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Workforce of the future webinar with Futurist Andrew Grill

Workforce of the future – what’s next and how can your business adapt?

At our Decade Ahead event in January, Practical Futurist, keynote and TEDx speaker and former IBM Global Managing Partner Andrew Grill spoke about the workforce of the future and what jobs our children will be doing by 2030.

He predicted that the workforce of the future will be driven by people, place and purpose and the skills employees need will change over the course of the next decade, with a focus on digital literacy.

Purpose will become a more valuable attribute when choosing the best company to work for, companies that can best fulfil the reason for going to work will attract the best candidates. He also predicted the rise of the Gig Executive who will rent their skills and own brand to a number of companies that share their same purpose and aspirations.

Since then due to Covid-19 five years of workplace innovation happened in just six months. Our webinar with Andrew and Royds Withy King’s head of Employment & HR Malcolm Gregory looked at how the UK’s workforce and workspaces have changed, new issues and legal ramifications for employees, what the next five years will bring and how to tackle future challenges.

Let’s fast forward five years…

Andrew kicked off with what the world of work will look like in 2025:

  • There will be a Covid-19 vaccine, but people will still be getting infected
  • There will still be some restrictions around movement in place
  • People will be used to the ten second commute to their kitchen, study, spare room etc
  • With the adoption of remote working, people will be moving out of cities

Since Covid-19 upended our lives, employees have settled into the mandatory remote working. Now, as companies try to decide the best way forward, it’s clear that many employees don’t want to stuff the genie entirely back into the bottle. For many employees the benefits of remote working: better work-life balance, no commute stress, money savings, increased productivity and performance and a more positive environmental impact far outweigh the negatives such as the blurring between home and work lives.

At the moment, companies are managing in varied ways. Some such as Google, Royal Bank of Scotland and Amazon corporate have given employees permission to continue working remotely until at least 2021. Others like Aviva are allowing for a small number of people who need or want to work from the office with the majority of employees still working from home. Going forwards, Vodafone expects to use a mixture of office based and remote working.

How can employers’ best support employees back into the workplace?

Malcolm suggested some practical immediate things:

1. Employers have a duty of care to identify and manage risks to ensure that the workplace is sufficiently safe to return to. Take your time with gradual returns to work to test health and safety measures in practice.

2. Ensure you have communicated your risk assessments and the health and safety measures you have put in place so employees feel comfortable about returning to the workplace.

3. Finally don’t allow things to drift, remote working was an immediate and temporary response to the pandemic. The longer employees are working from home they can argue that their contractual arrangements have changed.

For those employees who don’t feel comfortable about returning to the office and are looking for a hybrid option, Andrew suggested the idea of the ‘third place of work’ which has been very prevalent in the news recently. The third place is a concept in sociology and urban planning that recognises the role semi-public and semi-private places play in, the absence of the traditional workplace, in fostering collaboration. With more people shopping online, there is real opportunity for struggling shopping centres to pivot and become third place/co-working spaces. Westfield London’s owners have submitted a planning application to convert two thirds of the flagship House of Fraser store into a WeWork-style office space.

For organisations considering this option, Malcolm reminded employers that the legal issues are the same as for staff working remotely at home:

  • Healthy and safety assessments need to be done
  • Employers and employees need to be mindful of GDPR obligations
  • Virtual private networks (VPNs) should be used to secure data

However it is clear that as a hybrid option there are some real benefits to the third place of work:

  • Takes away the intrusion of working from home
  • Re-orientates a sense of community with employees and the organisation
  • Allows for collaboration with co-workers
  • Avoids a lengthy commute in the office
  • Organisations can benefit from the flexibility to increase or decrease their space and the length of lease terms, depending upon the business’ success and evolving need.

