Changing workscapes

Two weeks ago we had our 6-monthly extended Nordwit Centre meeting – who would have thought a year ago that in April 2021 we would still all be on zoom?! But the experience made clear, in more ways than one, that we have all begun to get used to what I call ‘changing workscapes’ – changing work environments in which where and how we work has adapted to the necessities of the covid situation.

But beyond that it has catapulted many people including our Centre members into much more strongly technologized work environments. Many of us now work in what we in the Centre describe as ‘tech-driven’ jobs, of necessity, as we commune and do our work mainly or even exclusively via various types of digital platforms. And only yesterday morning (6 May) it was announced in the news in the UK that 43 out of 46 large organizations surveyed had declared that they did not envisage a return-to-the-office-as-before scenario for their workers post-covid (this is, of course, assuming that there will be a post-covid situation… if the World Health Organization is to be believed, this is not on the cards any time soon…).

The ‘deep reach’ of tech, which many of us have experienced for the first time during covid, is clearly here to stay. What covid has taught us is how quickly and competently many of us can adapt, technologically speaking, to this situation. This raises questions around the classification of jobs and professions. Are we not all becoming some sort of ICT expert now? One of the discussion points of our Centre meeting two weeks ago was the extent to which statistics accurately reflect contemporary work situations. There are many thing statistics can do but also many things they cannot do. They cannot, for example, record in-job changes or the shift to technologized work environments very readily. They also do not show professional development (in the form of additionally acquired skills in/through one’s work environment), on-the-job informal learning (which we have all had to do so much over this past year), or the acquisition of knowledge and skills through second degrees. However, one might argue that these modes of professional development have become much more endemic over the past few years. In our Centre we have seen many examples of professionals in diverse contexts whose jobs have changed beyond all recognition over the past few years through the technologization of workspaces. It’s time we started to reflect more sustainedly on how we can describe and account for these changes.

Gabriele Griffin 

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