Friday, January 20, 2012

Will Humans Ever Live 500+ Years?

Not long ago, I was speaking with a gentleman who was 70-plus years old, worried that he had but a mere 10-15 years left. His brother had passed on already and most of the men in his family hadn't outlived his present age, although the women in his family had done exceptionally well. Although my acquaintance did not wish to live forever, he did wish to live long enough to watch his grandchildren grow up and have kids of their own, who could blame him?
When I suggested that modern science might one day figure out a way to live forever, he wasn't interested, and thought that would be too long. But why I asked? You see, shouldn't someone be able to live for as long as they wished? He said we couldn't do that because it was economically unfeasible, because everyone would be retired and no one would be working. I disagree because in the future the robots will be producing everything and doing most of the service jobs.
Further, if you lived forever and you were in good health with the body of a young person you'd be able to have multiple careers, and pursue all of your interest one after another, perhaps changing every couple of decades or so. Further, you probably wouldn't reproduce till much later in life after you had the money saved, and the experience to be a proper parent. That would mean the kids would grow up with more knowledge, better parenting, and we'd have a more civil society. What if people could live for 500 years?
Perhaps, 500-years might be a real stretch, but it doesn't have to be, it's a solvable problem now with current science, we can do this, well if we don't piss away this medical research opportunity. Rather than solving all the disease issues, let's solve old age, after all "everyone dies" and only some people get some diseases. If everyone were perpetually young you wouldn't need social security, you would be hyper productive all the time, maybe take of five years for vacation every 20 or so. It's doable.
For those that think it is against God's will, or would debate me on a religious reasoning, I would say to them that surely their God gave them the intellect to figure out how to extend the life experience, plus in the early days of the Bible it appears that people lived for as long as 600 years if you take it literally, as folks who might make that argument would - then what's wrong with 500 years in that case?
Lastly, I think it's unfortunate that we don't spend the research and money for life extension, and we spend so much money for combating diseases, which don't affect everyone. You see, everyone who has ever lived has died. I believe people don't have to die. Indeed I hope you will please consider all this and think on it.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

What Is the Future of Work?

Some 30 years ago, it was believed that technology would change the way we work: more automation, more part-time jobs, the paperless office, etc.

Of course, these changes are nearly always more evolution than revolution and often don't turn out quite in the way originally envisaged.

However, a few large companies have pioneered new ways of working and many more appear to be following suit.

What has changed?

Social and technological developments have contrived to create a situation where workers both want to change the way they are expected to work and have the tools available to achieve this.

With the family model of only one parent (mainly the father) at work being thrown into disarray by the Second World War, women have increasingly taken their place in the workforce. Our economy has grown with this development to reach a stage where many families could not survive without two salaries.

For some time many parents have put up with this, but younger generations coming into the workforce are rightly saying there has to be a better way. They want to work more around their partner's and children's lives and create a balance that is good for them and the family as a whole.

Employment law has also evolved to protect women at work and provide far greater flexibility in relation to childcare. The final missing link was the technology to enable and empower a more mobile, flexible, autonomous workforce.

The technology at work

First, came the internet. It took a while to develop, having been around since the 60's. Then we had mobile phones - although the first devices stretched the term 'mobile' to the limit. Networks and electronic engineering developed rapidly, however, and we now have near ubiquitous coverage and pocket sized phones.

Similarly wireless networks and the cloud (again, not new, but newly modified) have given us more choice about where we can work and how we can access our work.

The workforce can now work from home, from caf├ęs, hotels, client premises, trains, planes and automobiles.

Is this the end of the office?

Humans are social animals. For the most part, we need physical contact and work better as part of a group. The office is not going to go away, because it is a convenient base for administrative functions, planning and meeting superiors, colleagues, clients, etc.

However, there is no need to be there at set times, in set places, to perform set tasks in set ways.

The technology now enables us to work from smaller interfaces: laptops, net-books, tablets, mobile phones and from many more locations: anywhere there is wireless and/or mobile network.

Now, a typical flexible worker might work for a couple of hours in the morning, before taking the children to school, after which they put in a few more hours before meeting friends for lunch and doing a bit of shopping, Skype with the team, enjoy late afternoon and early evening with the family before checking emails and getting a couple of jobs off their 'to-do' list after supper.

They might have meetings in the office once a week or month, chat with colleagues about projects via telephone, video conferencing, Skype, social media, etc and perhaps hot-desk in the office now and then.

Benefits to the business

It is not just about saving money. Early pioneers in this practice include BT, Microsoft, Orange, Vodafone and Hewlett Packard.

Their experiences, along with a great deal of supporting research, show that while money is saved on real estate, utilities and infrastructure (this is despite money needing to be spent ensuring staff have training and all the right hardware, software and equipment), there are also increases in staff engagement, morale and productivity.

This has a direct impact on staff attraction, motivation and retention; employing the best staff and lowering the churn rate improves business performance and saves time and money on recruitment. It can also change staff engagement; some employees may be happier to work on a self-employed basis, with contracts based on specific projects or terms.

In turn, these improvements make companies more agile: they can adapt to changes in their environment and client needs; service existing markets over an extended area and move faster into new markets; grow when business demands and contract when it doesn't; and minimise interruption through improved disaster recovery ability.

For organisations seeking to improve their environmental credentials, there are also benefits in reducing their real estate footprint, utilities bills and staff commuting levels. Fewer cars on the road reduce emissions and fuel requirements as well as reducing congestion.

Is this your business?

There is no doubt in my mind that this is the future of work. As a provider of office space, it means I am going to have to ensure I keep abreast of these changes and offer what businesses will, increasingly, need.

However, with a sea change in how people view their working lives and technology as enabler, we are all going to have to look at the best ways to work.

If we are prepared to measure staff by performance rather than time present and trust people to not abuse the autonomy they are given, then the truly flexible worker can become the norm and we will all benefit.

Centre Manager at Colston Office Centre, providing fully serviced offices suites and virtual office facilities.

Marketing professional with experience in the hospitality and catering sector as well as commercial property.