Employment law and HR expert David Plotkin looks into his crystal ball about the way we work.
The pandemic has transformed the way we have lived and worked. The pace of change has been challenging for both employees and their employers to adjust to, but what does the future hold?
There has been a focus on whether or not employees should return to the office and what such a change will make to productivity levels, but that is just one piece of the jigsaw.
The pandemic has highlighted the opportunities that flexible working can bring, and what is possible. This flexibility has enabled many dads to spend more time at home with their children whilst still being able to work, but will everything return to how it was before?
What is clear is that dads are becoming more and more involved in the care of their children. Many have changed jobs to work for employers who recognise the importance of offering flexibility. This trend is likely to increase in future both in terms of the active role that Dads will have and also the extent to which an employer’s response to this issue will affect whether someone wishes to stay or go.
There continues to be a perception that men are not the ones who will have the main childcaring responsibilities. However, it is important that employers give proper thought to requests to change things such as changing working hours etc.
In the future there is likely to be further shifts away from the idea of the breadwinner (or making the assumption that if there is a higher earner it would be a man). Maybe both parents want to work part time and share caring responsibilities? If this is so, what will this mean for career progression?
The pandemic was the catalyst for great and swift change. It prompted many of us to effectively work in conditions that would have not been thought possible before. For many of us this has resulted in lasting changes to the way we work, but what will that mean going forward?
Based on our desire for flexibility it seems inevitable that there will generally be far less focus on the traditional idea of going to the office where how and when things would be done was fixed. However, based on changes that have been referred to above, the changes in future will not just relate to use of buildings. The future provides an opportunity to change perceptions instead. Whether that is employers recognising that some men may well be responsible for a large amount of the childcare, or creating an environment that enables everyone at work, whether they have childcare responsibilities or not, to fulfil their potential at work.
Such aims will require ongoing commitment to fulfil, but the rewards are well worth it. Aside from it being the right thing, from a moral point of view, there is also a strong business case for it too. Competition for the best people is likely to become increasingly intense. Having such an ethos means that an organisation can effectively attract and retain talented people because they are less likely to leave regardless of what life has in store.
The way to see what the workplace looks like in future is not to look at where someone works but to explore whether there are opportunities for all.
Plotkin & Chandler is an employment law and HR consultancy firm that supports both individuals and organisations.