The Future of Work: Four-Day Work Week

UC Berkeley Extension
27 min readMay 1, 2023

Welcome to the “Future of Work” podcast with UC Berkeley Extension and the EDGE in Tech Initiative at the University of California, focused on expanding diversity and gender equity in tech. EDGE in Tech is part of CITRIS, the Center for IT Research in the Interest of Society and the Banatao Institute. UC Berkeley Extension is the continuing education arm of the University of California at Berkeley.

A few episodes back, we talked about hybrid work and the growing strength that employees have in shaping how and when they work. This month, we’re putting a spotlight on a trend that is picking up steam, the idea of a four-day work week.

This experimentation is revealing pros and cons when implemented in countries such as Japan, Spain, the UK, and South Africa. While a four-day workweek may help boost employee productivity and mental health, not every worker can participate. So who chooses the when and the how to introduce a four-day work week?

To answer this question, we turn to Stela Lupushor, a thought leader, speaker, educator, and futurist who is on a mission to humanize the workplace. She advises startups, venture funds, and mature enterprises on the use of design thinking, technology, analytics, and future thinking to create inclusive workplaces.

Stela teaches at NYU, imparting her knowledge on the next generation of HR leaders. Previously, Stela transformed workplace practices at the intersection of technology, analytics, and HR at organizations such as Fidelity Investments, TIAA, IBM, Pricewaterhouse, and PwC Consulting and their clients. She is the author of Humanizing Capital — Invest in Your People for Optimal Business Returns and Humans at Work — The Art and Practice of Creating the Hybrid Workplace. Welcome, Stela.

Stela Lupushor: Thrilled to be here.

Jill Finlayson: Well, before we go into the four-day work week, I thought I would ask you a question of just, what are you excited about in terms of the future of work? Do you see some big trends or opportunities? What are you seeing today?

Stela Lupushor: There are several really exciting trends that I am keeping a close eye on. On one side, we see all the hype, and to some degree, real fear about the advancements of AI, especially generative AI, and how that will impact jobs. My belief, and at least through the research we’ve done in writing the books, realized that the technology was always there. And maybe at first it was an ax. Over time, it became something mechanically enabled.

Over time, it had an engine. But technology was always driving the progress forward, and not only disrupted the existing jobs, but made the vast amount of new jobs and elevated the quality of life for everyone. So I have a lot of hope for the positive outcome of the use of a lot of AI technology in the workplace, and enabling humans and augmenting the human capacity to do better and be better. So I’m optimist. I’m in the optimistic camp.

Another trend that I’m really excited about — and I have the privilege of a front-row view because my son is in this space — specifically is decentralized, autonomous organizations. So it’s, a collection of people who are passionate about solving a specific problem will come together to solve the problem. And there is no identity in the traditional sense. So it’s also the identity behind the handle. There is no performance management systems.

There is no traditional compensation, job descriptions, none of that. There is a project. There is an interest for someone to solve a specific problem related to the project. And there is a proposal that gets voted on by the whole community of contributors. And then the price gets set and the person gets paid. And to me, that utter transparency and a very inside out look at solving problems and addressing and orchestrating work, I think it’s a lot of interesting nuances that can be brought into the modern organizations and kind of experiment with.

Jill Finlayson: Amazing. And thinking about those two topics, I want to come back to ChatGPT at the end and how that’s really changing the type of work that people do, but this concept that you’re talking about about transparency, project-based, that does play into this topic of the four-day work week.

Maybe say a little bit about your background. You focus on the intersection of tech, analytics, and HR. What does that actually mean? And how is that informing things like this transition to a different type of work?

Stela Lupushor: What I think has happened over the past decade or so is several kind of aspects. We’re moving away from supply chain mindset of work organization and looking at the workforce as just another input into that value creation. Instead, we have a lot more individualization. So people with specific skill sets, with specific experiences and preferences, are now in the driver’s seat and can command better jobs, better access to opportunities, better overall reputation.

We also are seeing the work being a lot more complex and a lot more technology-enabled, even traditional manufacturing jobs. Now, you no longer have the ability to just do mechanical things. You have a lot of robotics that you need to manage. You have a lot of highly sophisticated machinery that is enabling you to do the work. So there is always a technical component to the aspects of work that used to be very manual, or rote, or repetitive.

