It’s work but not as we know it

first_imgAs the Millennium Dome celebrates a new world of work, Dominique Hammondargues it is HR people who will be key to making it realityIt is a sinister world visitors step into when they enter the work zone atthe Millennium Dome. A wall of time cards sliced in half by clocking-inmachines bears down. Rows of cages contain hapless toy hamsters glued to theirwheels. A bank of television screens shows a scene from a Monty Python short inwhich ageing grey men slowly decay into their desks. All the while a clockdeafeningly ticks away the seconds adding up to the 100,000 hours we areinformed we all work during our lifetimes.This is the “old world of work” according to the organiser, NewMillennium Experience, and it is a relief to leave it behind. Moving on we stepinto the brave new world of the modern workplace characterised by light andmusic, cages that are empty because the hamsters have been freed, and a wallcovered with 6,000 yellow Post-it notes. These were donated by sponsorManpower’s staff who were asked to send in real notes pulled from their desks.They detail the daily and familiar minutiae of office life – Kate, call Eddie;Alan, can you sort out training for Julie; two teas, no coffees, lots ofbiscuits.The next room introduces us to the kind of working lives we can now expect.Giant models of electronic organisers each depict a different way of working:through an agency, from home, as a freelance, as a job-sharer. Hundreds ofdifferent uniforms on moving rails represent the death of the job for life andthe possibility of a varied career. Two doors – one green, marked “Skills to declare” and one red,marked “No skills” – lead onwards, but only the green door opens toinform us that we all have skills whether we know it or not. In the final room,which looks much like a bingo hall or amusement arcade, there are games forvisitors to test their ability in six key skills areas: numeracy, hand-to-eyecoordination, teamwork, communication; problem-solving and IT. This is a world of possibility. Having managed to manoeuvre a ball bearinginto a hole by tilting a board in different directions I am informed by Emily,recruited by Manpower and employed by New Millennium Experience as one of theDome’s 1,500 “hosts”, that I have the requisite skill to be a brainsurgeon – steady hands. This could also land me a job as a fork-lift truckdriver.Emily enjoys working at the Dome. As a mother who helped run a communitycentre she has excellent people skills which she believes are put to good usein this job. Other staff I spoke to seemed to be equally happy. Wendy Butterfieldfrom Leytonstone said working at the Dome has given her the leg-up back intowork that she needed after two years of full-time motherhood. Dome hosts earn £6 an hour and work a regular five-day week of 44 hours.Their contracts last until the end of the year. They may enjoy their jobs butwhat they don’t have is the flexibility, the variety and the opportunities thatthe people who employ them are celebrating in the work zone. They are notalone. Several visitors I spoke to were sceptical about the kind of work lifebeing portrayed.”It’s a nice idea but it doesn’t happen,” said Andy Baker, acomputer analyst and programmer from Kent. “This is exposing a lot ofpeople to the kind of work that they might dream of but are never going to beable to do.” Mike, who develops computer-based learning at a university,said they were “futuristic ideas”.HR professionals know that work patterns which offer flexibility, theopportunity to balance work and home lives and the chance to develop skills andcareers are a reality. In the year of the Dome and the first year of the 21stcentury its up to people in HR to ensure that the rest of us spend our 100,000hours in the most productive way possible – for ourselves and the companies wework for.• Dominique Hammond is senior reporter for Personnel Today Previous Article Next Article Comments are closed. It’s work but not as we know itOn 18 Jan 2000 in Personnel Today Related posts:No related photos.last_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *