Brave new world of work changes traditional relationships

Journalist Colin Cottell joined us at our recent ‘Workification’ event and shared his thoughts on

Culture and technology are combining to change the traditional relationship between workers and the workplace, according to speakers at an event held in London. The audience at office furniture company Bisley heard from an expert panel how this had implications for how staff are managed, and the nature of work itself.

“Employees want to be recognised as individuals. We are all different. People want to work in different ways and at different times of the day, we are finding that more and more,” said Kirstin Furber, people director of BBC Worldwide and a panel member at the event.

Amelia Coward, a home entrepreneur, who runs gift company Bombus, also a panel member at the event, agreed work was becoming more person-centric. “Rather than finding someone to fill a role, more and more it’s about finding the role to fit the person,” she said. 

Jeremy Myerson, a workplace design expert, author and chair of the event, said the trend for people to choose how, when and where to work was inextricably linked with the growth of digital technology, which made it easier for people to work from home. This in turn had led to the “blurring of the traditional lines between the workplace and home”. This blurring went the other way too, said Myerson, with many modern offices taking on the appearance and comforts of home. 

Furber said another trend was away from presenteeism. “It doesn’t matter how many hours you work in the office, it is about outcomes,” she said. A feature of this trend was leaders setting the overall strategy and direction, and then “being clear on when work is needed by. This tied in with “a big focus around leadership and trust”, said Furber.

Myerson said research from the US showed that presenteeism actually costs employers more than the cost of people being off sick. “It is more damaging to have people who are physically in the office but ‘mentally’ missing,” he said, describing staff who are so burnt out they are not performing to their potential.

As presenteeism waned, Furber said the office or HQ was taking on a new and different role, as a place where a worker “could connect with the purpose of the organisation and meet their colleagues, and then go back to do their work”.

Sebastian Conran, an industrial designer, robotics expert and panel member, said there were downsides to flexibility. “If you have got people who are not present, it makes it very difficult to run a small creative team,” he said.

However, when it came to managing staff to ensure that those who worked flexibly and across diverse locations had access to the same job opportunities and career development as staff that were usually in the office, Furber said there was no reason the former should miss out. 

“It’s about culture and leadership, having the right conversations and development process. It’s about having the right systems and the culture to make sure it happens [and that the same] opportunities are available for all,” she said. 

Thanks for joining us Colin. We hope your readers found the article interesting. 

Recruiter is the principal magazine for the UK recruitment profession, delivering the latest recruitment industry news, advice, analysis and features. See the article here