Current Trends and the Future of Work in India.
In our previous post, we explored the History of Work in India. Why the 8-hour workday or the 5-day work week? How has the history of work in India led us to where we are today? For this post, we dig into current trends and how we believe the Future of Work in India will look like over the next decade.
Table of Contents:
The Effectiveness of 8 Hours Per Day.
Near the end of our previous post, we analyzed the average work hour input of a typical Indian government employee. Let’s break that down again.
There are broadly two groups of workers as per the Central Government Department of India — 5-day (8 hours and 30 minutes per day) and 6-day (7 hours and 30 minutes). Let’s examine the 5-day workers career input.
Average Indian working age: 18–67
This equates to 49 years of work-life.
Total hours: 429,240 hours
Total sleep: 143,080 hours (avg. 8 hours per night)
Total wake: 286,160 hours
Total workdays per year (Government Worker India) = 251 days
Total workdays: 12,299 days (between 18–67)
Avg. Indian Government works 8.5 hours / day (42.5 hours / 5 day week)
104,542 : Total work hours — hours in a 49 year work lifetime.
= One third of one’s wake hours.
“But what about their multiple chai and sutta breaks”? Since the days of Pre-Industrial (Agrarian) and Early Industrial India, the average work hour input per day has dipped heavily. A study of nearly 2,000 full-time office workers revealed that people aren’t working for most of the time they’re at work. Among the various unproductive activities listed by the survey were:
- Reading news websites — 1 hour, 5 minutes
- Checking social media — 44 minutes
- Discussing non-work-related things with co-workers — 40 minutes
- Searching for new jobs — 26 minutes
- Taking smoke breaks — 23 minutes
- Making calls to partners or friends — 18 minutes
- Making hot drinks — 17 minutes
- Texting or instant messaging — 14 minutes
- Eating snacks — 8 minutes
- Making food in office — 7 minutes
The total here sums up to almost 4.5 hr. So for a 9 hr work-day, time spent effectively on work is just 4.5 hr. In many cases, this could go down to 3 hr of effective working a day.
But is the dip only due to the factors mentioned above? What about the increase in productivity/time ratios due to technology? Maybe, employees today are wrapping up what they need to get done more efficiently thanks to the tools and technology they have, giving them this additional free time.
Automation + AI and Its Effect on Work Hour Input.
Automation through AI is increasingly speeding up all the processes which are repetitive in nature or which follow a similar pattern over multiple cycles of operation. Scheduling, billing, payroll management, email responders, proposal generators, and many more such tasks are gradually getting automated. This is helping create a workforce that is more productive, as they can now focus more on core business functions like strategic planning or creative thinking. The result is that the average work time per week in various developed countries is reducing.
As per available statistics, the annual working hour in the US in 1900 used to be 2900 hours. This went down to 1900 hours in 2000. This has even dipped further in 2020 and is expected to continue decreasing all the way till 2050 as illustrated in the following figure:
Work processes have systematically evolved since the first industrial revolution. The metrics of today’s capitalism point to the fact that anything that can be measured or based on rules will be automated. This means that the only jobs available in the future will be the ones that machines can’t do. For better clarity, consider self-driving vehicles. They will sooner or later replace tens of millions of jobs currently conducted by humans. ‘Uberfication of everything’ is no more a trend, it’s a reality today, as the human interface gets nullified increasingly. Machines find greater acceptance among business owners as they don’t unionize, take breaks or suffer from depression. Below are some interesting trends coming out of the UK.
Robotics and artificial intelligence are eating jobs at an alarming rate. Automation may put a third of a million retail employees out of work in the next eight years, according to the British Retail Consortium. What happens when all industries respond with mass unemployment and investments in automation?
Bill Gates had made the headlines a few years back when he suggested that machines like robots and AI could be taxed to offset the social impact of automation. For example, South Korea has introduced a policy that will limit available tax incentives for companies that invest in automated machines. A similar approach has also been considered in the UK and has been supported by Bill Gates. The money generated via this automation tax could be used towards financing a universal basic income (UBI). A number of countries, including Finland, Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, the US, and Canada, are already considering different variations of a UBI to counteract the side effects of automation. Gates’ suggestion provides an insight into aspects of capitalism and human nature given that the whole point of automation is that the machine doesn’t require a salary or an employment contract.
For the near term, we are seeing AI and Automation in the service realms splitting into two buckets: Work Augmentation and Workforce Intelligence.
With work augmentation tools, AI and automation will better equip workers by helping them with the initial stages of a task or project. Eg. Build a quick website wireframe, get ideas for copy, etc. Let’s say you are a sculptor, soon AI will be able to whittle down the marble block to the rough shape of liking, you will then need to jump in to creatively detail it out for the final sculpture. This increase in productivity may now allow you to create two sculptures in the same time frame vs. one.
With the ever-increasing number of distributed teams, AI and automation will play an immense role in managing team members, conducting basic HR tasks (payroll), and collecting and assessing data to help humans make smarter decisions. Workforce intelligence will be a key area where AI and automation will be playing over the next decade, especially in the service world.
Does the Future Need Full-Time Employment?
The math of full employment is interesting. Consider the following — with higher-tech integration, fewer workers with current skill-sets, are to get employment in the industry. That means, to obtain “full employment” — where everyone who wants a job has one — the economy requires that everyone work shorter work-weeks, or else an ever-growing number of businesses is needed in order to employ the same number of people. As an example, let’s assume that an average business employs 10 people in its rolls for optimal output. For full employment, with the same level of output, 10 businesses are required to employ 100 people. If technology enhances productivity to an extent that 1 person can do the work of 10, the average number of people a business employs drops to 1. Under the current scenario, the number of businesses needed to employ everyone has to grow to 100. (note: compensating for population growth would require even more than 100 businesses).
