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Working Tribes: 30 Years of Changing Work Introduction of World Wide Web, coming down of the Berlin Wall and the first Global Positioning System satellites going into orbit-these events of 1989 have shaped how we work today

By Harsh Lambah

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In 1989, Sir Tim Berners-Lee came up with the idea of the World Wide Web, the Berlin Wall came down bridging East and West, and the first Global Positioning System satellites went into orbit.

The impact of those events reverberates through society to this day, changing both how we live and work. While flexible workspace may not seem as historically monumental, it too has played a part in shaping how people work in 2019, with 85 per cent of businesses introducing or considering a flexible workspace policy in the past 10 years.

The Old Fashion 9-5ers

Let's remind ourselves of the "regular' working type, the steady employees who clock on at 9am and leave by 5pm. While we may still consider this to be an "average' working pattern, very few people agree and say they now work these hours. In fact, almost four in 10 (37%) full time workers say—where they have the choice—they would prefer to work from 8am to 4pm.

Side Hustlers

These are the workers who have side-projects or business alongside their main gainful employment. This could be for additional income, to develop and hone new skills or to set up their own business.

The growth in side gigs and businesses can be traced back to the 2007-08 global banking crash. It's been argued that the increased uncertainty about job security and difficulty finding work can foster a spirit of innovation and entrepreneurialism. Those that came of working age during this time have this instilled in them and have continued it beyond the 10-year anniversary of the recession.

Multi-Hyphen Workers

Can be called freelancers, self-employed or those with portfolio careers: whatever the name, working for oneself in a career that utilises a personal passion or skill is on the rise.

Much like the side hustlers, the multi-hyphens are partly driven by the fallout from the economic crash. There are other influences behind this trend, however. Many prefer the working style of sourcing numerous income streams that utilise their varied skills, talents and interests. This could be a part-time office job supplemented by further freelancing, selling items online, writing and podcasting, and perhaps some tutoring on the side. If you find time, of course.

Digital Nomads

Also known as global grasshoppers, these free-spirited workers pick up freelance employment in different cities and countries around the world. Seen as aspirational by many, this working style offers personal freedom, the opportunity to travel and a rewarding work-life balance.

From copywriters to computer programmers, people with online-based jobs can take advantage of the remote nature of their work from anywhere. Of course, it's not all plain-sailing or working with an ocean view. Organising visas can be costly and time consuming, tax returns can become extra complicated and you may have to contend with fluctuating currencies. Of course, there's also the added difficulty of finding new work in different places.

Flexible Workers

From fully remote roles to requesting office hours that support working parents, these concepts of flexible working are increasingly available. But as the above working styles show, there is far more to flexibility than hours and location.

We've seen great changes in just 30 years of flexible workspaces, and with the increasing application of artificial intelligence, robotics and machine learning, we expect office space and the world of work to evolve even further over the next 30.

Harsh Lambah

Country Manager India, IWG


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