Europe

The world of work has changed: Let’s stop fighting it

Image

By David Worsfold, Worsfold Media Services

For well over a quarter of a century we have been talking about how technology will revolutionise the world of work, liberating people from the rigid routines of commuting, the need to live near city centres, fixed office hours and excessive travelling. It hasn’t happened. We’ve automated plenty of things but have never really got round to addressing the way we work and the culture of presenteeism that underpins it.

The Covid-19 pandemic has shaken that world to its foundations but we are expending enormous amounts of energy trying to rebuild it. Why?

Of course, governments and business organisations will take the short-term view and panic at the sight of deserted city centres and empty trains but this is essentially a very short-sighted view.

People who can work from home have proved that it can be done and that productivity does not suffer. Indeed, there is a growing body of evidence that suggests productivity actually improves once people are not spending hours commuting, socialising after work or merely sitting at desks trying to look busy just to impress their boss.

We have embraced Zoom, Teams and other platforms in a way that has made people wonder why they used spend so much time travelling – often overseas – for face-to-face meetings that can easily be conducted virtually.

The work/life balance for many people has improved enormously and they are not going to let that benefit that go without a fight. One point that seems to have been too casually brushed aside in the panic to get people back to city centre offices as schools return is that with children out of the house many people will actually find working from home even easier. There is also the fear of travelling on potentially crowded trains, very understandable given the number of people who do not wear their masks and the propensity of trains to be one of the prime sources of infection in normal winters.

It’s not for everyone

Let’s not for one minute kid ourselves this change millions around the world have found one of the welcome side-effects of the pandemic is comfortable for everyone, or without its disadvantages. Many people do not live in places where it is easy to work from home. They may feel lonely and isolated or be at stages in their careers where the close mentoring and support available in a structured office environment is invaluable to them. We need to focus on solutions that involve hybrid working patterns, enabling people to make the choices to suit them. HR departments are going to have to develop a new suite of outreach skills to ensure that everyone is supported properly.

Governments and local authorities are in full panic mode about the damage to city centre businesses. So they should be. Not because people do not want to go back but because they do not have the right solutions. We are entering a phase of what economists call creative destruction and we need to embrace it, not fight it.

City centres are not going to return to what they were. That means businesses will fail, railways that relied on over-charging commuters will struggle and commercial property prices will slump. That is the destructive phase and governments need to step in to support those most hurt, the small businesses like the sandwich shops, bars and street food vendors.

Massive potential

The creative phase has massive potential.

People working from home will not want to sit in their houses all day, every day. They will want to meet people, collaborate and socialise with others. Some of that will be done back at their old offices – so they will need to be re-purposed to support collaborative working – but much of it will be done locally. This is one of the big opportunities we must seize: the opportunity to revitalise the struggling high streets of suburbia and provincial towns. Grants to help small businesses relocate from city centres would be a good start.

There is also a real opportunity to tackle social mobility and diversity. If people are not forced to move near city centres for work, often spending a huge proportion of their income on living costs, then businesses can recruit people from anywhere in the country. Where you live will no longer be a constraint on where you can work. There is a great opportunity in this for imaginative employers.

No-one pretends creative destruction is an easy force to manage but embracing it could bring great benefits and finally deliver that revolution in the way we work that has proved so elusive.

Trending
Share this Post:
Posted by David Worsfold
David has 30 years experience as a journalist, mainly covering the insurance industry, financial services and politics but also writing on a wide range of other subjects. In addition, he has a broad experience of editorial management in large and small publishing companies, launching and re-launching publications, and brand development through the launch of conferences, awards and websites and of overseeing production and design services. David has extensive experience of re-aligning content creation and delivery for the modern, multi-platform, mobile world, especially working with publishing teams that need to move from a print-centric environment to the web first world of today. A key part of this was developing effective strategies for delivering content through Apps. This includes a wide knowledge and understanding of the role social media plays in modern media. He was also responsible for developing video and audio content for Incisive Media’s websites through two top quality in-house studios. 

Advertisement

ad ad

Related articles

Patrick Rastiello joins Ardonagh Specialty to lead North America Reinsurance expansion

Ardonagh Specialty has appointed Patrick Rastiello as CEO* of its North American reinsurance operations.   Patrick will be responsible for building Ardonagh Specialty’s US reinsurance...

Global Markets Overview: February 2024

In this Global Markets Overview, we explore our global outlook and share what we think it means for 2024.  https://www.wtwco.com/en-gb/insights/campaigns/global-markets-overview As...

EAMONN CUNNINGHAM WINS RIMS HARRY & DOROTHY GOODELL AWARD

Risk Management Trailblazer Presented with RIMS Highest Honor for Lifetime Achievement in Risk Management  NEW YORK (February 13, 2024) – At the RIMS New Zealand and Pacific Island...

Insurer’s Lease More Than Doubles Its Chicago Office Space

Sompo International Plans Move to 46-Story Tower at 155 N. Wacker A global specialty insurance provider is more than doubling the size of its Chicago office in a move a few blocks north, bucking the trend...

Haynes and Boone, LLP is pleased to announce that Peter A. Halprin has joined the firm as a Partner

Haynes and Boone, LLP is pleased to welcome Insurance Recovery Partner Peter A. Halprin to the firm’s New York City office. A Chambers USA-ranked attorney, Peter joins from Pasich LLP, where...

LIO Specialty Launches Revolutionary Online Portal for Life Science Insurance Solutions

Leading the Excess and Surplus Lines Market with Innovative Coverage for Cannabis and Nutraceutical Industries  West Conshohocken, PA– LIO Specialty Insurance Company proudly announces the launch...