Unfortunately, from an HR perspective, we still see the same type of manufacturing mindset per unit basis, per — let’s have a job description that describes everything under the world — under the sun, and it pretty much becomes a recipe for a unicorn, and that’s why we end up with a tight labor market. Not only we have fewer workers in the labor force, but also, the requirements that we end up putting in those job descriptions are becoming unrealistic and impossible to fill.

So I think the opportunity for analytics and for technology is to bring the ability to HR to deconstruct the work activities and look at the work as an optimization problem. You have not jobs. You have, in essence, for the most part, most occupations are project-driven. Yes, you have certain care and services that require a certain customer service, relationship building, support capabilities. But a lot of the white-collar jobs are, for the most part, projects.

And we can no longer assume that the job description will encapsulate everything that an individual will need to do. But technology can help us deconstruct what that job is into activities and units of work, and then help us understand who is the worker or worker’s collection that can perform that work in an optimal fashion?

So it’s more of an optimization, orchestration problem, where analytics can give you insights and help you understand how you can do that better. And then technology can enable the data aggregation, the parsing, the restructuring of unstructured data, and helping humans make better decisions about the work.

Jill Finlayson: I have to say, the phrase of “an optimization problem” is kind of scary. It sounds like we’re trying to get more out of our employees with less inputs. Could you give an example of a company that you’ve worked with — and you don’t have to name the company. But how did this optimization problem shine a light on the work that was being done?

Stela Lupushor: Think of it as not optimizing the output per se but optimizing the match between the work that needs to get done and the worker who can do it. And the worker is not just an employee or a contingent worker. We have, now, access to everything that does the work — digital labor, chat bots, automation solutions. All of those are part of the spectrum.

And I think the beauty of having this ability to optimize is, you can now, A, as a company have more flexibility to tap into a broader set of options, but B, you are able to now include people traditionally that would be excluded. For example, a working mother who may not have the flexibility to come into an office, but she could definitely work from home — now, you have the ability to include that working mother and give her the option to work, as opposed to being very rigid or binary.

Do we work from home or from the office? Do we work remote or in person? Do we work in the contractor or employee only? So it’s the optimization of the match. I think a lot of talent marketplaces nowadays that are being deployed inside the companies are enabling some of that matching internally to not only reduce the friction for managers to find talent, and of course, get more out of people, just because you don’t need to hire them externally.

But there are a lot of intrinsic motivators for people to contribute because they learn a new skill, they get access to new networks, they find opportunities to move and progress in their career, so that a lot of maybe not monetary rewards, but there are a lot of benefits out of this type of exchange and shortening the path between the work and the workers.

Jill Finlayson: I like that topic of optimizing the match, and that that match may not always be a human input. I think that’s a really interesting thing. And getting rid of the repetitive or dangerous work, with other entities performing that job to be done. Let’s talk about the four-day work week. So why are people talking about the four-day work week, and why are they talking about it now? What’s happened to bring this conversation to the forefront?

Stela Lupushor: I think it is a confluence of multiple things. The pandemic really upended a lot of our workplace practices, assumptions about what constitutes productivity, assumptions that people cannot be trusted to do work outside of the office space. And for workers, they realize that they actually can accomplish more and can also attain that work-life balance — elusive work-life balance concept. So the pandemic induced changes.

There’s also the advent of sophisticated technology that enables us to do the work out of anywhere, as well as less of a stricter definition of the working hours, I think brought us to the conclusion that it’s OK to maybe test out the assumption that five days work week is the norm.

I think it started with the notion of hybrid. And everybody has their own definition of what hybrid constitutes, be that three days in the office and two days at home, or flexible schedule, or working remotely from an island. It’s all driven by the individual preferences and the corporate kind of tolerance level. And it also opened up the possibility that maybe challenging the assumption that 40 hours a week is the norm — at least, in the US, 40 hours.

Of course, experiments that Microsoft did in Japan, the whole country of Iceland had a countrywide experiment. And all of these experiments resulted in positive outcomes — better productivity, better work-life balance, the work still got done. And let’s face it — with work-life boundaries disappearing during the pandemic, I think people were working in excess of those eight hours to begin with.

