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Wellbeing in the future of work

Dave Rees, chief sales officer at SThree, discusses flexible working practices and whether business leaders are using tech in a way that fuels a healthy work/life balance.


When I started my career, I was told that the only constant in business is change. So, it’s not surprising that as we enter the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the way we look at work is rapidly transforming.


Flexibility, wellbeing and having a healthy work/life balance are now key considerations for many people when looking at job opportunities. In Deloitte’s Global Millennial Survey 2019, 56% of those surveyed said they would quit their jobs in the next two years if their employer didn’t prioritise flexible working practices or support a healthy work/life balance. And in Pricewaterhousecoopers’ (PWC) ‘Secure Your Future People Experience’ study, 71% of respondents said supporting remote and virtual working is important to their future.


The appetite for these types of arrangement is only going to continue to grow and companies are responding. But have they got it right?


Changing how businesses work


The use of state-of-the-art tech and collaboration apps are making it easier than ever to work away from the office while connecting to people and information from anywhere, at any time and through any device.


It’s a far cry from having to travel hundreds of miles for regular face-to-face team meetings or queuing for the fax machine to get information across, which was the case when I started my career in recruitment. The traditional view that work is a place that you go to is being replaced by the idea that it’s something you carry about in your pocket in many organisations. And having the ability to work around childcare, personal appointments, family commitments and other responsibilities can be incredibly beneficial.


But in some cases, the boundaries between work and home can become blurred, and flexibility can simply mean longer hours and in the case of those working from home, having no social touch points. So, as companies respond to the changing priorities of the workforce, are they getting the balance right or are they creating an ‘always on’ culture, where people can’t switch-off from work?

And are these organisations really putting the wellbeing of their people first when they talk about flexibility?


Understanding flexibility and wellbeing


Earlier this year I visited one of the big tech firms and was given a tour of some futuristic zones they had created, which included virtual offices and a range of tech aimed at connecting people. The idea was that their teams could discuss projects, solve problems and give updates on their work without the need to travel or physically be in the same office.


So, whether you’re in an office, at home or on the beach, you can dial into important work meetings.

But as impressive as these futuristic zones were, what struck me was that the wellbeing of employees didn’t seem to be factored into the future of work plans. What if people don’t want to be dialling into a work call when they’re on the beach enjoying a hard-earned break?


I never really got an answer to that.


Being able to switch-off on holiday is a basic work/life balance consideration and it’s scary that it seemingly wasn’t being taken into account. My life is all about carving out more time with my family, not less. And if I’m sending emails at the weekend, I certainly don’t want my team to feel obliged to respond that day when they’re out enjoying themselves or spending quality time with the people they love. But do business leaders fully understand what wellbeing at work means and are new technologies really going to make life any better for employees?


Striking a balance


Too many companies think they are putting the wellbeing of their people first when actually, their ways of working are detrimental to the health and happiness of their employees. As we introduce new tech, all businesses have a responsibility to consider people’s wellbeing and if tech can make jobs more exciting and flexible then that’s a real victory.


But the future of work is about putting health and happiness first and all business leaders have a duty of care to ensure that flexibility doesn’t simply mean being ‘always on’. To do that, we all have to be clear about what’s expected of our people, while respecting the boundaries of work and personal lives.


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