Imagining the (Distant) Future of Work

Nicky Dries, Joost Luyckx, Philip Roger E Rogiers

Research output: Indexed journal article Articlepeer-review


Across two datasets—a corpus of 485 print media articles and a multi-actor survey of Tech/Innovation experts, Authors/Journalists, Economy/Labor Market experts, Policy Makers/Public Administrators, and Engaged Citizens (N=570)—we build the case that the future of work is a fiction, not a fact; or better yet, a series of competing fictions prescribing what the future will or should look like. Using an abductive and curiosity-driven mixed-method analysis process we demonstrate that different narratives about the future of work stand in direct relation to specific actors in the public debate, both through framing tactics used by narrators in the media, and through political and dispositional processes of narrative subscription. From these findings, we infer that research on the future of work is in need of a paradigm shift: from ‘predictions’ to ‘imaginaries’. This, we argue, will help counter deterministic and depoliticized understandings of the future of work. We propose an integration of theory around framing contests, field frames, narrative subscription, and corresponsive mechanisms to offer a plausible account of our empirical discoveries and develop an agenda for further research. As the practical implications of our research show, the future of work does not need to be something that happens ‘to us’—instead, the future can be what we ‘make it’.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAcademy of Management Discoveries
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Jun 2023


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