Where work is headed

Updated

Pre-internet:

Cultural fit: You are a software engineer for Deutsche Bahn and work in their Munich office. You have to speak German and your colleagues generally have a similar background. You have a lot of meetings and coordination is hard.

2010s:

Globalization: You can be Indian and work for an American company from the Netherlands. Language doesn’t matter when you apply for the job, all you need is the location, English and a specific skill. You may still have a bunch of meetings every week, but you have better tools and coordination is a breeze.

2020s:

Remote: You can work for anyone, independently of location. You are only partially limited by location and merely depend on timezones, ergo the Y axis becomes your only geographic constraint.

Asynchronous remote: The Y axis doesn’t matter anymore and coordination around time is occasional. You work by completing your set of tasks whenever you want, meetings are minimal. Your backlog is everything. Soft skills matter less.

Future:

Gig economy: You work on what you choose to work on. It can even be pseudonymous. No soft skills. Your employer refers to you by your username. You are paid in cryptocurrency and have to face a global competition, just like a hiring process, but daily, and solely based on results. Work, submit, get paid (maybe).

The gig economy is a fundamentally different and unprecedented paradigm. Unlike freelancing, there is no contract or agreement. Heck, there isn’t even any trust involved. You wake up and decide who you want to be for the next days or weeks of your work life. If I had to rank all work paradigms on the basis of meritocracy, the gig economy would be on top. Maybe we will have a transitional state where reputation primes on talent, but open source contributions have demonstrated that this state is ephemeral. If johndoe42 writes a more elegant implementation than Torvalds, chances are that johndoe42’s pull request will get merged.

We already have the tools for the gig economy, but it has to grow organically. COVID-19 was the catalyzer for shifting to remote. I think the catalyzer for a gig economy will be an increasingly large talent pool brought by remote work. If Arjun, Aisha and Alexei have equal access to work opportunities and are all good at distinct things, then it’s just a matter of time before full-time positions become too restrictive for some employers.