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The future of work

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The global conversation at Expo 2020 has now turned to the ‘Future of Work’ and more specifically the challenge of balancing our personal and professional lives. The pandemic gave people the opportunity to reflect on their work life balance and for some has led to the ‘great resignation’ – a term coined to explain the phenomenon of a large volume of professionals resigning across the world. There is no doubt the way we work has changed forever so how can people achieve better work life balance? And how can employers make sure they are creating the right environment to retain the best people?

When Andrew Barnes and Charlotte Lockhart started 4 Day Week Global they had no idea what a worldwide phenomenon they were going to create. The couple had been researching productivity and had come across a four day week concept that they decided to trial at their business Perpetual Guardian. To cement the results of the trial they hired two researchers from the University of Auckland and Auckland University of Technology to document the experiment. The trial was hugely successful and Charlotte says the research immediately received international interest. 

Charlotte Lockhart portrait photo

“As soon as we released our trial results to the media we were contacted by researchers in the UK and the States, we met with some of these people and found out that the research we had done was quite unique. It also told us that there was a real interest in changing the way we work and reducing the time we spend at work. Because of this we decided to set up 4 Day Week Global.”

4 Day Week is a not for profit enterprise and works with businesses around the world to reduce an employee’s hours but not their productivity. The company works on a 100/80/100(™) principal. Which means employees get 100% of their pay, work 80% of their time and the business gets 100% of their productivity. 

Research shows that In the UK 18million work days are collectively lost to mental health and stress every year. 4 Day Week has programmes in the US, Canada, the UK, Europe and this month launched their Australisia arm. Charlotte says the success of the concept shows that the future of work is changing and if businesses don’t adapt they will be left behind.

“We have been talking for decades about health and safety in the workplace but the manifestation of that has really just been safety. In the last few years we have shifted to understanding what workplace health truly looks like. We know that working the number of hours we are working is leading to burnout, and we accept that mental health is an issue for us all in an everyday way, not just for those who are clinically unwell. The way we are working is having an effect on people, on businesses and on society as a whole.”

Will Moffett, Associate Consultant at recruitment company Kerridge and Partners says businesses are increasing their wellness offerings to make sure they attract the top people.

Men smiling

Graeme Perry, Founder LVL

“Flexible hours, remote working possibilities, wellness programmes and increased holidays are increasingly being offered by employers and intensified by COVID. Organisations have significantly raised the bar in the last two years in terms of wellness focus in the workplace. This has resulted in high expectations across the candidate pool for not only benefits but a genuine interest and exercise of manaakitanga towards a firm’s employees. People are increasingly tired, stressed and under pressure. To retain talent, firms must keep improving on what’s good – benefits, development, ways of working, and culture are never static; they should be constantly monitored to ensure the best fit for employee experience and retention.”

The corporate wellness market is a $60 billion dollar industry and it’s growing everyday. Offshore Kiwi Graeme Perry runs LVL, a company which brings wellness programmes into businesses. He says this can offer huge value to a business.

“Wellness goes a huge way towards increasing engagement and if you increase employee engagement you increase employee retention. And all companies will tell you recruitment and retention is one of the major costs in business these days.”

While achieving a perfect work life balance has been a challenge for many of us for quite some time, Dr Angela Lim says her company Clearhead has seen the problem increase exponentially during the pandemic. 

“We have seen a 10 fold increase in people struggling to balance their personal and professional lives especially due to remote work and lockdowns due to the pandemic. We hear from a lot of people who are wanting to achieve better balance.”

Clearhead provides holistic, proactive, and cost-effective mental health and wellbeing support for workplaces and Dr Lim says it’s important for businesses to ensure their employees feel supported. 

Woman smiling

“How hard it is to achieve the balance will primarily come down to the employer and their commitment to setting culture norms on workload, expectation on response outside of standard working hours, flexible working hours, psychological safe space for employees to voice their concerns and challenges, mental health awareness, availability of proactive employee wellbeing support, etc. It is important to challenge the context that balance and resilience is solely reliant on the individual when most of the time, there are vulnerable to the systems that are in place. Therefore, we need to look at the support structures available in the workplace to determine if the person is set up for success or failure.”

Charlotte says people are starting to realise that overwork is fundamentally breaking down what they want in life and it’s time to look at other options. 

Younger generations have watched their parents burnout from overwork, people are seeing their friends and colleagues burnout from over work and no one wants that life, it’s not good for any of us. We want families to grow up knowing their children and being able to spend time with them, we need people to have time for their health and interests and volunteer work. The good news is a lot of people are waking up and things are changing.”

Wellbeing center

Businesses can use strong wellness programmes to attract and keep top talent (LVL wellness offering pictured)

Will says for companies looking to attract top overseas talent flexible ways of working and better work life balance can offer incentives that people value more than high salaries. 

In contrast to overseas financial incentives firms can make themselves competitive by selling the modern Kiwi working lifestyle. This could include flexible ways of working, wellness offerings at work, and appropriate support in times of uncertainty. There is no magic bullet to attracting and retaining talent – but the best candidate magnet is a firm’s reputation. It takes a constant graft towards doing the big and small things well, keeping your staff engaged, remunerated, and feeling safe and valued in their place of work. After years of investment in people and systems, a firm will earn its reputation as an employer worth working for. For firms that don’t currently have that reputation in the market, it is never too late to change.”

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