The Human Future of Work Report

The Great Renegotiation: Humanizing the future of work

We are in the midst of an epic battle between employees and their employers on how work fits into people’s lives.

Why is there a battle and how did we get here?

People are facing unprecedented headwinds.

We are dealing with multiple black swan events at the same time – pandemic, threats of a looming recession, inflation with no end in sight, escalating war, social unrest, devastating weather events and so much more. This is only a part of the story.

The 3 hidden factors that should concern us are, the magnitude of grief, unhappiness and loneliness that people are dealing with.

In the last 2 years, over 6.5 million people lost their lives to Covid-19. In the US, it is the 3rd most common cause of death. Imagine the heartbreak of millions of bereaved families, and the empathy they need, as they try to return to normalcy and work, while grieving and healing.

Unhappiness is on the rise globally. Gallup’s Negative Experiences Index, which measures anger, stress, sadness, physical pain and worry (not necessarily related to the pandemic), show an accelerating upward trajectory since 2006. Imagine the impact of this unhappiness on engagement.

Loneliness is rising across the globe as well (20-50% people across countries report feelings of loneliness), and in the US, it is labeled an epidemic (58%). Imagine the impact of loneliness at scale, on engagement, productivity and performance. The costs are estimated at $154 bn on stress related absenteeism alone.

The pandemic led to a collective epiphany of what is truly important to us and triggered a quest for some respite, some peace, a quest for happiness, and a quest for autonomy.

Why do I need to be in the office?, people ask.

The approach some companies are taking is the ‘Because-I-told-you-to’ approach. They are surprised that it is not going down well. In the US, many companies have set and reset deadlines for people to report to the office, but office occupancy continues to be low. Perhaps because 56% employees believe that their work could be done from home.

The bigger concern is that many organizations haven’t reimagined their workplaces. They haven’t experimented or chartered pilots to help them make evidence based decisions. They also haven’t shown why the office is critical, especially to digital natives, who collaborate differently, and build communities and culture differently. In an environment of digital transformation, where the half-life of many skills is less than 2 and a half years, where millions of jobs might become obsolete or change, and where many new jobs, that haven’t even been born yet, may become commonplace; it feels counterintuitive to say that the best place to do this work, is and will continue to be, the office.

Organizations are on a steep learning curve, and are facing significant headwinds too.

Employers have had to contend with multiple simultaneous black swan events as well. As they dealt with the impact of the pandemic, the roller coaster of unpredictable demand and supply, the mood swings of the stock market, they also had to deal with an unprecedented exodus of talent, and a global talent shortage of 42% (demand outstripping supply in the US).

International Data Corporation projects the tech talent gap is going to cost organizations $775 bn. Whether it is the tech shortage, or other essential skills gaps such as nurses, retail workers, commercial drivers, both the magnitude and nature of the talent shortage is a concern.

Organizations are at crossroads.

We see organizations adopting vastly different approaches to the future of work. While the pioneers are reimagining how work works, their peers are doubling down on way things used to be.

The difference boils down to whether the organization has a world view where there is alignment between what they want, and what their people want, forging an even better future state (a win-win), or whether the organization sees a fundamental trade off between the two.

Addressing the talent insufficiency requires a multi dimensional approach. To attract, hire, develop and retain people in this environment, we need to center people.

Why do we need another future of work report?

This is the most human centered future of work report you will read. Here’s why that is important.

We did listening labs. People came into these sessions as strangers, and yet shared intensely personal stories of success and sorrow at work. As we read through hundreds of white papers, research, articles, publications, surveys, we couldn’t find the voices we were hearing in our labs. Their lived experiences and stories found no place – both their joys and their challenges.

We wanted to help.

We were part of the great resignation. Now, we are helping organizations solve for it. We promise you, there is light at the end of this tunnel.

So fasten your seatbelts. Let’s go.

How do these insights apply to your organization? Where are you on this journey to humanize the future of work? Are you looking to listen, uncover deep insights & co-create this journey? Start your journey using our signature methodologies – Listening Lab, World Cafe. Get in touch.

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