Three ways the 2020s workplace is better than the 1980s

women on her laptop

“Business – for professionals today – is way better than it was back in the 1980s,” says Angela Podmore, founder of PR and communications consultancy, Kinetic Communications Ltd.

Angela believes business is better because it’s:

  • Stronger
  • Smarter
  • Better-connected.

Read on as Angela unpicks each of these below – giving an analysis of how the world of business has changed for the better.

1. Stronger – by being more flexible

Business is much more resilient in the 2020s than it was 40 or 50 years ago. People now know what they’re doing – most of the time! They’re trained for their role. Expectations are put in writing.

In the old days, you were often thrown in at the deep end. Sink or swim. Only big companies had strong induction processes, training programmes and continuous professional development.

Workers now have greater autonomy. We choose how hard we work, which means we feel greater ownership. Every job, no matter how seemingly menial, encourages you to use your initiative.

You choose when you’re accessible – through mobile or laptop – so, within reason, you can work when suits you. That’s not only getting the best of us workers, flexing with our particular biorhythms, but it’s also keeping lots of talent in the workplace – the young families, the carers, as well as the ‘if-it-weren’t-for-flexible-working-I’d-have-retired-by-now’ types.

Speed thrills. Things that used to take days, weeks or even months now happen in real-time. A new service can be brain-bounced into life on a Monday morning and online by 5pm. Documents are developed collaboratively by sharing screens, whereas previously they were time-consumingly and repeatedly revised with Tipp-Ex and a typewriter!

2. Smarter – by working collaboratively

It’s so true that none of us is as strong or as smart as all of us. Embrace everyone in your team because a great idea can come from anyone.

Our workplaces are now far more diverse than they used to be: by gender, age, ability, race and religion. It’s no longer a man’s world.

You thrive or perish in business today depending on your wits, abilities and achievements. Long gone are the days of your old school tie and received pronunciation opening doors for you. Those old beliefs are stuck in a time warp together with the British Empire. Nowadays, a regional accent is an asset. It shows how you’re relevant because you know what it takes to make it on your own merits, and you understand real people.

Today, tech makes it so much easier to collaborate and share workloads. And tech can really help businesses measure every dimension what’s working and what’s not.

Today’s savvy business people are stronger than even the brewing marketing genius – John Wanamaker – who once famously said: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.”

You wouldn’t be wasting half your budget today if you’ve set up your campaign to measure robustly to see exactly what’s working and what’s not.

The difference technology is making to our working lives – for better and worse – is well-documented. We can capture compelling footage at the tips of our fingers with our mobile phones. It’s completely free – no need for special equipment, just a simple smartphone, no precious film, no waiting for processing and no cost of publication.

3. Better-connected

Business in the 1980s was formal. On day one, in the 1980s, my name was on my office door. I had a business card with a title which seemed to impress. Formal business attire was a pre-requisite, whereas today we encourage team members to dress for their day.

My desk was my domain, but I now love how I’m free to hot desk in the office, at home or in a patisserie in Lisbon.

The other formality that’s dropped away is the stiff language that was used in every communication, from a humble internal memo to letters to clients and suppliers.

Relationships were contractual: “please do ‘this’ for ‘this amount of money’ and ‘over this time period’.” Today, it’s all about relationships. Everything we say and do is in the spirit of partnership.

There may be less conversation in the workplace, but that’s replaced with greater focus on both the job in hand and etiquette

And our reach – regards our personal network – is now literally astronomic. Years ago, I went to see Chris Hadfield, the astronaut, speak. He inspired me to write a blog and responded with a tweet regarding rights to use NASA’s (and his) photography. Ang ‘chatting’ with an astronaut – I was impressed with myself that day.

The biggest difference of all

For me, the biggest difference between working in the 1980s compared with today, is that today we’re all working far more ‘on purpose’.

There’s a lot more meaning to work. It’s not just about customers giving you permission to hold on to your profit because they consider you’ve earned it. It’s about contributing to a better world. I know that sounds lofty and a bit ‘woo woo’, but it’s really happening in our world. More businesses are more ethically-minded and values-led – and that’s a good thing.

When considering how I spend my working life, I thank my dad who trotted out the cliché: “Do something you enjoy, and you’ll never work another day in your life.” So true.

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