The Future of Work

World of Work roundtable series


The topic

Future of Work

It appears we’re at a tipping point where the traditional ‘world of work’ will start to materially change.

We’ve seen the fast-tracking of remote working brought about by COVID-19 and the advent of AI and automation technology that can perform sophisticated tasks previously done by people. There are also shifting expectations of employees, many of whom want more flexibility.

Added to this are the many studies that suggest people want jobs where they feel they are making a difference and to work for companies that have a clear social purpose.

These factors coming to a head means we are entering a significant period of change and the world of work will look completely different in five to ten years’ time.

At our final roundtable we discussed what the future looks like – how will people work, and where will they work from? Will job culture change – is having just one career going to remain the norm, what will the impact of AI be and will a company’s purpose evolve beyond just providing jobs and shareholder returns?  

Our research

To help inform the discussion, we asked YouGov to conduct two surveys of:

  • 1,000 senior decision-makers UK-based businesses
  • 1,000 employees working at UK-based businesses

To find out:

  • What do business leaders think the big changes to the world of work will be over the next 10 years?
  • How optimistic are employees about what the future holds for their chosen career path?

The findings

  • Less than half (48%) of employees are optimistic about what the future holds for their careers

When we asked business leaders what they thought the top three most likely trends would be for the world of work over the next 10 years…

  • Half (49%) predicted the 'end of the office’
  • Just under half (48%) envisaged businesses doing more to reduce their environmental impact
  • And 43% cited AI and automation replacing humans in certain roles

The panel

Bex Burn-Callander
Tom Dunlop
Andrew Cooke
Priya Mohal
Darren Mitchell
Rachel Credidio
Bex Burn-Callander

Bex Burn-Callander

Technology, economics and business journalist, writing for the Daily Telegraph and Management Today (chair)

Former enterprise editor of The Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph, Bex was previously associate editor at Real Business Magazine and web editor at Management Today. Her work has been published in: The Guardian, The Times, The Week and Real Deals, and she also regularly provides commentary for TV and radio, appearing on BBC Radio 4, Share Radio, Sky News and Channel 4.

Tom Dunlop

Tom Dunlop

CEO and founder, Summize

As an accomplished commercial and technology lawyer, Tom's experience with reviewing contracts was the catalyst that led to Summize, an innovative tech company that uses automation to simplify and speed up the creation of complex legal documents. Before Summize, he worked for a number of tech companies and was legal director at AppSense and Zuto and global legal director for UserZoom.

Andrew Cooke

Andrew Cooke

Strategic director, Bruntwood Works

Andrew has been at commercial property specialist Bruntwood for over 13 years, having joined as an asset manager before working his way up to become the strategic lead for Bruntwood Works, its office and retail arm. Bruntwood Works owns and manages over 5m sq ft of serviced offices and collaborative workspaces across the UK, as well as a million square feet of retail and leisure space.

Priya Mohal

Priya Mohal

Business coach

Priya started off her professional life in banking and spent 10 years at Lloyds, including four years as a relationship manager specialising in the social housing sector. Following the birth of her second child, Priya decided to leave the corporate world to pursue a career in business coaching and now works with entrepreneurs to help them reach their potential.

Darren Mitchell

Darren Mitchell

UK country manager at Employment Hero

Darren is UK country manager at Employment Hero, a company that lets businesses connect employers and employees using recruitment, HR software, payroll and people management tools. He has previously worked at businesses including Capita, the Financial Times and Bank of Ireland.

Rachel Credidio

Rachel Credidio

Group people and transformation director at Aster Group

Rachel has more than 20 years’ experience in the social housing sector, having spent the past 15 at Aster. Responsible for HR and talent management, communications, IT, business insight, innovation and project management at Aster, she is leading a transformation in the way the organisation engages with its people to drive innovation, creativity, collaboration and productivity.

Panel discussion - key points

  • Employees’ expectations are increasing: they don’t just want a job, they want a purpose
  • Better communication is key to making businesses become ‘more human’
  • Flexible working is here to stay, but so is the office

The year 2020 will be seen as transformational for many reasons.

One of the biggest impacts of the pandemic – and one that’s likely to endure – is the fundamental change to the way many of us work.

To consider what the long-term impact of this shift will be, we sat down with a panel of experts for our latest World of Work roundtable, a series of virtual events curated by Aster and designed to help businesses understand and respond to rapidly-evolving workplace trends.

The switch to more flexible working is perhaps the most obvious immediate change and, while offering employees more choice in how and where they work is beneficial in the long-term, it has brought extra challenges for employers in maintaining productivity and monitoring colleague wellbeing.

Andrew Cooke, strategic director at Bruntwood Works, which owns and manages more than 100 workspaces across the North West, Midlands and Yorkshire, said he believed up to five years of workplace evolution had been crammed into just a few months.

And this has created a momentum that means the world of work will look and feel completely different in five to ten years’ time.

Read more in the sections below.

The panel was struck by a survey we commissioned with YouGov of 1,000 employees at UK-based businesses which found less than half (48%) were optimistic about their careers.

So, why have they lost hope and how do we fix it?

Tom Dunlop, CEO and founder of legal tech innovator Summize, said that COVID-19 has exacerbated feelings of disconnectedness and spoke about the increased importance of a business having a galvanising vision that employees can relate to, especially when working apart.

