An exploration of the current conditions of employment, work trends, digital developments etc. that has and will continue to have a large impact on the role of work in society today and in the future. The categorization depicts various scales from intercontinental and transnational to that of the office and body. 

Automation / work substitution
        Technological progress has become visible today both as machine substitution and complementation. Jobs gets overtaken by robots, and in other cases, tasks of certain jobs get automated, liberating humans to do more important and valuable tasks. In Japan, caretakers in nursing homes have been replaced by robots. Work complementation makes humans more productive and efficient at their jobs, resulting in a need for fewer people overall. A high unemployment level within a certain field contributes to an unregulated income for those in jobs, as there’s always someone who will do the work cheaper. Though production has increased across many sectors, it wasn’t followed by an increase in workers’ income. Automation will make a business more efficient when the needed technology is cheaper than human labour. The business will be able to make more money by selling their products cheaper, leading a business to get a monopoly on the specific market until all business have converted to machine-driven production.  

Distribution of work

        Automation holds the promise of increased free time for all, but already today the world is locked in a convention of badly distributed workload - some people hold a large amount of work, working indefinite over hours while others are completely out of work. Workers on low paid jobs might need to manage two jobs to be able to support themselves and their families, leaving no breathing space for actually reskilling to be able to take on a better-paid job. Equally, as businesses are commonly strict on employing on 5 days work week contracts, they constrain people who actually only need to work 3 or 4 days a week to support themselves. Until recently, long-term employment was the norm. In the gig economy, precarious working conditions like temporary contracts, zero-hour contracts, self-employment and freelance jobs have become more and more common. A reduction in working hours and a more equitable distribution will allow all to benefit from time saved by productivity gains.

Work migration / territory

        Migrant workers most commonly travel across territories to obtain a job within their field of work that isn’t accessible in their country of origin. These demographic changes pave the way for temporary links to a place with high employment possibilities. Instant cities build up very quickly to meet the consumer needs of mass migration. Though designed as volatile as the city in terms of regulation, these areas can’t compete with the dynamics and opportunities of the city. As employment demand falls, the lack of possibilities for finding new employment in that area leads to the phenomenon of shrinking cities – people migrating again to another area. Another example is the city of Paraupebas, which located in the middle of the Amazonian forest has an ultra-capitalist housing speculative market due to the surge of high-skill migration workers because of newly opened mine, this has lead to the displacement of the previous workers to sub-standard housing outside the city and a rise in unemployment.

Limits of production

        The scarcity of resources and environmental damages are two major challenges facing the increasing material production with theoretically limitless demand. There’s a limit on production work as resources are finite and the global need for environmental sustainability become more and more crucial. The need to rethink how we live and work will be paramount to define a more sustainable and lasting approach to production at a global and local level. In the name of green agenda, jobs within both resource extraction and material production will need to decrease, leading to a vast growing unemployment in areas of production work.

        The spatial typology of a workspace used to coincide with the sector of work, but the influence of digitalisation fundamentally changed the relationship between work and space. With the shift from an industrial to a predominantly knowledge-based economy, the dependency of specific spatial conditions has declined. The introduction of the computer enabled the combining of all necessary tools for immaterial work into one single device. Together with WIFI, work is enabled anywhere at any time. The digitalisation also laid the ground for the optimisation of management. Emails, phone calls, intercontinental conferences, communication and planning apps are all part of a new management protocol - facilitating communication between employer and employees, independent of location.

Generation change / Work flexibility

        With the generation change, there’s an emergent need to have a high level of flexibility of movement in relation to work. The WIFI has made it possible for anyone to work anywhere there’s an Internet connection. This challenges the conventional working day in space and time as these digital nomads value location independence very highly and their work often takes place in foreign countries, coffee shops, public libraries, co-working spaces or even recreational vehicles. By the end of the 2040’s, most of the baby boomer’s generation will have passed away, leaving a higher percentage of digital nomads with a completely different value system.

Extreme privatisation

        The development of co-working spaces with rental desks is mainly driven the by the private sector. Office hubs are promoted on the promise of community and network that will boost smaller businesses and start-ups. To rent a desk in such work environments is an exclusive act. In Copenhagen’s newly build BLOXHUB building on the harbour front, the choice of desk lies between a dedicated desk (5.995 kr./month), hot desk (4.495 kr./month) and start-up desk (2.995 kr./month). These options are only available with an additional membership fee that depends on the size of the company (1-5 people: 4.000 kr./year). The privatization leads to an exclusion of workers that don’t already possess an initial leverage or income whereas if this took form as a public service, it would be able to reach out to a much larger target group and activate more varied workers.

Leisure / Space for optimization

        The work centred lifestyle is based on a cultural obsession with work and productivity. The work sphere infiltrates leisure time through technological devices such as the smartphone by keeping individuals “passively on work” constantly. Emails and phone calls are always at hand. As freelance and self-employment become more and more common, the separation between leisure and work becomes equally more invisible. More importantly, with the glorification of commitment, the nature of leisure has changed so that leisure needs to be productive as well. Leisure is not just a time to rest to be ready to work again, but has become a space for optimising skills to do work better and more efficiently. With the omnipresence of work, one’s personality becomes more defined by one’s professional occupation than anything else. Work becomes fetishised to an extent where one doesn’t simply work to live but live to work.

        The home turns into a productive space when work or work-related activities occur. The home is mainly a catalyst for two types of work, namely unpaid domestic labour and home office work. In 2014, the value of domestic labour such as cleaning, cooking or doing the laundry was estimated at £ 1.1 billion, where women carry out 60% more domestic labour than men. Home office work unfolds part or full time in a delegated space in the home. The fantasy of the home office has given way to the reality of the bed office, as the bed is often the chosen space for work, as shown by the Wall Street Journal, which reported in 2012 that 80 % of young New York City professionals work regularly from bed. Without the notion of work, the home would be a space that mainly caters for domestic activities such as sleeping, eating or showering and domestic leisure such as relaxation, contemplation or entertainment.

The body

        The individual performance of an employee is key in the culture of work centred society. Performance drugs are in a hotbed of interest in highly competitive environments, where people try to become smarter than their biology dictates. The well-known “smart drugs” or nootropics such as the prescription-only stimulants Adderall and Ritalin are consumed on a daily basis with the aim of improving cognitive function - obtaining better memory, more clarity and stronger problem-solving abilities. But drugs are not the only way - in the name of higher productivity, sleep and exercise is the way the majority go about to enhance their performance on the job. The psycho-pharmaceutical industry provides endless options for sleeping pills together with an army of sleep experts advising on how to achieve the perfect night of sleep. Body training programs, guides for keeping the right posture together with ergonomic chairs are all part on one cocktail to enhance the amount of time the body can sit at a desk.