamber of Commerce Ireland and due for launch by the end of November 2020.


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