The Workplace Revolution

HELP, I am getting old! I can look back at my time in the workplace and remember how different things used to be. And while changes in the workplace have mostly been gradual over decades, the COVID-19 pandemic appears to have had a catalytic effect.

I do, however, much prefer my new workplace environment over the past, and I am painfully aware that—for many readers—my current workplace is still a workplace of the “future.”

Here’s where I am at:

I have flexibility of my work hours in that we have shifts spanning different hours throughout the day, currently 7 am to 10 pm. While I cannot just choose on a daily basis which shift I am working, or even drop in whenever I feel like it, I much enjoy the ability to choose shifts that best accommodate my personal life. Also, I now have the flexibility of working from home. Although I cannot choose on any given day whether I work from home or not, certain shifts (day, evening, and weekend) allow me to do so, if that is my preferred way to work. On those days, my husband (who is a 100% remote worker) and I share the apartment as officemates. Fun!

Technology enables me to be more efficient; for example, manage emails anywhere and anytime from my smart devices and easily collaborate on shared files, while protecting my organization’s need for data security. Fancy applications, like video conferencing, surveying, and data visualization, are easily accessible to me through my organization. A nerd’s dream come true…

My work environment is defined by democracy, information sharing, learning, and collaboration. Our section makes decisions jointly, and each voice is heard. We transitioned from random score-based peer review to peer learning. And performance assessment is no longer based on knowledge agreement or RVUs, but focuses on engagement, such as participation in peer learning and educational feedback to technologists. We share information daily in an online chat that includes all radiologists and trainees on service at any location within our system. Each day, we collaborate: sharing interesting cases online, consulting each other for second opinions, taking turns in providing a teaching session.

Our work and our career paths are becoming more customized. I am interested in Quality and Safety, and I am being given the opportunity to pursue this as my professional career. Others can nurture interests in education, research, or information technology to become leaders in those areas.

These are amazing improvements taking place in our work environments. Since 2015 or so, we are said to be living through the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which is defined by cyber systems, machine learning and artificial intelligence, cloud technology, social media, a focus on human-machine interactions, deployment of nanoparticles, and a shift towards sustainability. Self-actualization is a big part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, resulting in wokeness with regards to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Technology developments are the major drivers of the previous Industrial Revolutions, hence the name “Industrial.” But isn’t technology developed by humans? And aren’t these humans driven by simply wanting to make our lives better? In some way, each Industrial Revolution has propelled society further up Maslow’s pyramid of needs. Mostly in developed countries, we have surpassed the stage where our livelihoods serve physiological needs, such as food and shelter; we have gained safety and security through advances in technology and science; we opened new pathways to filling social needs, such as a sense of belonging and social networking, and we are now able to achieve self-actualization for ourselves and others.

This is too rosy a picture for you? You are right. Each Industrial Revolution has also had negative effects, such as unsafe working conditions in early factories, unhealthy living conditions in overcrowded cities, a greater divide between the wealthy and poor, fake news, and now a threat that AI will overpower humanity.

So, why did I write all of this? I had a thought that the change we are living is an opportunity and responsibility, maybe even an obligation. We are given the tools to decrease radiologist burnout—let’s use them! We are given the opportunity to improve patient care through machine learning and AI—let’s go for that! We can practice radiology with a more sustainable footprint—let’s rise to this challenge. We can afford equity—let’s invest in that.  

The third Industrial Revolution was named the “Digital” Revolution. Let’s make sure that history will give a positive name to our fourth Industrial Revolution.

Nadja Kadom, MD

Director for Quality, Department of Radiology, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta
Interim Director for Quality, Department of Radiology and Imaging Sciences, Emory Healthcare
Professor, Emory University School of Medicine

The opinions expressed on RadTeams are those of the author(s); they do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or position of the editors, reviewers, or publisher.