Richard Branson is one the most beloved and successful businessmen on the planet. He is an entrepreneur with flair, the kind that uses slogans like “Screw It, Just Do It.”
Branson believes you can live life to the fullest and have fun doing it, in addition to running one, or in Branson’s case, dozens of companies. Branson often speaks on the importance of taking time to recharge. He has even attributed his success not solely to business acumen, but because he is happy.
In a blog post by Branson on the future of business, the Virgin founder talks about the changes that will occur in a global workforce supported by cutting-edge technology.
One of the most interesting is Branson’s claim that with better utilization of technology, people will actually be able to work less.
A large part of this transition is due to the speed of communication, information sharing, and immediate access to information, which allows us to accomplish things faster than ever before. Logically, this should enable individuals to work less, a considerable benefit to the millions of people who spend most of their lives working.
Branson also believes there’s a real need for more personal time in the modern workforce.
“Many people out there would love three day or even four-day weekends,” said Branson. “Everyone would welcome more time to spend with their loved ones, more time to get fit and healthy, more time to explore the world.”
But does less work mean less productivity? Branson doesn’t think so. “By working more efficiently, there is no reason why people can’t work less hours and be equally – if not more – effective,” said Branson.
So working less is possible? What about not showing up to the office at all?
The clear technological benefit supporting this idea is ease of connectivity. By having basic access to technology, employees can work from anywhere. More than ever, full-time employees are offered more opportunities to conduct business at home.
“With the rise of flexible working – something we fully embrace at Virgin Management – people already have more options on how, when and where they work,” said Branson. “I believe this will progress further in the years to come.”
Constant connectivity has also inspired a massive, freelance-based, digital workforce. The modern workforce is a blended one, where full-time, permanent employees are now working side-by-side with freelancers. More than ever this is becoming the norm with 60% of companies hoping to hire more freelancers than full-time employees.
Of course, there also can be an inverse relationship between technological advancements and availability of jobs. In the case of driverless cars, or planes, or machines taking over labor-based tasks, some jobs in the future will cease to exist. But as technology takes the place of roles traditionally held by people, innovation will continue to open more work opportunities. Similar to how the Internet drastically re-shaped the business world over the last few decades, technology will evolve once again, creating unforeseeable new industries and career opportunities.
When you think about all the jobs created since the dawn of the Internet – social media manager, web developer, app developer, content marketer, blogger – you quickly you realize that in the long run, more jobs have been created than destroyed.
So, in the future, we can look forward to more jobs, different jobs, blended workforces, and less working hours. Sounds pretty good, right?
But is Branson being overly optimistic? I don’t think so.
And does it seem like a new work structure is needed, one where employees have a better work-life balance? Yes. Absolutely.
However, with all this talk about fewer working hours, how does Branson feel the more efficient, less-stressed employee deserves to be paid?
“People will need to be paid more for working less time, so they can afford more leisure time,” said Branson. “That’s going to be a difficult balancing act to get right, but it can be done.”
While Branson’s viewpoint makes a ton of sense, you have to wonder how many other business leaders share such a communally uplifting, wealth-enhancing vision, over merely pursuing bottom-line profits.