The Future of Work: The Flexibility Gap

The workplace of the future is supposed to a flexible one for workers. They are supposed to be able to work when they want and concentrate on what they want. According to a recent article, Why A Flexible Worker Is A Happy And Productive Worker, “employees who were placed on a flexibility program were both happier at work and less prone to burnout and psychological stress than their colleagues who were not on the program.” But what if you don’t have a job that allows that kind of job flexibility? Are you doomed to a miserable work life?

Not Everyone Can Work from Starbucks

As I wrote in another post on my website,, not everyone can work from Starbucks. I said:

In our current economic structure there are just some jobs that cannot be flexible in where they are done. You want to be able to do your job from Starbucks? What about the barista that is staffing the counter? By you being in their store you have denied them the opportunity to work from somewhere else. Having places for a lot of us to work from requires an infrastructure that supplies WiFi, coffee, food, security, etc. in order for us to have a place to work from.

The article about happy and productive workers said “the study reminds us that when we empower employees to exert control over where and when they work, it tends to have a big impact on productivity and wellbeing.” That is all find and dandy if you work in such an environment, but as I said “Service jobs, such as food service, retail service, hospitality service and medical service, to name just a few, don’t have the kind of flexibility that independent contractor has” or the kind of worker the study was talking about.

Of course many workers in the service sector do have flexibility in that many are part-time workers, so they are not working all the time. That flexibility is at the whim of management, so that may reduce the value associated with being happy and productive.


One potential outcome that the future may hold comes about as the result of automation. If we “robotize” service jobs then we don’t have to worry about creating a divide between workers that have flexibility and those that don’t. Robots won’t care about flexibility and all those workers that had service jobs can get jobs where they might be able to have a flexible work arrangement. Or perhaps they will have the ultimate flexible schedule and not be working at all.

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Mike Haberman

Michael (Mike) D. Haberman, SPHR is a consultant, speaker, writer of HR Observations, and co-founder of Omega HR Solutions, Inc. After over 30 years in HR he got tired of the past and focuses here on the Future of HR. Connect with Mike.


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