The future of work: rethinking university diplomas, tech education, and work-life balance

What’s changing in 2020? 2020 is undoubtedly a defining moment in terms of how we perceive work and life. In the past months, millions of people have experienced remote working or seen their working hours reduced as companies and industries shut down due to the pandemic. People are increasingly giving more attention to a work-life balance.

Some companies went into remote working in a matter of days, accelerating the adoption of digital technologies and paving the way to a new normal. However, innovation is not just about new digital tools and channels to be implemented. It is also about cultural changes and new aspirations. The many ‘atypical’ profiles in the labour market are aspiring to a paradigm shift in the world of work: they want companies to be more interested in their future potential and projects, rather than just their past achievements.

On the education side, in this year of pandemic, some students have graduated, sometimes without exams. The crisis linked to Covid-19, and the resulting lockdowns imposed by governments across the world, are accelerating the digital transition of the economy and reinforcing the alternatives to the diploma: outreach on social networks, building professional legitimacy through entrepreneurial projects, peer recognition..there have never been as many ways to achieve professional goals as today.

The economic crisis and the restrictions coming with it push many individuals to get out of their comfort zones, for example, by going into self-employment.

What are diplomas and university degrees for? 

The diploma or degree has been for years a reassuring signal for recruiters and a career insurance for candidates. But on the other side, they also put the brakes on mobility or promotion for those who would like to change career and do not have the time to do so, or don’t have the ‘right’ degree for the job they want.

Today’s economy requires that you be unique and different. But how to stand out when most educational paths have been designed years ago? Are they still adapted to a fast-paced changing environment? Now, with people changing jobs and careers more often than in the past, is it worth investing four years in a degree?

The already existing need for a more blended approach to education and learning has been spotlighted during the pandemic, as the need for digital skills advances. Ensuring wider digital literacy could certainly bring advantages, such as more adaptive workers, more entrepreneurs and eventually lead to new startup creation.

In addition, both degrees and diplomas may have been a way to validate learnings but they could no longer be necessary to help people develop business ideas or digital innovations today. Both seem ‘on the way out’ as more alternative trainings emerge, like coding bootcamps, digital courses, and MOOCs. Students are increasingly weighing up the alternatives in terms of cost, time to completion and employability.

A surge for online and flexible tech education

Nowadays, as we just highlighted, more and more people aren’t satisfied with what traditional education has to offer. As a result, we’re seeing new startups that are jumping into the educational arena to propose alternatives.

Web development, for instance, has become an attractive sector for talent, as these skills are highly sought-after. Training in web development quickly and at any age is now possible for anyone – as long as you are motivated and determined. OpenClassrooms or Le Wagon are two now famous schools which, each in their own way (e-learning for the first, immersive bootcamp for the second), offer training courses to learn programming in a short time.

These programmes offer people new career paths outside traditional education as they encourage a more hands-on approach where students are expected to learn and put into practice their skills.

A new experience at work 

With new ways of learning skills, emerging occupations and new aspirations, companies need to evolve to support the changing needs of the workforce. The startup industry is known for its flexible schedules but can also be quite challenging as its fast-paced environments require people to always be sharp. 

Moreover, millions of people have been working from home, with families having to adapt to this new normal. During lockdown, parents and kids found themselves at home and shared the daily struggle of day-to-day life. For many families this experience has shown that a new paradigm is possible where flexibility and work-life balance are both fundamental elements. In fact, the liberation of the workforce has ignited a renewed motivation for flexible working which in return pushes organisations to change the way work is being done. 

Traditional workers are now just as interested in using remote settings as their freelance peers working in digital industries. Shifting behaviours driven by the COVID-19 pandemic are inspiring full-time salaried employees to work month-month from different locations, as signalled by the recent merger between two of Europe’s largest rental platform startups, Flatio and NomadX. With many travel restrictions still in place, there are not so many opportunities to re-locate yet, but we can expect a huge shift both from companies and workers to adopt more permanently flexible provisions.

To conclude, recent developments in the world have highlighted the importance of flexible working, tailoring education to people’s needs that match the current reality of the market and a better work-life balance. If you’re part of a startup and looking for work management tips, you can find more in this article about work-life balance in the startup world.

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