The concept of work is blurring, it may seem like a minor issue, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg as we herald in the new normal.
As companies call their employees back to the office, we slowly put an end to many routines at home that have become so familiar over the past two years. But not everything will be going away.
Remote and part-time work has become widely accepted and is still a popular option in many firms. Gig workers continue to be the backbone behind many essential goods and services.
Zoom calls are here to stay too, just like many forms of digital entertainment that boomed during the pandemic, such as gaming and e-sports. We recently saw the rise of Web3, the metaverse, NFTs and decentralised autonomous organisations (DAOs), the “companies of the future” governed by transparent computer code on the blockchain.
The younger cohorts, predominantly millennials and Gen Zs, are reimagining the future, especially their own job future. The “great resignation” saw employees quitting nine to six positions in the search for a better work-life balance.
Self-employment and the gig economy offer a certain degree of freedom, with side jobs as a yoga instructor or café owner, for example, that provide additional income. The basic need for health or income protection, meanwhile, hasn’t gone away.
Different needs in the new workplace
New, innovative financial products are required. The need to balance out multiple and mostly irregular revenue streams of gig workers already produced services such as SteadyPay and Trezeo, which was recently absorbed by fintech firm Monese. Most people still prefer to have a predictable income they can plan with, and these tools help smoothen the extremes of good and bad months.
Employee benefits have to change too so that they no longer discriminate against certain types of workers. Whether they are on full-time or part-time contracts, or whether they are just project-based independent contractors, everyone should be entitled to their health benefits.
In this context, employers also need to pay attention to potential mental health issues that have been on the rise during the pandemic and offer appropriate help.
Many companies are becoming more flexible with regard to benefits and letting their workers use them as a form of credit. Everyone’s situation is unique. People might want to shift spending from dental to eye care or from maternity-related benefits to wellness.
A novel concept of work
With an uncommon attitude towards their careers, the younger population is boosting the gaming and (competitive) e-sports industry, with the latter alone expected to grow into a US$1.6 billion market in the next two years, according to Statista.
It has created many jobs for game developers and event organisers, while also providing monthly five-figure incomes for several hundreds of professional players, as stated by Esports Earnings.
Blockchain-based “play-to-earn” games such as Axie Infinity, developed by the Vietnamese studio Sky Mavis, have become a mass phenomenon in this region, allowing participants in the Philippines to make more than the country’s average salary for a short time. Players organise themselves in gaming guilds that loan you the tools (NFTs) required to join the games.
But here as well, a need for better healthcare has emerged. Physicians are discussing new forms of “workplace” injuries such as the “gamer’s thumb,” carpal tunnel syndrome, or other overuse injuries that develop when playing video games in a full-time capacity.
More than 90 per cent of e-sports athletes experience some kind of fatigue or headache, according to a study conducted with players in China, prompting some to retire early.
Traditional insurance is changing
Private sector innovation is essential in closing shortfalls in terms of protection and financial access. New insurtech players can step in and provide right-sized offerings specifically tailored to the needs of the changing workforce, including medical benefits and paid outpatient coverage at the right price.
New blockchain applications allow for more trust and transparency. Hong Kong has been using distributed ledger technologies to tackle motor insurance fraud. In the agricultural sector, parametric insurance can be triggered on climate conditions and payouts can be done by automated smart contacts to farmer’s e-wallets.
The industry will continue to benefit from the continued growth in data collection and data accessibility that’s driven by digitalisation. Giving insurers access to basic information, for example via the Singpass, will make underwriting a more seamless experience. Insights generated by digital commerce platforms and marketplaces can further improve pricing and understanding of risk.
The concept of work is blurring these days. Hence the definition of “at work” used in insurance policies will have to change too. It may seem like a minor issue, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg as we herald in the new normal.