Andrew suggested the following tips to build a trust-based culture when people are still remote/hybrid working as it’s not enough to ‘do agile’, you have to BE agile:

  • Adopt daily Scrum meetings where each individual answers the following questions: what did you do yesterday, what are you doing today and is anything impeding your progress?
  • Collaborate better via Teams and Zoom
  • Investigate the feasibility of having a third place of work to meet and work at in between home and office
  • Find the internal collaboration champion in your company and ask how they use the tools within your organisation
  • Encourage sharing by ‘working out loud’Build a culture where value is based on what you share, not what you know
  • Become digitally curious and understand how digital can help your business.

Finland has been ahead of the curve in flexible working

The Nordic nation has embraced agile working for decades. It’s a style of work well suited to the country’s deep-rooted culture of trust, equality and pragmatism. The benefits speak for themselves: the country is the happiest one in the world, with the highest trust levels in Europe and its citizens speak of a high sense of autonomy and freedom.

The Gig executive

Andrew expanded further on the concept of the new Gig Executive who will have several employers. Employees willing to live the gig lifestyle are likely to be more fulfilled and will transfer complementary experience between each of the companies they chose to rent their time to. This will impact on how we secure intellectual property and require a radical rethink on things like pensions and accrued leave. A word of caution, if your partner is also a Gig Executive and works for a competitor, how will you maintain confidentiality?

Andrew concluded by warning of the unintended consequences if people continued to work remotely around skills development deficit, effect on the local economy, organisations looking to make pay cuts – Facebook is allowing employees to work remotely but will adjust their salaries based on where they live, the death of office hubs in Canary Wharf and other City-locations and mass migration from our cities.

Malcolm’s final take-aways to the audience about what they need to do now to meet the future challenges included:

  • If you have a flexible working policy check to see if you can update it to reflect any recent adaptions to your organisation. If you don’t have one then put one in place
  • Put flexible working on your strategic people agenda and give it some serious thought
  • Consider surveying your employees to gauge the appetite for change on a more permanent basis and identify their fears and issues from the recent lockdown
  • Act globally but think locally to make sure you’re alive to any regional or local differences that may exist in your organisation – the issues for a manufacturing site in Manchester will be different to those faced by a financial services organisation in Birmingham
  • Find a way to measure how effective these changes are to your organisation’s output? A happier workforce with lower levels of sickness and more engagement should lead to increases in productivity that will add to the bottom line. But how will you measure that?

For more information on how your business can successfully adapt to the workforce of the future, contact Malcolm Gregory today.


Read more from this edition of Ahead of the Curve

Table of contents

Feature one:

Practical Futurist Andrew Gril looks at the new normal and how technology can be used to effect lasting change as we return to work.


Feature two:

The challenge for restaurants has rarely been greater; with the rise of app based delivery services and now coronavirus, how can the leisure and hospitality sector adapt to survive?


Feature three:

How is the new normal going to impact on how and where we work. Our real estate team looks at how the new role of the new office is having to change at a rapid pace.


Feature five:

Graphcore are a company to keep an eye on. We spoke to Nigel Toon, CEO of Graphcore – a Bristol  business which brings Brunel spirit to a modern problem.


Feature six:

The housing market has been severely hit by the lockdown with sever restrictions on house viewings. But now things have started to free up, how can the industry future-proof itself?


Feature seven:

The health and social care sector has been at the epicentre of the coronavurus pandemic. Will this solution keep residents safe, whilst managing their need for social interaction?


Feature eight:

Video conferencing has been one of the heroes of lockdown. From social quizzes to board meetings – but people who have experienced a brain injury may find VC challenging…


Feature nine:

The book review – The new long life. Our regular book review feature, this time we look at The New Long Life, a book that looks at the challenges and opportunities of longevity.


Feature ten:

Coronavirus has moved the concept of climate away from the front and centre of many peoples minds, but should we be taking this opportunity build back a greener future?


Feature eleven:

In our regular feature Leading Edge, a selected charity is offered exclusive access to the back page of our magazine, this month it is CESA, the cauda equina syndrome charity.

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