So why not compress the day and work a couple of hours longer and instead get an extra day that you can use to finish your work, or upskill yourself, or foster connections and relationships and networks in a way that will make you more productive and will give you time to recharge, but also feel that you are able to take a breath, invest in yourself, do something that suits your life stage as opposed to dedicating all days of the hour to work activities alone.

Jill Finlayson: It sounds like there’s different models of the four-day work week. Can you tell us a little bit about these different models? One sounded like you work longer days for four days and take one day off. The other is more in line with what you were saying, that it’s not about the number of hours. It’s about the work getting done, and that being just four days but not extended day. So yeah, please talk about the models, and then maybe some examples from these countries and why you think it’s working in some countries.

Stela Lupushor: If you think about the type of work, people who — and there was a concept in one of the whitepapers. I’ll send it along. But it describes the two types of workers. One is a builder and the second one is the manager. So when you have that type of work that can be scheduled on a calendar and blocked, your output is the hours that you work, and is driven by the level of effort, involvement, that you have in routine activities. That’s relatively easy to translate from five days, eight hours a day to four days, 10 hours a day.

Work that is driven by builders — these are the creatives. These are the engineers that are coming up with new solutions, solving new problems. A lot of that cannot be scheduled on a calendar per se. You need extended blocks of time where you can focus, and get your juices flowing, and get into the ideal state of flow, and produce something magnificent.

And those types of activities are very difficult to quantify in terms of the hours worked. And it’s much easier to think of them as outcome that you’re working on or the output that you’re producing. And for those type of activities, I think having four days, even if they are eight hours, it’s still good.

Because the fifth day, that person is going to be still thinking in their mind, and solving the problem, and trying to imagine that new solution or new art piece. The mind is still working at it. However, you may not necessarily be required to be in front of your computer or in your office to do that thinking.

Jill Finlayson: You mentioned some examples happening in other countries. Can you say more about what those were and where they’re happening?

Stela Lupushor: So Microsoft did an experiment in Japan, and the statistics were staggering. I believe the productivity jumped 40%. And of course, was any statistics, you have to dig under the numbers to understand what constitutes as productivity. How do you define that? All of those things. But regardless, I think it had a very positive impact on the workforce, well-being, and their sense of autonomy and agency.

I believe Panasonic did the same in Japan, and then now, I think they have multiple jobs also in the US that are published — or posted — as four days a week. And I think we see a growth in a lot of the technical jobs, especially. But for the most part, it’s large organizations, not startups, where really dedicating your day and night and all the energy you have to bring something to the market requires a very different degree of intensity of work.

Iceland as a country, I think in 2018, for three years, I believe they also had an official four-day schedule. And they also attained similar positive outcomes. So I believe there is also a bill that is — it’s been introduced, not voted on yet — in the US here to move to 32 hours a week work week. So everything above 32 will be paid as overtime. So I’m not sure if that will also relate to the exempt employees, how will that work for other categories.

But at least for the non-exempt, where there is an hourly wage component, I think that’s a positive outcome, because people can have access to better income. They can have more flexibility. If we think about a lot of the hourly wage workers, their wages are not always puts them above the living wage category. And many times, they may need to have several jobs put together to have a living wage. So it is a positive ultimately outcome to see in the labor market as a result of it.

Jill Finlayson: I’m sort of surprised about Japan. Certainly — and this is a broad generalization — but you hear about a very high, extreme working environment expectations in Japan. You also hear a lot about women deciding either not to have children because they want to have advancement in their careers. So I’m surprised to hear Japan testing this out Do you have any thoughts on why they were able to do that?

Stela Lupushor: My hypothesis — not validated by the number — is that that culture and the outcomes that leads to anxiety and mental health issues was reduction in population as a result of having fewer children, I think has something to do with the ability of the economy to stay in great positions, ahead of others.

And you need to have a workforce. You need to have a happy workforce. You need to give people flexibility. So there are a lot of, probably, assumptions that are being challenged in Japan to address the labor shortages gap, to address some of the cultural health conditions and other norms in the workplace, and transform the country and transform the economy, ultimately.

Jill Finlayson: Do you think that this is the younger generation looking at the older generation saying, that’s not the life I want to lead?

