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Friday, May 22, 2020

The Future of Work is Not Yet Written: My 6 Predictions for the next 6 months

Now, this may come as a bit of a surprise to some but I am not the biggest fan of awareness days. And especially not a fan of the annual lip service given to them by many companies, media platforms and public servants.

This year we find ourselves marking MHAW whilst pushing health care, emergency and essential workers to psychological and physical breaking point.  Marking MHAW whilst millions of people have been furloughed or lost their livelihoods and marking MHAW whilst many of us find ourselves facing uncertain futures.

And as a surreal backdrop to the human and economic crisis of a global pandemic we have non-dom billionaires asking for public bailouts, the UK’s richest man expecting office employees to comeback on a rota basis and ad-land titans seeing this as an opportunity for afire sale and to cut costs on office space.

Yes, the Chief Happiness Officer is struggling to put a positive spin on this. And that is okay.  It is okay to be a sensible balance of Tigger and Eeyore at this uncertain time.  It is okay to recognise that we have an opportunity to re-frame the world of work as people centred and it is also okay to look at and learn from history and know that the status quo of power will not be relinquished without a fight.

I don’t have a crystal ball for the years ahead but I do have enough experience and insight to give you a glimpse into the next 6 months:

1.    It is going to be hard:

With lockdown restrictions easing we will now be responding to a myriad of complex needs and working arrangements. Complex needs that intersect with business continuity, that intersect with diversity and inclusion (no, we are not all in the same boat) and complex needs that underscore that wellbeing should be a fundamental part of business strategy.  


2.    Corporate Culture matters more than ever:

This crisis has magnified existing strengths and existing weaknesses. If you do not have trust, empathy, collaboration and open communication at the heart of your business you, and your people, will struggle to weather the turbulence of the months ahead.

3.    This isn’t ‘Working From Home’ so please stop calling it that:

The initial adrenaline fuelled adjustment to ensuring business continuity whilst juggling schooling, caring responsibilities and baking banana bread has given way to the fractures of gendered labour and existing demographic and social inequality.  Whatever the flaws of our previous ways of working, an office environment afforded many of us a level playing field - home working does not. 

4.    The mental health impact will be long and deep:

Mental health experts are already predicting that we are barely seeing the tip of the iceberg.  As employers, as communities and as elected officials (and the public purse!) we need to be putting in as much support as possible now.

Burnout is very real and this would be burnout at an unprecedented scale.

5.    Don’t let a global recession trump the empathy and humanity of the last 2 months:

Just that. We can care about people and care about the bottom line – they are not mutually exclusive.


6.    And the sliver of a silver lining:  

We do have an opportunity to radically re-think not only HOW we work but WHY we work.  Our existing patterns and expectations of work have only been with us since the industrial revolution.So what does work in the 21st Century mean? Is it time for us to embrace Universal Basic Income? Shouldn’t the health of the workforce be a KPI and a critical strategic business priority?  Like I said, the future of work is not yet written….

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