In this week's round-up: young people aren't getting the right skills, Elon Musk says colleges are just for fun, it might be time to shorten the work day and micro-breaks improve your wellbeing. But first, inevitably, we begin with the coronavirus.
#1. Coronavirus forces gig economy changes
With the number of coronavirus cases still climbing, gig economy platforms are looking at ways to compensate workers who catch the virus or who have to self-isolate in case they have it. Cab companies Uber and Lyft say they will compensate drivers for up to 14 days, while delivery apps Postmates, Instacart and DoorDash have plans for ‘no contact’ food deliveries. In the meantime, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, and Amazon have committed to pay hourly workers regular wages despite a decreased need for services during the coronavirus outbreak. However, there are concerns that some of these plans might not go far enough and could apply only to those who have contracted coronavirus but not to those who are tested and cleared but still cannot go to work.
💡 The coronavirus emergency has exposed shortcomings of the current gig economy system. Short-term tweaks will not fix the problem permanently. To rectify it, we need a new Social Contract.
#2. Education not offering the right skills
New research from UNICEF has found that a third of young people say that their education is not preparing them with the skills they need to find work. The online poll of 40,000 young people in over 150 countries found that a third (31%) said the skills and training programmes offered to them do not match their career aspirations, while two-fifths of respondents (39%) said the jobs they want are not available in their community.
💡 The skills gap is widening and universities and schools are unable to keep up with the pace of change. As a result, businesses will have to invest more and more into reskilling and upskilling of their employees.
#3. Elon Musk: Colleges are just for fun
Another perspective on the same issue comes from Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who dismissed the value of a college education after a keynote speech to a conference in Washington DC. Answering an audience question, Musk said, “You don’t need college to learn stuff.” He added, “Colleges are basically for fun and to prove you can do your chores, but they’re not for learning.” While this is probably bad advice for would-be doctors, it echoes the views of Peter Thiel, with whom Musk founded PayPal back in 1998. For almost a decade, Thiel has been paying entrepreneurs to drop out of college and work on a start-up. According to our own research, 51% of Gen Z’ers believe CEOs of the future will not need college degrees by 2050.
💡 With the rapid change of our economies, young people and companies are beginning to put their emphasis on skills, rather than just on college degrees.
#4. Can a shorter work day improve productivity?
Meanwhile, is it time to change the structure of the workday? The workday was once 14 hours long but has dropped to around eight hours for a typical office job. Now, some companies are cutting it further, to five hours, and claiming that the result is happier employees and greater productivity. This is a variation of the movement calling for a shift to a four-day working week, which also apparently leads to greater productivity. However, not all employers could switch to a five-hour working day. The service industry, for example, needs to be available for long hours, so do workers providing essential services. Even for office workers, there are risks that a shorter working day would remove opportunities for career development or non-essential projects that might lead to new opportunities.
💡 Instead of enforcing a one size fits all approach, we should aim for more flexibility for everyone. This would take all forms of work into account and make the future of work more inclusive.
#5. Microbreaks provide a wellbeing boost
And finally, a new report says that employees are better at thinking on their feet after a ‘microbreak’. A short break, such as getting up to make a cup of tea, provides movement that releases muscle tension. Another bonus is that a fifth of workers (20%) say they feel less tense after a hot drink. Other ways that employees can relax, which helps them to think on their feet, are getting fresh air (31%) or taking a walk (22%).
💡 It is time to take a microbreak! After all, wellbeing at work is a win-win both for employers and workers.