In these times much is being discussed about the future of work. The third industrial revolution is just around the corner and could completely change the way we relate to work. But even if machines fail to destroy most of today’s jobs and the creativity or manipulative ability of humans is still needed, we will see profound changes in how we work.
It is natural. Work has been changing a lot throughout history. Increases in productivity have led humanity to dedicate itself to tasks that are more creative than mechanical, in fact, because of this, now few people work in agriculture and there are jobs as stylists, which some decades ago would seem impossible. And the trend continues unstoppable.
Minimum organizational cost
The first thing that we should consider is why companies organize themselves as they do. And the answer is natural: they do so because the company seeks the minimum cost to manufacture the product or service. If there were a cheaper way of doing things, a competitor would come and scrape them off the map. It’s only a matter of time before something like that happens.
The most common organization we see today is that companies have a stable relationship with their workers. Regardless of whether these workers are indefinite or temporary, the company wants these workers to dedicate all their time to the company. And in the past this was the way to minimize costs: to perform any task needed many people and it was necessary to have a formal relationship between them, to be seated in the same workshop and devote a reasonable time to perform the tasks.
However, productivity has not stopped increasing, and it does not take so many people to perform the same tasks as before. And communication does not have to be face-to-face, technology has created tools to make communication easier.
Fewer and fewer employees needed
As we need less and less employees to perform the tasks, we can conclude that for certain things an employee is not needed, but a fraction of it. And at this point the traditional company-employee relationship ceases to be the least cost solution for the company.
It is then that companies start to subcontract certain tasks to specialized companies or to have independent or self-employed workers. Mind you, I’m not talking about fake self-employed people who spend 100% of their time on a company and have a different working relationship simply to avoid paying taxes, but really when a company needs occasional service.
Let’s look at an example. Before, in a large company it could be necessary a whole department to realize the payrolls. Right now a single person with powerful software can do them and you do not need to spend a lot of time throughout the month to do it. If that employee can not handle other tasks, what makes the most sense is for the company to outsource this management to another company or to a self-employed person (who will spend his time doing this task for several companies). It is not at all strange to see today that the elaboration of payroll is externalized, for example.
In the future we could see companies with hardly any workers, who are in charge of coordinating the services provided by other companies or self-employed
Today, however, anyone has a computer at home with enough power to do all the paperwork, the banks facilitate the management of non-presential and the necessary information and receipts are sent by email. The increase in productivity is such that a task that previously required exclusive and coordinated resources (whose best organization at cost level is through employees) now no longer needs such an organization.
Companies without workers
The reality is stubborn, and no matter how hard we try to legally protect workers, there will be more jobs that will disappear, not only because they are automated, but because companies will not find the courage to have employees dedicated exclusively to tasks that do not Require 100% of the time.
One solution is, of course, that companies specialize in certain tasks and services are provided among them, having employees doing those functions but for several companies. But there is also the case of having more independent workers, truly self-employed, working for several companies.