Stela Lupushor: Absolutely. That’s definitely a big contributor to a lot of the changes. But that’s what youth does. They bring new norms, new challenges. And I love that about them. And I have conversations with my son about all the debates and challenges that he sees with how we work — we adults and older workers.

And I’m telling you, he was like, hurry up, get into the labor force, start changing things. Go into the government. You have, now, the time to start influencing positive change. And I think in the US, we probably are seeing similar type of shifts in preferences. And the younger generations are going to expect very different things and will no longer tolerate things that our generations have grown accustomed to or accepted.

Jill Finlayson: In the United States, there still is, even amongst the young people, a pretty hard work ethic. And one of the things I sort of hearken to — and I want to see if you see a parallel with the four-day work week — is this idea of unlimited PTO. This became quite in vogue with a lot of startups. Hey, you’ll have unlimited PTO.

But the reality was that people didn’t take the PTO, that in fact, when they left the company, they weren’t compensated for that PTO that they didn’t take — the personal time off. And if they were working so hard, are these people going to be working on the fifth day even though they’re not, quote, “being paid” for that fifth day?

Stela Lupushor: It’s absolutely a high-likelihood scenario to happen. On one side, it requires discipline of whoever gets the freedom to take four days a week. But if the rest of the organization is not taking advantage of it, or it is used as a way to sift out those who are dedicated versus not, I think, ultimately, no one wins. And it will disproportionately negatively impact those who need that flexibility, parents, or young mothers, or people who have caregiving responsibilities, or who have temporary disabilities that they need that extra day to take care of whatever happens at home.

And it is, in a way, potentially creating another class divide, because those people who are able to have four days a week and take full advantage of that extra day will have extra advantage. They can invest in themselves. They can study something new. They can go network with others that can help them progress in their career. Versus those who will feel the pressure of showing up or continuing to do it just because they can be left behind as a result of it. So it’s absolutely an important point.

Jill Finlayson: Let’s talk more about that, because that sounds very important, this idea that the wealthy can afford to take a four-day work week, and they can use that fifth — either for their mental health, or for what you’re saying, career development, learning new skills, networking, going to conferences. So what kind of discipline could companies put in place to ensure that this class divide doesn’t occur or become worse?

Stela Lupushor: There are several ways to think about it. There is a scheduling component. It’s purely practical for organizations to create some way of ensuring that whatever the organization needs to be covered is covered during the allocated time. We all think, well, four days a week, that means one day, the company is going to shut down.

But we have many organizations that have 24-by-7 operations, and they figure out how to handle that. You have different shifts. You have different coverage levels that allows the company to continue to work without interrupting any of the operations. In some cases, it’s perceived that it’s more expensive because you need to hire additional people to fill in those schedules.

But there’s an example of medical institutions where this was instituted, then it actually resulted in better handling of the patients because they waited less time to be seen and perform interventions — medical interventions. It resulted in higher customer satisfaction.

It resulted in lower attrition that had a positive impact, of course, on the bottom line, because you don’t need to constantly continue to replace people and train them, upskill them, get them to productive level. So it may not be an immediate saving, but in the long run, it’s absolutely a big saving and big stability measure for the organization.

Additionally, it’s about managers’ education. Many times, we assume that the manager’s responsibility is really to give down the orders and make sure that the work gets done. And a lot of times, the visibility or presence in the office was kind of mandatory, because if I cannot see you, I cannot trust that you can get the work done. And I think during the pandemic, a lot of those has changed, because we were forced to work from everywhere, from anywhere.

And now, the manager’s role, it’s more about work orchestration, coaching, and eliminating barriers for people to be productive and do what they need to do. So I think similar type of mindset needs to be brought up in the managers on how you manage a team that works in different shifts, what your role as a manager looks like, and not necessarily driving for hours and presence in the office, but more for the outcome. So that’s a very different skill set, to set goals and manage the work outcome.

And then lastly, it’s really the individual, and having that discipline, and having the confidence to stick to the schedule and take advantage of the flexibility they were given, and really use that fifth day as something to support whatever their personal needs are, because ultimately, that will pay payback in the long term in big ways.

