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I was lucky enough to spend the last two days talking and discussing the “Future of Work” with some leading lights in the field – all within the confines of Windsor Castle (one of the Queen’s royal residences). We were meeting in the Vicar’s Hall beside St George’s Chapel, which was built by King Edward 111 in 1348. So we sat chatting about the new digital world of work and what that might look like in 2040 and beyond – while about 100 metres away lay 10 of the Kings of England including Henry V111 and too many Princes and Earls to even mention. The physical history of the place infused us all as we tried to get a handle on where the digital world relative to work is heading. For me this is a perfect cocktail – long history as a platform for future thinking.

The “Consultation” (as it was called by St George’s House who hosted the gathering) was made possible and led by David Smith, Chief Innovation and Technology Officer at Fujitsu and is part of a discussion programme being developed by Fujitsu to look at work in a digital world. One of the topics I threw in the ring early on was “The Digital Workplace – where does work end and life begin – and does it matter?” I talked about my grandfather who was a watch repairer in Manchester who never worked outside his tiny shop for his entire working life – and my own father who as a travelling salesman I never once saw working during my childhood. The good news was work and “life” were utterly separated and one downside is that my father’s work was a mystery to me.

Work addiction – a chapter in my book – and the impact of being always on, always available, always able to work – seemed to hit a nerve as people confessed to their work addiction. It is a striking aspect of modern life that we have huge swathes of people without any work and no prospect of work – and another group of “lucky” people with work who cannot switch off. What would an alien visitor make of this odd mismatch between inactivity and activity? But it seems we are hooked on work and enjoy this blurring between life and work. I don’t agree that this is good, or healthy or necessary. For 30 years I have worked for myself or run companies so have been fortunate to regulate my own time and work more or less as I wished – and having separation for me does matter. Yes it is wonderful to use technology to shape and design our working lives but we need to know when we are not working, won’t work and shouldn’t work.

It was also terrific to have several young British entrepreneurs in the room running successful, expanding and dynamic companies. There was no doubt in their mind that what young people entering the workforce want is work that has meaning and value and that the corporate brand they join – small or large – must be more than “just about the money” .  Young new hires expect high performance corporate values, freedom from hierarchy – and digital services and environments that are beautiful and effective. As I left I had a little stroll back into the Chapel and saw a physically gorgeous space – will digital worlds ever feel so pleasurable I wondered.

About the author

Paul Miller is CEO and Founder of the Digital Workplace Group (DWG), rated by the Financial Times in 2020 and 2021 as one of the UK’s leading management consultancies in digital transformation.

Paul is a business and social entrepreneur. His latest book is ‘Nature of Work – The new Story of Work for a Living Age’ (co-authored with Shimrit Janes). His previous book, The Digital Renaissance of Work: Delivering digital workplaces fit for the future (co-authored with Elizabeth Marsh), was shortlisted for the Management Book of the Year 2016 Award. Paul’s first book, The Digital Workplace: How technology is liberating work, helped to popularize and explain the term “digital workplace”. Paul has given many inspirational talks on the digital future of work, for audiences at Microsoft, IKEA, Google, Accenture, Harvard Business Review, Cisco, European Commission, IMF, Adobe and Oxford University. He hosts the Digital Workplace Impact podcast.

Paul hosted the pioneering internet radio show Digital Workplace Live and is Executive Producer of the 24-hour global digital experience DWG24.

Prior to founding DWG, Paul was Founder and CEO of communications company The Empowerment Group; Publisher and Editor of social and digital innovation magazine “Wave”; and, in pre-internet days, co-founder of the Ideas Café salon. He lives in the Cotswolds in the UK.

See more about Paul Miller on Wikipedia

Connect with Paul on Twitter: @paulmillersays

One Comment

  1. I enjoyed this idea: “long history as a platform for future thinking”. In fact “long” or deep thinking about the digital world of work (and play) strikes me as a really positive thing. As Richard Watson points out in “Future Minds”, for all its positives the digital world has the tendency to encourage quick and shallow thinking.

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