Future Workplace: Work in Progress

02 December 2022
6 min read
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Let’s go into space to understand how work is changing

Imagine 12 people who do not know each other, living for 10 days in a beautiful place, surrounded by nature, away from everyday venues. Perhaps a big house on an island in the middle of the ocean. They are young men and women doing creative, innovative work related to digital culture and communication. They often have a special talent, a project to cultivate, ambitious ideas. They are there to work, but not only that: they can all take part together in some activity, every day. They do yoga at dawn. They climb a volcano. They surf. They eat typical dishes prepared by a chef. They take a pottery class with local artists. They improvise trips and excursions. 

Day by day, they get to know each other better, become friends, help each other and exchange ideas. 

This is not a science fiction story about a utopian future. And it is not the beginning of a TV series or the format for a new reality show. It is the real experience of those who participate in Cosmico’s Space Hubs. Space places where Cosmico lands talents to give them extraordinary experiences. 

I MILLE also participates in these space explorations. Already three groups of our people have joined two different expeditions, and more will join the next ones in 2023. In the meantime, our leaders have been and will be participating in another Cosmico format, the "space explorations": meetings, debates, talks, and opportunities for in-depth discussions. For us, this is not a corporate "benefit," it is a project, a way to get out of our comfort zone, to experience, know and learn, and bring it all back to the base as teaching and new energy.

We had a chat with the young men and women of I MILLE who have been in the Fuerteventura Space Hub. We asked them what they saw. From their stories, we pulled out some possible movements that speak about the present and future of employment. About how we could better organize our lives to make them fuller and freer. About how work could include our dreams and passions, instead of leaving them out. 

Work → Life 

From the top of the volcano, we had a different perspective on our work day. The day did not end with the end of the work shift; on the contrary, it got longer, and it seemed denser. Knowing that we were going to do nice and intense things later on, we were better organized, quicker and more productive, and more lucid in choosing our priorities. We did not neglect work, however, we included it in a more integral experience. Work can be part of life; it doesn't have to compete with it. 

Colleagues → Accomplices 

At sunset, with a glass in hand, we often thought of our colleagues back home... Joking aside: meeting new people, with different stories and different experiences, is always inspiring. Even if your colleagues are the best in the world. Sharing everyday life, living spaces and times creates a special bond with people. We talked little about work, but while sharing and collaboration arose spontaneously, we exchanged ideas and tools. We were not colleagues, we were accomplices, and it should always be that way with the people you work with. 

Schedule → Time

Looking at the starry sky at night, we seemed to have found a different relationship with time. Not only did the days get longer, but in those days we were the ones creating our own time, and we thought, maybe you can be less dependent on schedules. Working more freely, even asynchronously, changing the organization, trying to harmonize different times and ways, relating to everyone’s needs... It is ambitious, sure. Complicated perhaps. However, time management is perhaps the greatest benefit a company can give people.  

Remote → Smart 

Going really far, to an island in the middle of the sea, it becomes clear that remote working is not the same as smart working. To be truly smart, work should be more independent: the project should replace working hours, the goal should replace continuous or on-call presence. Quality of work should matter more than quantity. Over there, we felt like it could be done. What did we say? Nothing will be the same as before. Then we might as well try...   

Rule → Exception 

Seen from a surfboard, the waves are all different from each other. The only rule is the exception. Those days, we surfed as a beautiful exception that broke the rule of our daily day-to-day lives, disrupted the routine, interrupted the repetition. However, the exception does not always confirm the rule; indeed, it sometimes questions it. In our work, do we really need all the rules we have set for ourselves? Surely we would need a few more exceptions. 

Exception → Rule 

However, when does an exception become the rule? Could we really work anywhere, with everyone always "out of the office," constantly changing location, context, people? Sure, it is a nice dream, but we shouldn’t forget that even connecting with the people we work is important. We can’t completely give up sharing spaces, daily attendance, and human relationships. The best thing would be an hybrid situation, and making sure the exception does not become the rule, but just part of the rule. Should we all be sent “into space” at least a couple of times a year? Why not?! 

Resignation → Change 

While eating paella, we also talked about "big resignations," and we said to each other: maybe people who have quit their jobs don't really want to resign, to let go, to give up. They want better jobs, more balanced with their life, more in tune with their passions and desires. They want the chance to move, to change, to improve their condition. We want to move. Give us a job that moves with us, and maybe we won't have to leave it. 

Fear → Courage 

Before leaving, some of us were stuck. Concerned. It is never easy to leave your comfort zone, to accept change, to meet new people, to put yourself out there. Then, slowly, fear gives way to confidence, and courage, even. We discovered that not only were we capable of changing, of stepping out of our comfort zone, but that this stepping out could enrich us, open us up, give us new stimuli. Now we know that we could do it again, we know that change is possible. We will fear future changes and shifts a little less. 

Office → Workshop 

Moving through the spaces of the Fuerteventura house, we thought that perhaps even traditional office spaces are becoming less and less suitable for the things we do. Desks, fixed stations, immobility: do we still function this way? Perhaps the work space needs to be redesigned in a more dynamic, flexible, adaptive sense. Suddenly, ‘office’ seemed like a very bad word to us! It should look more like a lab, a studio, or even a craft workshop. 

Company → Person 

Looking at other people's projects reminded us of how good and important it is to nurture our own ideas. And we told each other that we must never stop cultivating our personal projects. Even if we work for an agency, we should always find the space and energy to follow our own passions, or obsessions, or fixed nail. Our own little dream. Because that passion does not take time away from the agency; on the contrary, it feeds it energy, knowledge, experience. Growing as people is the only way to make everything around us grow. 

The world of work is in flux, between breakaways and setbacks. People's organizational models, goals, needs and desires are changing. The very idea of work is changing, and so is its relationship to everything we do in the course of our lives. We too are "in progress": we see a movement forward, and we are not content with following or going along with it. We would like to try to anticipate it. Maybe even guide it. In the meantime, we talk about it.

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