One trend that is rising in the Nordic countries is Flexiworking. As a Flexi-worker a person will be able to split time between 2–3 organizations spending a day or two at each organization per week. They will be compensated and will own equity from these organizations versus depending on a single organization’s future“upside”. As Flexi-working becomes more prevalent the idea of the traditional org structure will start to look prehistoric. New structures will start seeing mass adoption. (eg. DAOs — more on this later).
2020–2030: The Office.
Remote work was always going to happen. 2020 and the pandemic helped accelerate this. Work-weeks, work-hours, work-places, and even work-wears are getting a whole new definition in modern organizations the world over. Flexibility in work schedules is increasingly becoming the top priority for young job seekers.
With various online tools to manage productivity, communication and execution, remote working is setting a new trend in global businesses — for both start-ups and larger organizations. Employees can log in at their convenience, often in their sweatpants, finish the task at hand or jump into a video conference or simply chat on one of the preferred business communication apps — from their homes, a beach, or while in transit in an Uber / Ola.
If companies want the best talent, at a minimum they will need to have an optional remote work policy. Unless it’s an “in-person” job, most remote workers will start moving to rural / cheaper places. Cleaner air, quieter surroundings, and fewer people will start playing an equal, if not more important a reason to move out of cities than just the cost of living.
Large corporations will eventually need to start consolidating multiple offices in a city to a few, if not one. Smaller companies will start moving from a company HQ to a small room / virtual office used simply for legal compliance.
To help build culture and prevent “work from home” fatigue, small clusters of “live and work in” offices in destination-based locations such as beaches/hills will start popping up. Companies will start using these for team-building exercises, product sprints, etc.
For the near term, video calls are here to stay. Telepresence solutions are currently constrained due to hardware limits. With time as the devices become smaller and less obtrusive mass adoption will occur. The physical will start moving to the virtual. We will see the rise of virtual / meta offices where distributed employees can virtually come together to interact.
Interior designers and architects will play an important part this decade in helping design homes that clearly define work and living boundaries. Another interesting trend we believe we will see is the rise of a new “at home workwear” fashion vertical.
The decentralization of workspace, virtualization technology, and the blending of home and work will change the way we have understood the office over the past century. Innovative models and solutions to help with this transition will make this decade super exciting.
2020–2030: The Worker.
This decade will see the rise of SMEs (individual subject matter experts) and Flexi-workers who will define their work hours and workdays. Freelancers will become more integral parts of organizations, where they will be leading projects if not divisions. The legacy 9–5, five days a week folks that have had the same routine for decades will have a difficult time with this new way of work.
We are already witnessing a net decrease in work hours, this will further reduce with better automation and AI as workers are better augmented to perform at higher productivity/time ratios. As Flexi-workers gain more time they will be able to spend with more organizations or they can spend it on themselves. Office “face-time” will die this decade. We believe this decade sees the rise of the Flexi-C Level employee. eg. a CBO (Chief Brand Officer) for 2–3 brands vs. 1., and split their time based on the ROI of their hour.
But what is one’s single work hour worth? This decade we will see smarter tools allowing individuals to measure time input vs. work output vs. ideal pricing with respect to broader data sets and indexes. One interesting debate we foresee will be how one prices their time across geographies. Eg. Let’s say you are a virtual worker living in India. Do you price your work hour the same for a client in India as you would for a client in the US? Should PPP indexes cover virtual remote services and not only Big Macs? We think the answer is yes and soon we will see publicly available indexes for virtual service verticals.
The Pseudonymous employee/service provider will rise. Equipped professionals from India, Africa.. etc will be able to provide services/end products at par with their western counterparts at a fraction of the cost. Such folks will be nameless and soon with voice AI, will be able to speak in accents more familiar to their customers through voice filters. With time, service vertical salaries will start nearing equilibrium points globally. Western governments will eventually step in with concepts similar to H1Bs for capping the number of remote workers a company can hire/contract outside of the country virtually.
In conclusion, if you are great at what you do, this decade will give you unlimited opportunities due to this shift in the way the world will work. The power will be in your hands, organisations will incentivize you for fractions of your time. Move over gold, oil, crypto … your time will become your most valuable asset and this decade you will be able to use it literally as currency.
2020–2030: The Organization.
We believe organizations this decade will undergo radical structural changes. As traditional ways of working make way for remote and Flexi-working, we believe organizational structures will start getting flatter. Not only this, but we will start questioning the idea of centralized organizations.
DAOs are a new disruptive way of restructuring organizations. DAOs are different from traditional organizations in that they tend to use agreement algorithms instead of relying on managers or a board of directors. The goal is that everyone can participate and contribute their skills and talents at their own level, with no central authority dictating how things should be.
Today there is no end to the type of use-cases that DAOs can represent. There are some great examples in the realm of AMM (Protocol) DAOs, Venture DAOs, Service DAOs, and Collector DAOs. We are still very much in the early days of DAOs. As the concept evolves, with time there will be clearer answers to DAO governance protocols, the necessity for DAO tokens, structuring, etc.
We believe DAOs as a fundamental concept is the future and that this decade will redefine organizational structures as we know them.
2030 & Beyond.
As a fun end to this piece, we decided to jot down our top 3 predictions of what the future of work will look like 2030+. Enjoy.
1). Machines and AI will perform the bulk of humanity’s work. Work hours for humans will be scaled back, some folks will see those come close to zero if not zero.
2). There will be some form of UBI / UBI-like compensation model that will provide people with comfortable incomes. This will be based on AI / Automation/[fill] taxes collected from companies.
3). One portion of humanity will use this extra time for volunteering, entrepreneurship, family, civic engagement, and creative endeavors. The other ….