Jill Finlayson: The managers, you said earlier, have to measure productivity differently if it’s not hours. You just said setting goals is one thing they need to do. What else would they need to do to make this transition to the four-day work week successful?

Stela Lupushor: It is really about orchestrating and designing the work itself. Many activities may not necessarily need to be about stepping through the steps of the process. Many times, you just give people a problem to be solved and then give them the autonomy to solve that problem, especially if it’s more creative work, if it’s more the builder type, not the manager type.

It is less about measuring the performance and more about reducing the barriers the friction for the worker. So thinking about the type of challenges that they may have that impacts, impairs, their productivity, and helping them to minimize that. It’s also about team cohesion, especially if you have a team that works in a distributed fashion over different time zones. It’s a very different set of complexities that you have to deal with.

And yes, you may have a team that works the first four days of the week, and then you have another part of the team that works the next four days. How do you transfer the knowledge between the first one to the next one? So there is coordination and knowledge transfer and kind of that connective tissue, a responsibility that you now need to take.

And obviously, it’s conflict resolution. When you have a lot of transitions and movement, you inevitably are going to run into translation issues and information not being communicated. So how can you use your ability to either bring the team together, build a team cohesion, or make sure that the communications happen. And the conflicts get resolved fast?

Jill Finlayson: And the individual themself, you talked about them taking personal responsibility for creating — how should we say — creating those borders. But that’s easier said than done. Are there tips or practices that make individuals more effective at setting up those borders?

Stela Lupushor: As someone who worked most of my life in a remote, distributed fashion as a consultant, it is a challenge, obviously. But there are certain forcing mechanisms. If you just shut down your computer at the end of day four and you set up the out-of-the-office notifications, you may still check your phone you may still read through whatever drama is happening in your absence.

But you have the discipline of not reacting and really saying, I’m going to deal with it on Monday, or whenever I come back into an office. That was always a good strategy for me. Otherwise, it can take over your life. Other tools, of course, is to disconnect notifications and have accountability bodies that you partner with at work to keep each other accountable and keep each other offline to the degree possible.

And more importantly, what I found that was giving me very good discipline is to set up my project goals outside of the work environment. So I’ll have dedicated days when I work on my personal projects or on whatever events or activities I set up. So it’s scheduling ahead, and being good at planning and sticking to the plan, usually does the job.

Jill Finlayson: It occurs to me that perhaps this was a question, really, for your son. How do you think your son would answer that question?

Stela Lupushor: It is an interesting conversation. We had a lot of debate about this, because to me, it is a personal, intrinsic drive to perform. But also, that trust and the expectation and the transparency from the rest of the community will make you stick to your deadlines and do what you’re committing to do. And the reputation is everything in this type of work environment.

You really treat people nicely, you do what you’re committing to do, you continuously learn and be helpful, and a lot of that is kind of a regulating set of systems that you do not need performance management for, or you do not need timestamps and taking snapshots of your laptop screen just to make sure that you are in front of your laptop. It’s kind of a self-driven, self-reinforcing work behaviors. And I think it’s not for everyone.

Jill Finlayson: It sounds like performance management is changing. How we do performance management is very much changing. And in an earlier podcast, we asked, where did the trust go? Because as you pointed out, during COVID and during remote work, there was a lot of trust. And now, there’s a lot of boomeranging and asking people to come back to the office. And I think that’s closely tied with this question of trust and transparency. Why do you think we’re seeing that boomerang effect? And is that going to negatively affect the opportunity to have a four-day work week?

Stela Lupushor: Potentially. I think we are still grappling with this generational divide where you have leaders who have the ability to be in the office five days a week. They may have a spouse at home. They may have the whole support staff to clean the house and take care of everything so they can predominantly focus on work. And it’s boring to be alone in the office if you’re there.

You want that — well, that’s a tongue-in-cheek statement. But it is really driven by the personal preferences. And we have older generations who are now in the leadership roles who expect people to go through the same in-the-office, presence-driven, be at work expectations.

Of course, it’s a lot more nuanced. You have some of the municipalities demanding businesses to bring people back in to invest in the local economy, bring the shops back, consume local products. So that’s another driver.

