The Future of Work as the Context of the Future of Wellbeing

We all know the world of work is changing, but what does the future look like? At the Good Day at Work Conversation 2017, our line-up of experts delved into the future of work and what it means for wellbeing.


Here are our top four take-outs from the day in bitesize form.


Demand for Better Work Spaces


Better working physical environments emerged as a real priority for the future of workplace wellbeing, with experts from British Land and the International WELL Building Institute explaining the growing need for companies to create healthier spaces for their employees.


The International WELL Building Standard™ has developed a validated framework across seven concepts such as air pollution, water, and light – that helps address the design and operations of buildings, including how they impact wellbeing and human behaviour. Founder and Good Day at Work speaker, Paul Scialla made the compelling point that around only 1% of a building’s ongoing costs go towards energy usage, but almost all sustainability standards focus on this tiny area of improvement. He asserted that since over 90% of a building’s costs are directly related to the people inside it, a standard that focuses on driving employee wellbeing has vast potential for organisations everywhere. Paul talked about good building design creating the foundation for workplace wellbeing as, for example, employees will benefit from better air, light and water without doing anything at all.  


And yet, many businesses are missing this opportunity by not including building and room design in their overall corporate wellbeing strategy. So, the Well Building movement makes good business sense, but this is also about individual experience; about making the work environment a healthy place for employees to be, something that will, in turn, attract and retain talent. 


b2ap3_thumbnail_GDAW17-05472_matt_webster.jpgMatt Webster, Head of Wellbeing and Future-Proofing at British Land, explained that companies are becoming increasingly aware of how, as well as benefiting their employees mentally, the right working environment can significantly improve productivity. He talked about how, as commercial landlords, British Land put experience and wellbeing first when it comes to designing and managing their properties. He explained that it makes sense to create spaces where tenants want to stay because their employees and customers feel happy and supported by the environment. 






A Multigenerational Workforce 


With more and more people working beyond the traditional retirement age, employers are likely to see an increasingly multi-generational workforce. From a wellbeing perspective this is both an opportunity and a potential minefield. Helen Honeyman, Head of People Proposition, Policy & Governance at RBS suggested the changing face of the workforce combined with a general climate of insecurity and change, has left employers needing to take a more holistic approach to wellbeing strategies; listening to their employees and catering to their individual needs. 


This was also reflected in comments from Paula Brockwell, Robertson Cooper’s Head of Client Experience, ‘increasingly employers are segmenting their workforces and tailoring the support they offer to drive wellbeing; this is made possible by higher quality, more integrated strategies and the rise of tech.’


Cat Barnard, Staffing Expert and founder of Working the Future cited the ‘Millennial Mindset’ as something for employers to watch, emphasising a growing disconnect between employers and their younger employees who have very different expectations of the workplace. 




Throughout the day it was recognised that the workplace was becoming, and needs to become, more ‘ageless’ – a place where age is not definitive of a person’s value or capability. The will is there, even if we still have some distance to travel!



The Gig Economy and Flexible Working 


One of the biggest changes in the world of work is the rise of the gig economy. More people are freelancing, working zero-hours contracts by choice and working remotely, meaning permanent employees are being scaled down. This is changing the way work is experienced and, for some, posing a big threat to workplace wellbeing.


Paul Barrett, Head of Wellbeing at the Bank Workers Charity, believes the context of wellbeing is changing because of this. He argued that as well as the risk of overlooking increasingly threatened permanent workers, we also risk ignoring the wellbeing of freelancers who have very different needs and expectations to a traditional employee.


In a world where we are ‘always on’ and people are working in increasingly flexible ways it’s clear that a ‘one size fits all’ wellbeing strategy won’t work. Strategies need to be tailored to individuals who almost certainly aren’t sat at their desk from 9am-5pm every day. We are moving towards an age of much greater work-life integration.






Every day it seems that headlines are declaring robots will take over our jobs. That may feel like press scaremongering, but there is no denying that technology is potentially one of the biggest threats to morale, trust and workplace wellbeing faced by employers. As technology evolves, however, the evidence shows that jobs are being created and replaced in equal measure. This is more positive than we may have expected but it also means that companies must be ready to manage this process – to reassure and redeploy their employees fairly and appropriately.


Robertson Cooper’s MD, Ben Moss argued that as technology continues to change, employers will need to look towards a redefinition of roles and a re-evaluation of people’s skills. He believes that rather than being replaced, there will simply be a shift and people will begin to be valued for skills that can’t be automated, such as creativity, relationship development and critical thinking. As such, he sees increases in technology and the roles they fulfil as an opportunity for displaced workers to develop valuable skills and to do more interesting and rewarding jobs.




Mental Health in a Climate of Change 


Finally, a theme that ran throughout this year’s Good Day at Work Conversation was mental health and how employers are increasingly having to support their employees, particularly in the current period of political and economic upheaval. 


Our headline speaker, former Downing street press secretary Alastair Campbell, stressed that he believes everyone ‘has mental health’ in the same way that we all have physical health. And that while there may have been great leaps in terms of breaking down the stigma around mental health, it’s creating a parity between mental and physical ill health in the public and political consciousness that is the current battle.


Fuelled by an ‘always on culture’ that is blurring the lines between home and work, Alastair argued that rising mental health problems among the workforce have to be a focus for employers and the Government going forward.


Manageable workloads and realistic deadlines are a start but employers also need to look towards creating a listening culture within the workplace, allowing employees to voice their concerns and flag if they aren’t coping. This, he argued, is essential if employers want to achieve a happy and healthy workforce going forward.






Good Day at Work and its partners Movember, The Bank Workers Charity and British Land, have a shared mission to make conversations around wellbeing at work the norm. The Good Day at Work Conversation attracted over 200 HR delegates, engaging them in conversations around all aspects of well-being – giving them inspiration and take-outs for their own work places to keep the conversation going. A world-class line up of speakers included Journalist, Former Downing Street Press Secretary and Mental Health Campaigner, Alastair Campbell, Times Columnist and Author – Matthew Syed, Speaker and Organisational Psychologist- John Amaechi OBE, and Paul Scialla – Founder of the International WELL building Institute.


For more information and updates on the Good Day at Work Conversation, and to register your interest for the 2018 event, click here