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Deloitte: Be purposeful in defining your work

Workers think in terms of projects, not long-term employment. 10'000 Hours/Getty Images

Not that long ago, employees had a defined role at a consistent worksite for the same company for many years. The employer-employee relationship seemed stable and well-defined. But times have changed. In a recent Deloitte Insights article, "What is the Future of Work?," Deloitte highlights how "forces of change" — e.g., accelerating connectivity, new talent models, artificial intelligence, crowdsourcing, etc. — are radically redefining the who, what, and where of work.

The workforce of the future has significant implications for everyone. For employees, planning out a 50-year career is almost impossible. For employers, their traditional approach to attract, develop, and retain workers has been shaken. The focus now is accessing and establishing flexible work engagements around specific projects. Deloitte's insights, summarized below, are eye-opening and portend potentially significant societal impact.

What is work?
Deloitte notes that technological advances have long impacted the nature of work in the Western world. The chart below shows the evolution across three eras.

Source: Deloitte Insights

In today's postindustrial era, robots and automated systems are replacing some jobs. Yet workers need not fear: their relational skills and insights can't be replaced by technology — and, in fact, enhance the value offered by technology. For example, online juggernaut Amazon opened a tech hub in Houston in July 2019. As the name implies, the hub will use technology, but it will also create 150 jobs, per a recent InnovationMap article. This is just one example illustrating that work now focuses on the ability to capture value from technology, solve problems, and manage human relationships.

Who is working?
The relationship between employers and employees will likely never be the same. Per Deloitte Insights, "[o]rganizations now have a broad continuum of options for finding workers, from hiring traditional full-time employees to availing themselves of managed services and outsourcing, independent contractors, gig workers, and crowdsourcing." This means companies should be adept at recruiting, engaging, and retaining workers in new types of relationships.

Workers in Houston are wading into the new model. In a study profiled in a recent CultureMap article, "Houston ranked second statewide and 11th in the U.S. among major metro areas for the size of the skilled-freelancer workforce per revenue produced." The relationship between workers and their jobs is shifting from long-term employment to project engagement.

Where are people working?
One thing is clear: workers are spending less face time with work colleagues. More and more work is being accomplished from home or coworking spaces. Many workers appreciate the flexibility of working remotely; companies can benefit from reduced overhead.

Houston is experiencing huge growth in the number of coworking spaces. The Cannon Houston moved into its new 120,000 square foot building in July 2019, and WeWork is planning to open another location, which will be its fourth in Houston and second in downtown Houston. These spaces offer not just desks and offices, but a variety of events and programming designed to foster community.

The new frontier
Deloitte notes that the full impact of these changes may just be starting — and the future of work is not a "foregone conclusion." We can allow technology to merely "drive more efficiency and cost reduction, or we can consider more deeply the ways to harness these trends and increase value and meaning across the board — for businesses, customers, and workers." Deloitte urges organizations to "zoom out and imagine the possibilities" to create positive outcomes for work, the workforce, and the workplace. As Deloitte sums it up: "[p]urpose will bring the future into focus."

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This publication contains general information only and Deloitte is not, by means of this publication, rendering accounting, business, financial, investment, legal, tax, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified professional advisor. Deloitte shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person who relies on this publication.

About Deloitte
Deloitte refers to one or more of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, a UK private company limited by guarantee ("DTTL"), its network of member firms, and their related entities. DTTL and each of its member firms are legally separate and independent entities. DTTL (also referred to as "Deloitte Global") does not provide services to clients. In the United States, Deloitte refers to one or more of the US member firms of DTTL, their related entities that operate using the "Deloitte" name in the United States and their respective affiliates. Certain services may not be available to attest clients under the rules and regulations of public accounting. Please see www.deloitte.com/about to learn more about our global network of member firms.

Copyright © 2019 Deloitte Development LLC. All rights reserved.

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Houston-based imaware, which has an at-home COVID-19 testing process, is working with Texas A&M University on researching how the virus affects the human body. Getty Images

An ongoing medical phenomenon is determining how COVID-19 affects people differently — especially in terms of severity. A new partnership between a Houston-based digital health platform and Texas A&M University is looking into differences in individual risk factors for the virus.

Imaware, which launched its at-home coronavirus testing kit in April, is using its data and information collected from the testing process for this new study on how the virus affects patients differently.

"As patient advocates, we want to aid in the search to understand more about why some patients are more vulnerable than others to the deadly complications of COVID-19," says Jani Tuomi, co-founder of imaware, in a press release. "Our current sample collection process is an efficient way to provide longitudinal prospectively driven data for research and to our knowledge, is the only such approach that is collecting, assessing, and biobanking specimens in real time."

Imaware uses a third-party lab to conduct the tests at patients' homes following the Center for Disease Control's guidelines and protocol. During the test, the medical professional takes additional swabs for the study. The test is then conducted by Austin-based Wheel, a telemedicine group.

Should the patient receive positive COVID-19 results, they are contacted by a representative of Wheel with further instructions. They are also called by a member of a team led by Dr. Rebecca Fischer, an infectious disease expert and epidemiologist and laboratory scientist at the Texas A&M University School of Public Health, to grant permission to be a part of the study.

Once a part of the study, the patient remains in contact with Fischer's team, which tracks the spread and conditions of the virus in the patient. One thing the researchers are looking for is the patients' responses to virus complications caused by an overabundance of cytokines, according to the press release. Cytokines are proteins in the body that fight viruses and infections, and, if not working properly, they can "trigger an over-exuberant inflammatory response" that can cause potentially deadly issues with lung and organ failure or worse, per the release.

"We believe strongly in supporting this research, as findings from the field can be implemented to improve clinical processes-- helping even more patients," says Wheel's executive medical director, Dr. Rafid Fadul.

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