He said: “Anyone we recruit always tells us they want their role to have real purpose.

“That refers to the mission of the business but also to its social purpose.

“If they can relate to these ideas and feel they are contributing to positive outcomes then they are more engaged and less likely to feel isolated.”

The panel also agreed about the need to provide constant feedback and publicly recognise colleagues’ achievements to help enhance their sense of worth.

All this places extra demands on HR departments, but there’s an opportunity to automate or outsource some of the transactional admin they traditionally undertake, like booking leave, so HR specialists can focus on developing employees.

Tom, whose firm has developed ways to automate the review process of legal contracts, said that, while the prospect of automation could be another fear for employees who are worried they will be replaced by a machine, Artificial Intelligence (AI) should augment the human workforce, not replace it.

He said: “The reality is that Artificial Intelligence can take on those process driven, repetitive tasks that people don’t want to do, freeing them up to be more productive.”

And Rachel Credidio, Group people and transformation director at Aster Group, said organisations have a responsibility to be clear about the skills employees will need in the future and give them a pathway to get there.

The panel also speculated that more flexible working practices will likely mean the end of the concept of a ‘job for life’.

Instead, people are more likely to have multiple employers and pursue two or more career paths at the same time, though this could present a recruitment challenge for businesses which must compete for the best talent on a project-to-project basis.

Rachel said: “We’re retiring later in life and people won’t want to work in a very traditional, nine-to-five way into their old age.

“Instead, they want that flexibility to do different things and take time off when they need it.

“Having a portfolio career working for different employers on different projects might very well be the future.

“But if employers are going to get people with the best skills then we’ll need to think holistically about how we create teams to deliver things and support them effectively.”

So, what will managers need to add to their approach if they are to attract and retain the people they need in this more flexible working world?

Supporting mental health and wellbeing, including financial wellbeing, is going to be more important than ever.

The panel spoke about the danger of work creeping into home life, and business coach Priya Mohal said she had seen more people needing help managing their work life balance during lockdown.

She said: “People are spending lot more time working at home and it can start pervading their life.

“They’re becoming more tired and getting burned out. It’s even prompting some to look for a change of career.

“So there needs to be clear boundaries and colleagues must factor in some ‘me time’ so they still have the energy to continue to work at their best.

“Everyone’s circumstances are different and it will be up to managers to understand their employees’ individual priorities and how they can be supported to maximise their efficiency.

“Find out what’s important to them and build that into their Personal Development Plan.”

Another priority must be to enable the kind of social interaction that can help overcome feelings of isolation and loneliness, while also fostering collaboration and creativity.

According to Andrew Cooke of Bruntwood Works, the workplace will still have an important role to play in this area.

He told the panel how inspiring workplaces can be a catalyst for connection and collaboration in a way that videoconferencing can’t and that, in the future, a hybrid of home and office working will be the best way forward.

He said: “Collaboration can be done remotely, but we’re all social animals and platforms like Zoom can’t replicate the buzz that comes with face-to-face interaction.

“People want to be socially and culturally stimulated by spaces and the workplace is a very sharp tool for encouraging this.”

And workplaces can be optimised for the health and wellbeing of the people who work there in a way that most people can’t replicate at home.

Andrew said Bruntwood Works is exploring how technology can further enhance the office space – sensors to measure CO2 levels and enhance air quality in its offices, and circadian lighting that is proven to have a positive impact on health, wellbeing mood and productivity. The lighting helps to support a natural environment by regulating a 24-hour cycle of sleep, wake, hunger, alertness, hormone release in the same way real sunlight does.

This new, more flexible future, where people are no longer tied to a particular place or employer, will ultimately mean businesses have to be on their A-game to attract and retain the best talent.

Darren Mitchell, UK country manager at Employment Hero, the employee management IT platform, says this will make a strong employer brand all the more important and Darren warns that an employer’s reputation will be crucial to recruitment.

He said: “There are so many forums where employees can post feedback on their employers now.

“Companies that are being exposed as not great places to work will probably have to pay an extra 20-25% to attract good people.”

So, it seems that, in response to the increasing expectations of employees, businesses will need to work hard to become better employers.

If they aren’t already, they will need to introduce policies and practices to better support colleagues, enhance wellbeing and boost job satisfaction.

Their reward will be a happier, more connected, creative and productive workforce.

Employees’ expectations are increasing. Now it’s time for employers to up their game

By Rachel Credidio

Group people and transformation director at Aster Group

"When colleagues feel that a company’s values chime with their own, it gives their job a purpose beyond just clocking in to bring home a pay cheque."

Read the full blog below.

Read blog

About Aster Group

Housing association Aster Group supplies a wide range of housing options in response to the housing crisis, working towards its vision of ensuring everyone has a home.

The not-for-dividend business was established in 1990 and has £2 billion worth of assets. Aster plans to invest £2 billion over seven years on 10,400 new homes and forecasts delivering 855 homes during the current financial year (2020/21).

The group reinvests profits from open market sale and shared ownership to support the development of affordable rented homes. It owns and maintains over 32,000 homes, provides services to around 93,000 customers and employs more than 1,400 people.

Learn more

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