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The Future of Work: Creating Winning Workplaces
04TH JULY 2019
The world of work is undergoing undeniable change and organisations are facing an increasing urgency to overcome new challenges effectively and responsibly. Looking to arm brands with the insights they need to be future-ready, we recently released our latest piece of global research: A Future That Works: Winning Workplaces. Our findings? Perceptions from all levels of the workforce about what the future of work looks like and how prepared businesses are to adapt and thrive.
There are increasing opportunities for organisations to provide individuals with more autonomy, purpose and a stable work-life balance – forces that will combat the familiar monotony of traditional working arrangements that can damage our creativity and vibrancy. However, while the majority of employees are hopeful for an evolving future – one where they have more freedom over what they do, as well as when and how they do it – their experiences of change have been largely negative. Furthermore, although it is inevitable that technological innovation, demographic shifts and globalisation will change how we work, the direction of that change is far from certain.
In order to explore these themes and the impact of change further, ENGINE Transformation assembled a panel of experts in the field. Chaired by our Principal Consultant, Helen Shaw, the session included Bruce Daisley, EMEA Vice President for Twitter; Clare Kelliher, Professor of Work and Organisation at the Cranfield School of Management; and Andy Freeman, Marketing Lead at Santander. Read on for some of their key insights.
"When people have different working patterns, things need to change" - Clare Kelliher
There is an increasing number of people working outside of traditional working relationships, in forms including self-employment, zero-hour contracts, and those operating in the gig economy. While employers understand that these changes are occurring, many traditional policies aren't designed to deal with these different relationships - particularly when those changes are not a result of direct action on behalf of the employers.
These standard employer policies need to consider aspects of the professional relationship that vary in alternate working relationships. How do you communicate with your employees? How do you reward them? How do you create an organisational culture in which they feel included? The answers to these questions are highly context-dependent, but all companies need to consider them when adopting varied working relationships.
"You need to work with people to create something bigger than yourself" - Bruce Daisley
The future of work may involve the release of traditional management techniques to provide employees with more control and autonomy over their working life. A move away from a culture in which people are constantly asking for permission to act in the workplace towards a culture in which staff have the autonomy to choose when and where they work will have definitive implications for the employee experience.
While advocating for this shift, Bruce Daisley argues that employees can be given too much autonomy, resulting in a disconnect from the people and purpose of the organisation. He claims that "with extreme autonomy, you lose connection. There's no sense of being collegiate. Individuals can have an incredible sense of doing the job in their own way, but not the feeling of being part of something bigger than themselves". He advocates for a balance in which teams are given the freedom to dictate how their work gets done, providing employees with feelings of ownership and pride in what they do, while also ensuring that the human side of work is sustained.
"A few of us remember when email was brought to our mobile phones – it all seemed so benign. Little did we know, it would make work more solitary and would make our working days longer" - Bruce Daisley
Isolating ourselves from the human side of an organisation is one factor that has led to increased levels of burnout in the modern workplace. On top of this, we are also working longer hours. According to The Telegraph, the average British worker has seen their working day get 23 per cent longer, from 7.5 hours to 9.5 hours per day, with no wage increase to reflect the change.
Additionally, our constant availability through emails on our mobile phones can force us to be persistently connected to work, blurring the work-life divide. The Centre for Creative Leadership states that 60 per cent of professionals were remaining connected to work for 13.5 hours a day every weekday and five hours at weekends, resulting in seventy hours of connectivity per week. There is evidence that these longer working hours achieve the opposite of their intention, hampering employees' ability to work diligently and creatively due to burnout and a lower state of personal wellbeing.
More than a Pay Cheque
"The main thing is that people feel happy and fulfilled in their role. It should enable you to live your better life" - Andy Freeman
Many employers don't know how important it is to the modern employee that they feel that they are achieving something and are contributing to society. These goals are rarely aligned with organisations' and investors' objectives; ROI targets rarely provide the meaning that people seek. One way of addressing this gap is for leadership teams to carefully consider the purpose of their organisation and to frame company objectives in line with that purpose. If employees are convinced of the authenticity of that purpose and buy into working toward those objectives, it can instil meaning into the work that they do.
The research that Clare and her team have undertaken shows that "the most powerful thing is allowing people a degree of choice". Choice in this sense spans two areas. The first involves allowing people to decide how to engage with work. People have diverse lives outside of work and want to be able to shape their working life around their home life. New types of working relationships and technology which allows for long-distance communication can accommodate these desires. The second area in which people crave more choice is in being involved in organisational change. Many employees want to be involved in that process and in how an organisation is run. As Helen Shaw notes, "if you do involve your employees in change, that change is more sustainable and embedded into the organisational culture".
If you would like to watch the entire panel discussion, which provides more insight into these themes, the recording is available here (or if podcasts are more your thing, listen here). If our A Future That Works: Winning Workplaces report resonates with you and you’d like to discuss how to facilitate organisational change, give us a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org.