It’s been a month since London Tech Week 2022. The conference brought together experts from the world of UK tech to discuss the opportunities facing the sectors, as well as the headwinds it is experiencing.
Of course, a major challenge disrupting the tech sector is the competitive labor market, dubbed the ‘Great Resignation’. No industry is immune from record-high resignations in the UK and beyond, but tech is particularly struggling, particularly in the current economic climate.
Burnout and wellbeing challenges are leading causes of the ‘Great Resignation’, so it is no surprise that wellbeing was a major theme of London Tech Week’s dedicated day on the world of work: the Future of Work summit.
Chairing the session on wellbeing was Zoom’s CIO advisor Magnus Falk. His three pieces of advice for moving the needle on wellbeing at work were providing workplace flexibility, ensuring your company has a clear purpose and vision, as well as having good leaders.
Falk’s third recommendation hinges around showing employees that the organization cares about them as people, not just as workers. Zoom does this through its ‘Happy Crew’, Falk shared during the London Tech Week session. Their job is to ensure that employees are engaged, motivated and healthy.
Ditch the “location mindset”
Later on at the Future of Work summit, UNLEASH caught up with Falk to discuss key challenges and opportunities in the future of work.
We spoke primarily about the first workplace wellbeing recommendation Falk had mentioned: flexible working. This is a topic close to the heart of Zoom; its video conferencing business boomed during COVID-19 when knowledge workers across the world were forced to work remotely full time.
Falk was very clear that the “genie is out of the bottle”, and employees need to get on board with employee demands for flexibility about where they work.
If organizations don’t shift their mindset around remote and flexible work, then they risk high attrition rates. This is because employees are proving they are more than keen to leave a job that “doesn’t benefit them”.
Workers are already “shopping around” for better job opportunities; in fact, it seems that even a looming recession and a severe cost of living crisis isn’t stopping them searching for jobs that provide them with the right flexibility, as well as support their career development and care about their wellbeing challenges.
Falk continues that before COVID-19 organizations expected a worker “to live your life around their business”, but the ‘Great Resignation’ proves that employees are no longer happy with this arrangement. Instead, they want flexibility because it means they do the opposite and fit work around their lives.
Beyond retention, Falk adds that there are other tangible benefits of employers getting out of their “location mindset”. It allows organizations to hire the best talent, no matter where they live.
Ultimately, “the horse has bolted” and employers that are already on the bandwagon will thrive in this era of remote work, Falk tells UNLEASH. Others risk being left behind with high attrition and recruiting struggles.
The future of the office
Despite being pro-flexible working, Falk is clear that the office is not dead. But Falk notes that employers shouldn’t see the office as a “great prize” that people will want to return to.
Instead, employers need to incentivize people to come back into the office, by providing a physical workspace that enables collaboration and connection. For instance, “brainstorming is not asynchronous”; it is more successful when it is done in person, according to Falk. This is not the case for solo work like replying to emails.
The idea is to get employees to buy-in to why it is worth coming into the office (at least some of the week). This includes making them aware of the benefits the office brings for them personally, as well as their team and the organization as a whole.
Ultimately, Falk is clear that employers need to be mindful that there is no one-size-fits-all approach – this was also emphasized by Microsoft’s Nick Hedderman, who also spoke at London Tech Week. Some employees may be more productive from the office – and so want to go into the office for solo work like emails – while others may prefer remote locations.
Addressing the downsides of remote work
The fact that many choose to work from the office for solo tasks proves that while remote work has many positives, it isn’t a silver bullet.
Burnout has skyrocketed during COVID-19 as many employees struggled to switch off from work. Many felt that they weren’t just working from home, but actually living at work.
This situation begs the question: how do you stop overworking in its tracks if people are going to continue to work remotely (at least some of the time?).
For Falk, the answer is company culture. Having a culture of finishing on time, taking lunch breaks, and actually switching off when you’re on annual leave.
Another challenge of the flexible, hybrid future of work is proximity bias. This is where those working from home are overlooked for promotions and pay rises because they are ‘out of sight, out of mind’.
Falk believes that tech can be the solution to this. He believes that Zoom Rooms Smart Gallery function is a “complete game changer” and means no one is left out or disadvantaged based on where they are working.
Zoom’s Smart Gallery uses the newest hardware and artificial intelligence (AI) to provide individual streams of in-person meeting participants so those at home have a clear view of their office-based colleagues. The idea is that everyone can communicate and collaborate equally, no matter if they are at home or in the office.
However, culture also has a crucial role to play here. Companies need to ensure all teams (and particularly managers) “respect” people no matter their location.
The world’s HR conference and expo is back! Don’t miss out on UNLEASH World in Paris this October. More here!
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