But some companies are even paying people to relocate back closer to the metropolitan areas, because a lot of them moved to remote destinations where the quality of life was better. So it’s this push and pull. But I think a lot of it is driven by the old habits, that as more leaders retire and exit the labor force, I think we’ll see a shift. It may impact in the short term the four-day work week adoption, though.

Jill Finlayson: I think that is an interesting point about the generational divide. And I also think you’re not wrong about people being lonely. I came into the office and there’s nobody there. It’s quite the ghost town in many of the tech companies. And I think we’re certainly seeing that in a lot of the San Francisco offices and different places. So I don’t downplay that. I don’t think it’s just tongue in cheek. I think there is some actual merit to that point that you’re making there.

Stela Lupushor: There’s one more point related to this working in the office versus working remote. I think the people who are the most impacted in a negative way are the younger generations. Early in their career, a lot of skills are really build in a passive fashion. You observe how people get things done. You see how people communicate, who they talk to. You understand the organizational politics.

So those of us who are in need of our career, we’ve kind of been there, done that. We learned how to navigate and shift to a remote environment based on the skills we have acquired. But the younger entrants into the labor force, the pandemic robbed them of three years of that education or celebration or in-person onboarding and experiences. And now, furthermore, as there is this hybrid, remote environment that continues to progress, they do not have access to the same type of experiences and learning opportunities.

Jill Finlayson: A valid point. So if we were to summarize, now, this four-day work week, what are the three strongest arguments against the four-day work week?

Stela Lupushor: Getting it and not respecting it. That very quickly will erode that trust and will just negatively impact the perception of the benefit for the workers. The second one is not being deliberate at structuring what that would look like, because it’s much easier to create the chaos and then say, see, it didn’t work. Therefore, we need to go back. Because once you give it and then you take it away, it’s even more damaging.

And then thirdly, it is really being considerate, especially if you’re a global organization, because if you may be OK in some countries and not in another country, are you creating an additional divide and resentment in those who have not gotten the opportunity to do it? So really intentional and deliberate design and deployment to the entire organization and being transparent is going to be critical in deploying such programs.

Jill Finlayson: And what are the three most compelling reasons we absolutely should go to the four-day work week?

Stela Lupushor: It is the best thing ever. Think about people’s ability to have more time for themselves, to lower their stress level. And that will result in better productivity for the company. That will result in lower health care costs. That will result in a much more stable organization, because people are not going to rotate and burnout. So there is a business benefit to having a four-day work week.

There is also an empowering aspect to us as individuals, because now, we have this extra day. What can we do with it? I think it gives us the possibility to imagine a very different future, to spend time with family or ourselves or contributing to the society or giving back. So there is a lot of well-being that can come out of this extra eight hours that people get in their lives.

And then lastly, I think work is continuing to evolve. And with a blend of new technologies and new tools, the definition of work will morph. So just because we have an arbitrary number of hours, 40 hours a week, and then we fill it up, sometimes productively or non-productively, I think economy is not going to suffer, but I think from mental, personal, professional opportunities, bottom-line impact, there are all positive possibilities that can come out of it.

Jill Finlayson: Yeah, this idea that work expands to fill the time that it has, and this opportunity that work may, in fact, change. And that goes full circle to what you said when we started our conversation today, which is ChatGPT. These technologies are making, if you will, the first draft or the first cut, or a lot of the work that requires just slogging through it. We can now get that, and all we have to do is finesse it. We have to improve it. We have to add the human element. So how is this technology change going to change work and give us the freedom to spend less time at work?

Stela Lupushor: I’ll give an example. I was supposed to do research on the topic of skills. So instead of writing down everything that is in my head, having the first crappy draft, then taking a day off to think about it and do more research and come back, I went to several of these options. I had the Bard. I had GPT 4. And I asked the same question, and it gave me a different set of materials. And first of all, I was able to not only compare the styles, because to me, this was a curious exercise to see how technology performs.

But obviously, it accelerated a lot of my research work. And I realized that I should probably start thinking about what’s next for me in my career, because the traditional work of coming up with concepts and framework is not as hard and not as difficult as, previously, it used to be. But it, as you said, definitely requires a human’s understanding and knowledge to be able to discern certain nuances and say, hmm, this doesn’t make sense, or this was something that I would not support or embrace or encourage others to consider.

