The future of work arrived with the COVID-19 pandemic, and four months on from the immediate impact Wales plc has already adapted – sometimes remarkably efficiently – to the new way of working. The next 18 months are sure to see continual change in working practices and cultures across the country, and indeed globally. Business News Wales sought the views of Paul Evans, an IT and digital transformation expert and Operations Director of Cardiff-based Box UK. How does Paul see the future playing out?
“It feels like a new future is arriving every working day”
“Right now, it feels like a new future is arriving every working day. The COVID-19 ‘experience’ has necessitated something of a quantum leap to a new way of working for many different types of organisation – and it’s the sheer pace of ongoing change that will be the key challenge to meet in this new normal.
“For many of us, Artificial Intelligence and Augmented Reality were already redefining the possible and reimagining workflows before March 2020. The pandemic has been a paradigm shift wider and deeper than anything ever seen before,” says Paul.
“The sheer pace of change will be the key challenge to meet”
So what does this ‘Future of Work’ actually look like? Paul sees many upsides for organisations who can manage the change: “This is more than just remote working. It’s a world of ‘distributed working', allowing people to access information where and when they need it. A world where ‘the office’ will be a place to go to collaborate and innovate in a shared environment, not to sit alone and perform the type of tasks you can just as easily get done at home. A ‘social space’ built around break-out areas rather than personal silos.
“It’s also a world where despite the current disruption, people can become more engaged, enabled and empowered through digital connectivity and more efficient ways of working. Who knows, we may even achieve that mystical ‘work/life balance’ in this new world.”
But what do we need to do here in Wales to sustain and drive this fundamental change? Paul’s experience across sectors has given him a clear view on the way forward:
“We need the infrastructure – and that means the bandwidth. Some parts of Cardiff are powered by 900MG a second. In other areas of Wales, it’s akin to dial-up. We need this remedied as a priority so that we can optimise the opportunity for everyone and drive inclusive growth across the country.”
“It’s about infrastructure, upskilling – and sharing best practices”
Paul also believes this transformation is about people as well as technology. “We need to optimise this opportunity by upskilling and reskilling. Build the partnerships between schools and industry. Put STEM at the very core of the curriculum. Fully embrace the new apprenticeships. Digital today is far more than ‘just coding’. It’s user experience, user research, quality assurance, design, AI, the Internet of Things, R&D – and we need to open up minds about the tremendous careers available.
“We also enjoy an advantage in Wales that other regions don’t. We have structures such as Cardiff Capital Region that will allow us to share and migrate best practices across sectors and not just within digital. We’re already seeing what’s possible in fintech, insurtech and medtech in South Wales. Let’s take the thinking and the success into our more traditional industries – including agriculture.
“Let’s truly challenge ourselves to see what’s really possible.”