The future of work

During my maternity leave I’ve had the chance to reflect on the changing working environment. There’s a lot of talk about flexibility, but it is very difficult to find businesses or organisations who truly embrace and encourage flexibility. 

Outdated working environments stifle creativity and flexibility.  Allocated desks. Landlines. 9-5 in office hours. Hierarchy. These all contribute to old school attitudes. 

Now don’t get me wrong, many people cling to these things as solid foundations. They make the workplace feel comfortable and safe. Some of them, like my own desk, are things that I value. But do they really set the right environment for doing the best and most exciting work? Does it empower people to be masters of their own destiny? Does it make people accountable for themselves, their teams and the quality of the output?

The workplace of the future, in my view, will be less static and more fluid. There will be less rules and more accountability. Costs will be lower so rewards can be higher. There won’t be talk about work/life balance, because work and life will blend seamlessly to create a happy and healthy workforce. 

The reason so few businesses and organisations have achieved this is because there is a fear of the unknown. A lack of trust and a nervousness that some employees might abuse the system. And a desire for senior management to be able to see, organise and control what goes on in their organisation. 

So my 3 commitments as I return to work as a senior leader are:

To listen more: What will make work more enagaging, more fun, more seamless for everyone. 

To be braver: Break down hierarchy and barriers, interfere less, encourage talented colleagues to be masters of their own destiny, say YES even more than I did previously. 

To lead by example: work flexibly, be accountable, reward the right behaviours, attempt to blend work and life seamlessly and hopefully get great results along the way.

My return to work is exciting, but it is also daunting. How will I achieve everything I want to at home and work? Flexibility is the answer and the future is really only ever a day away.

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6 thoughts on “The future of work

  1. I love this and I really hope for yourself and colleagues it can work. As a mummy who chooses to work I feel judged by the school mums and judged by my peers. It really isn’t easy and I truly believe that we live in a 24/7 culture – we need to change our traditional working hours to keep up with it.

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    1. Totally agree on the 24/7 point. I also hate the judgement, especially from other woman. If we could all be a little more generous and understanding with each other then the world would be a much nicer and better place.

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    2. I’m a working mum….my kids are now 13 and 11 so I’ve been through the most difficult part. You do get judged and opinions formed about you….even my kid’s old school have formed opinions and gossiped about me not been available (even though my PA has also answered my phone for me if I’m not around) however my advice would be to put this low down on your list of priorities and not to give it a second thought. I remember someone telling me worring about these behaviours was wasted energy. So I live by that. I’ve grown to find it entertaining and I’m sorry for people who feel the need to judge. It’s often because they are unhappy with their own life balance and they are reflecting on to you.

      With regards to flexibility, I absolutely try to embrace this. Flexibility around work comes in so many ways….where you work, when you work, how you structure your relation with employees (freelance or perm) and importantly your attitude to work.

      It’s not about working less hard (which some people think it is). It’s about trust, goal setting and giving people a sense of purpose and then letting them get on and deliver when and where that suits them and works for the business. (The two need to go hand in hand).

      I have noticed major shifts in working practices and it’s great to here this.

      And good luck with your return to work!

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  2. I got in such a state about the whole back to work thing, even though I found mat leave v tough, boring and lonely (I’d happily be off with her now – A few micro maternity leaves would be ideal!). I felt v judged by other mums for going back early and for hiring a live in nanny in order to do so – she’s still with us now and was the best decision we could have made childcare wise, especially for a control freak like me who wants to know what’s going on with my little one even if I’m out.
    Anyway, I have finally made my peace with not caring what other people think (sure that’ll be tougher once she’s at school), and although it’s knackering I love the set up we have.
    Good luck with going back. Agree with you fully on flexibility and a blend being the way forward. More of a sisterhood would also be great!

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  3. I love this article, but not looking at it from a return from matleave POV (although realise how tough this can be). I’ve thought a lot about ‘the office’ of the future and I believe, like you, that a fixed desk and the need to go in to an office will become a thing of the past. Employees/consultants will have a much clearer idea of what their contribution is to the success of a business. You will be responsible for delivering projects within a specific timeframe, but you’ll do the work when and where it suits you across a 7 day week. It will require an ‘always on’ mindset meaning your business partners can contact you when they need to and the approach will be much more flexible. The office will be a hub where people meet when they need to, but it will offer a totally different function. And it will mean significantly reduced costs and resources, and that in itself will be appealing. It also means that employees/consultants will be more motivated and productive. And I use the word ‘consultant’ because this new environment will require fewer fixed heads and will rely on more contractors, specialists and consultants. I see this as the dynamic organisation of the future.

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