SOCIAL ENTERPRISE NEWS
I was pleased to participate in Social Enterprise Scotland’s recent webinar ‘Fair Work and the new workplace.’
To consider the future of the workplace, we need first to understand how working lives – and how and where work is delivered – have changed for people during the pandemic. Because while business models and ways of working have been disrupted on a near-universal scale, our research at the Carnegie UK Trust documents wide variations of experience of living and working through the pandemic, depending on our work and personal circumstances.
It’s important to remember that under half of the workforce have been working mainly from home during the pandemic – it may feel ubiquitous when you are speaking to other people day in day out on Zoom calls, but it is still the preserve of a large minority.
Numbers have fluctuated, but in April 2020 just after the first lockdown around 43% of the workforce were working from home. We must not lose sight of the reality of working lives for the large groups of workers who have been continuing to go out to their physical place of work throughout the pandemic, or whose sectors have been shut down, in our discussions about the future of the workplace.
However the enforced mass homeworking experiment for just under half of the workforce has undoubtedly been a game-changer, opening up many possibilities for the future that we need to consider and plan for.
There are calls for the potential for greater flexibility and work-life balance to become an embedded part of work from now on, while also having awareness of the inequalities exacerbated by home working and its negative aspects.
For those who are currently working from home, and for employers who are thinking of extending use of home working, what are the risks, opportunities and learning to be considered?
Employers are going to be at the frontier of weighing up these considerations, trialling approaches and adapting ways of working. Employers considering extending the use of home working beyond the period that it is necessary need to consider employee wellbeing, team dynamics, staff skills development and progression, and the impact of all of these forces on business outcomes. For fair work, it is imperative that workers’ voices, needs and preferences are given adequate weight in decision making.
Social enterprises – who – as one of the speakers in the webinar said, reach across the boundaries of commercial and social impact – may be extremely well positioned to model approaches that can demonstrate a future of work that achieves a better equilibrium between work and personal fulfilment.
Gail Irvine, Senior Policy and Development Officer at Carnegie UK Trust
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