So it is really about simplification of your activities and tasks, sifting through mass amount of data, helping you summarize a lot of content, look at your data set and try to process it. There’s so much of the capabilities that are part of the white collar jobs and knowledge work that now can be done in a much easier fashion.

I’m still processing the announcement from PwC about their investment in generative AI — a billion-dollar investment in building the capabilities. And on one side, there are a lot of opportunities to automate some of the tax work, some of that counting work. And of course, as you do some of that automation, you are training your workforce that then can enable you to go to market and offer that to your clients. So there’s definitely a business reason for that.

But on the flip side, we see all of these accountants go to school, and all of these tax professionals go to school. They can become data scientists or they can become consultants, of course. But I think not everyone will be able to transition and upskill. So the question is, what are some of the social protection safety nets that we can put in place to help people transition into other occupations where they can continue to thrive?

So obviously, there is always displacement. There is always evolution of technology to bring better tools, better — and not everybody is able to migrate and transition to those new areas. So it’s an interesting time in history to see how the next three to five years are going to look like from the labor market, and what measurements we need to put in place, and what constitute the worker nowadays.

Jill Finlayson: So what do employers do next? They’re thinking about this four-day work week, but change is hard. Change is bad. There’s going to be a lot of debate. Where do we go from here?

Stela Lupushor: Start with one location where one team, one group, pilots. Prove it to yourself and prove it to your organization that it works. And if it doesn’t, that’s OK too. But if you’re able to pull it off, allow the natural progression of good, positive things to spread.

I think with ChatGPT and all the other types of technology, it’s time to rethink what is the value chain of work anyway. So use this as an opportunity to make and build in certain assumptions and certain flexibilities, and saying, what if we don’t bring workers to work, but we bring work to workers? How might we change who we hire and how we orchestrate these activities?

What if there is no office, period? What would that look like? Try to play with some of the scenarios. And back to the optimization problem, a lot of it can be built into a model and figure out, what are the pros, cons, and financial implications of a lot of that? And hire workforce planning people and analytics people. They’ll help you figure this out.

Jill Finlayson: Yeah. So some people may want to become workforce planners. What is that job and what does that role entail?

Stela Lupushor: Oh, it’s a fascinating endeavor. And there’s not one single organization that has the same concept of what workforce planning constitutes. Think of it as the macro level, where you look at economic indicators, of labor market indicators, of your business strategy, and thinking about the skills and talent pools you can tap into to solve for these strategies, all the way down to building pivot tables, and pulling reports out, and searching for that one number to pull in a report.

Looking at the diversity of the workforce, looking at the skills location of the location strategy. So it’s quite diverse. And depending on the business cycle and the economic cycle, I think you may solve a different problems. But they all are the intersection of skills and capabilities requirement for the company and the business strategy and the organizational capacity to change.

Jill Finlayson: So Stela, it sounds like you’re throwing down the challenge to our listeners to go and reinvent the workforce and the workplace and redefine productivity. I wonder if you have any final words or advice.

Stela Lupushor: To not forget the human. So humanize whatever you do. Humans are unique, with different preferences and interests, different expectations. We need to not forget, in the pursuit of humanization and pursuit of skills-driven planning, in pursuit of quantification of everything, that we all reach and capable and have interests and have life outside of work. So the more we can build that empathy and human-centricity, and bring that to the world of work and design the workplace around those needs, the better outcomes we’re going to see, I guarantee.

Jill Finlayson: Thank you so much for joining us today, Stela, and for humanizing our workforce and our workplace. We really appreciate your insights.

Stela Lupushor: Such a pleasure to speak with you. Thank you so much for the opportunity.

Jill Finlayson: And with that, I hope you enjoyed this latest in our long series of podcasts that we’ll be sending your way every month. Please share with your friends and colleagues who may be interested in taking this “Future of Work” journey with us. And make sure to check out extension.berkeley.edu to find a variety of courses to help you thrive in this new working landscape.

And to see what’s coming up next at EDGE in Tech, go ahead and visit edge.berkeley.edu. Thanks so much for listening, and I’ll be back next month to continue our discussion, this time on AI and its impact on the future of work. Until next time.

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