The changes in how we work

By Naoimh Reilly

Long gone are the days when you had one secure, pensionable job for life. On average, people now have three different careers during their lifetime. Now, more than ever, people have multiple jobs at one time also.


Necessity and desire are the main drivers behind this change. We no longer have pensionable jobs with regular salaries in the bank every month. Technology is entwined with our need and desire to work like we have never worked before.


Over the last decade, machines and technology have replaced workers in many roles. There is a very real fear that robots will take over low skilled jobs and even some skilled ones, which could create a two-tiered society of the very wealthy and the extremely poor.


However, it also has the potential to create more jobs than it has displaced. Many of these new jobs will be freelance by nature. They will include roles where people can work from home, dictating their own hours to suit their lifestyle. These more flexible and creative jobs could lead to entrepreneurship and innovation like we’ve never seen it before.

If technological advances allow businesses to automate, than this leaves far more room for innovation. We can see the seeds of this already. Today’s powerful computers help us to create more advanced machinery, ideas and concepts.


The digital economy means we don’t work the same way we used to. You no longer need to sit in the office from Monday to Friday, nine to five, in your permanent pensionable job. You don’t need to be physically present to conduct business.


Online businesses make money from the capital of their users. These businesses can evolve faster and yield higher profit margins than bricks and mortar endeavours. This can often be done with far fewer employees too, keeping payroll and overhead cost to a minimum.


The changing nature in the way we do business and the terms on which they work, is known as ‘the gig-economy.’ This means is that all you need to work and trade is to be connected to the internet. People can live in one country and work for a company located on the other side of the world.  


The World Bank released a report in 2018 called ‘World Development Report for 2019 on The Changing Nature of Work’ which looked at what exactly is changing and what we need to do. The report estimates that around 84 million people work as freelancers. That is a relatively low percentage in a global labour force of 3.5 billion. But it is on the increase and this increase is more pronounced in advanced economies. With the digital nature of work expanding, the demand for certain types of skills is changing. The demand for advanced cognitive abilities and greater adaptability are on the increase.


One of the major downfalls with the ‘gig economy’ is the lack of benefits. These jobs blur the line between being an employee and a contractor. There are no pensions, no holidays and no health protection insurance. Is it time we started rethinking social protection systems? The systems we have are outdated and don’t help enough people. Social insurance is financed by taxing wages. This system relies on steady employment with a clear contract between employee and employer. This contributory approach is beginning to become outdated and not fit-for-purpose, with the changing nature of work.

Traditional banks are also not keeping up with our ‘out of hours’ lifestyle. People are demanding more from their banking services and the ability to transfer money 24 hours a day are of paramount importance to the ‘gig-economy.’ The state and financial institutions have a long way to catch up with the changing nature of work.


More and more people are also working two or more jobs to supplement their income. People are realising the importance of multiple income streams and micro-payments. Many workers have their normal day job and also have alternative ways of making money, such as: Blogging, podcasting or selling items on site such as eBay or Etsy. These people are sometimes known as ‘slashies,’ as in, accountant/blogger/social media marketer.


The increase in the cost of living, paying rent or mortgages and the absence of job security has forced people to become ‘Jack-of-all-trades’ and to constantly expand their skill levels to make extra income. It makes financial knowledge and planning all the more vital.


However, it is not always just out of necessity - many people enjoy the creativity and freedom. Having multiple creative jobs has its benefits: It gives you the opportunity to pursue something you’re truly passionate about and generate extra income while you’re at it. It’s also a great way to reduce risk when starting a new business. Before taking the full leap, you can try it out to see if it’s going to be successful without giving up the day job.


There used to be a certain stigma about being ‘Jack-of-all-trades’ but in the current economy, it’s seen as a plus. There’s no such thing as a job for life anymore as the demand for things changes so fast.


People are getting more confident about trying new things, but there is a higher possibility of burnout when you have multiple careers. You can end up working continuously and never switching off. With the increasing trend of merging your life with your job(s), there is a real risk to your mental health. As with most things in life, it’s about balance and planning.