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What Does the World of Work Look Like – Past, Present and Future With Mark Eltringham

Talking with likeminded individuals and sharing insights is no new thing, however it is just as important during these unprecedented times as it ever was before.

We recently interviewed Mark Eltringham, the publisher at Insight Publishing, one of the world’s leading platforms for workplace news, commentary, and features.

We thought Mark, a professional with over twenty-five years’ experience in the sector working as an editor, writer, commentator, and marketing expert, was the best person to discuss all things workplace related, past, present, and future.

Looking back to 2020

What was the biggest lesson learnt in 2020 in terms of having to adapt to change?

When you look at each element of the changes most talked about, there was nothing particularly new about any of them. Informed workplace professionals were already aware of the issues and the solutions. What was unprecedented was the pace of change and how quickly those issues became a business-critical concern for many organisations.  

Facing adversity

What are the biggest challenges you and your company have encountered during the on-going pandemic, and how were these overcome?

As a publisher specialising in the workplace, it was finding fresh things to add to the now mainstream conversation we had been leading for years. On the one hand it was – and is – great that everybody is talking about work related issues, but the majority of the conversations were overly simplistic and cliched. We didn’t want to add to that chatter.

The conclusion we reached to get around this was to accept the pandemic and all the changes it was driving as a fact, but without losing sight of the eternal truths about people and their relationships with work and each other. It was frustrating to see so much of the narrative ignoring these truths but that didn’t mean we had to go along with it all.

It’s especially frustrating to see people talked about as if they were blank slates and units of production again. The best work is relational as well as transactional and yet the conversation became fixated on productivity rather than wellbeing and experience. That’s changing, but it’s a struggle.       

Future of the workplace

What do you expect to see from the workplace this year?

This isn’t a good time to be making predictions but…

Design – The changing role of the office as a place for engagement, cohesion, collaboration as well as social and experiential outcomes rather than simply a work-place in the strict sense was evident before the pandemic and that will be hastened. The design of offices will become more interesting. That said, there is always a place for a desk and a chair. 

Employee expectations – These are still evolving. It was interesting to watch the debate shift from ‘the office is dead’ to ‘hybrid working’ after just a few weeks as people realised that permanent remote work has its own challenges and is not for everybody anyway. People clearly want flexibility and that is not new. What has perhaps changed is the willingness of organisations to offer it to more people. Commuting and fixed times of work have always been the biggest problems most people had with their jobs. So just addressing those two issues could be a game changer for many workers. There are also a growing number of wellness related issues for people working from home that are unresolved for many. These will gain more prominence over time, especially when things start to go legal. 

Working practices – There is nothing especially new in any of them. There will be more flexible working and a slightly changed role for the office. We can expect to see more local work and less commuting. Quite a bit of office space will be divested and central business districts in cities may have to adjust quite a bit. But the scale and extent of these changes are yet to play out. It has become something of a cliché to refer to all of this as a great work experiment, which is partly true. But, if it is an experiment, don’t believe anybody who tells you the results are in. The outcomes will vary enormously for businesses and people based on a range of factors and will continue to change over time.  

To find out more about Mark, follow him on LinkedIn, or visit the Workplace Insight website to read more topical articles, the latest market sector news, and viewpoints from other industry professionals, to help us all navigate these turbulent times.