Phygital nomads, the workforce of the 4th Industrial Revolution

by Thierry • Oct 13, 2017 in Spotlight

‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution’ is happening, according to professor Klaus Schwab’s most recent book. We don’t know how yet, but it will impact all disciplines, economies, industries, and even our own human nature.

The First Industrial Revolution was around steam and water power, then we had electricity and assembly lines. The Third, starting around the middle of last century, was about computerization. What we see now, is a transformation that blurs the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.

As founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, professor Shwab has been at the centre of global affairs for over four decades. So let’s say he knows what he’s talking about. And some things are pretty clear to us as well. The fact that increased connectivity improved the efficiency and productivity of businesses is a sure thing. And we are all familiar with wearables, gene editing, the internet of things, smart fridges and artificial meat. But how exactly is this transformation influencing, let’s say, the way we work?

How we work and relate to work, changes constantly. Both organisations and individuals are experimenting with new ways of work. People need nothing more than a strong WiFi signal, a cloud and a mobile device to do their job. So they start working from places close to home, where they feel good and are productive, inspiring environments with nice people.␣

The technomads, developing IT from the comfort of a hammock, brought the concept of remote working to our attention in the beginning of the century, but they were still lone rangers at that time. A few years later, digital nomads of all kind followed their example. Initially it was about working remotely and having the possibility to combine travel with work, but the actual benefits of this way of working became clear very soon.

In the meantime, the traditional work environment is also changing. Economic instability is causing insecurity, and pushing the labour market towards flexibility, making disruption the standard. At the same time problems of mobility disturb the traditional 9 to 5 working day. Whether it concerns employees or freelancers, it attracts many to work from the physical space they thrive best. This workforce we’ve coined ‘phygital nomads’.

(image: globetrendermagazine)



Of course this flexible workforce is manifesting new needs: flexible workspace. Inspired by the accelerators and incubators, influenced by new innovation and collaboration models, and stirred by the youngest generation on the workfloor, shared office spaces started popping up all around the globe. Some in rented spaces, some in vacant buildings, some in restaurants during their closing hours.

And what with corporate companies? They are left behind with empty spaces, sometimes far away from lively entrepreneurial communities. They are forced to be more agile in their operations and make better use of their resources. They want to avoid time wasting commutes and underused real estate properties. And they have realized the value of networking and collaboration, within the company as well as with external workers.

Oh, wait, doesn’t that sound like a nice combination? What if we could connect these phygital nomads with the unused office space in corporations?

Well, we’ve been working on something. And we promise to keep you posted!