As part of the 21st annual Warwick Economics Summit, the Future of the Workplace Panel featured a riveting discussion between Jenni Rantakari, Mike Clancy, and Lord John Hendy, which was chaired by Simon Jack of BBC News and broadcasted live to our virtual audience on 6th February, 2022.
Below, you will find our official Summit Press Release for the event, which summarises the speech's highlights, and is accompanied by a collection of the very best quotes from the Future of the Workplace Panel at WES 2022.
After voicing their own thoughts about "The Future of the Workplace" in interactive lunch-time forums, audience members of Warwick Economics Summit 2022 were enthralled by an expert panel discussion on the same topic on 6th February. Jenni Rantakari, Leader of Microsoft's EMEA Modern Work Solutions Strategy, GTM and Sales; Mike Clancy, General Secretary of Prospect Trade Union; and Lord John Hendy, Barrister and leading expert in UK labour law, all contended in lively a discussion moderated by Simon Jack, Business Editor at BBC News. The three panellists exchanged their visions for, and musings on the challenges facing, the modern workplace - as it emerges from the upheaval of the Covid-19 pandemic.
All three panellists underlined increasing uncertainty, as a result of the pandemic, among the labour force concerning multiple issues: their wages, working hours and working conditions, and their opportunities for career progression. On the one hand, as emphasised by Jenni Rantakari, available technology aims to drive inclusivity in the workplace - with shared recordings, notes, and the like, we are able to overcome traditional barriers of time and distance, thus increasing out engagement in our professions and workplaces. Yet, on the other hand, there is a prevailing apprehension about digitisation, and the fear of missing out on important discussions and decisions traditionally reserved for in-person interactions. Indeed, Jenni's point is reflected in recent surveys, with nearly 70% of employees keen to see more remote, digitised workplace alternatives, with a hope for more equal visibility and transparency in the future.
Higher working flexibility is another crucial, related issue that concerns increased remote and digitised work. On this point, Mike Clancy underlined that the recent shift towards work-from-home took place on an "emergency basis," and we are still lacking policies that regulate the responsibilities of employers when implementing remote work structures. Arguing that employers' responsibility for the wellbeing of their employees "does not end at the door of the office," Clancy expressed concern that absent regulation will deteriorate the welfare of remote workers.
The discussion went on to focus on the possible ways of securing and envisioning a more effective and fair workplace of the future. Lord Hendy here noted optimistically that, "if there was ever an opportunity to reset the world of work, it is now". This combined acknowledgement of the dangers of unregulated remote work, and of the innovative possibilities tied to digital and flexible workplaces, made for a stimulating debate about the critical redesign of our modern modes of work.
"How do you create the culture, build the environment, with the same technology that allows everyone to have the same visibility, the same transparency?" (Jenni Rantakari)
"If you've got undifferentiated labour, if you are part of a much bigger machines, (...) you are going to go with the existing dynamics and what the employer probably decides." (Mike Clancy)
"There won't be a new normal unless we change the way we think about work." (Mike Clancy)
"I'm not sure that working from home is a grey area. The employer's responsibility for the employee's wellbeing does not end at the door of the office." (Mike Clancy)
"For most people who are working, and there's several million of them, (...) it's a very, very precarious existence. What they really want is regular, secure, well-paid, interesting work - and they're not getting it." (Lord John Hendy)
"If there was ever an opportunity to reset the world of work, it is now." (Lord John Hendy)
Press release written by Max Vorster
VIDEO RECORDING OF THE TALK:
You will find the video recording of the full Future of the Workplace Panel, delivered at WES 2022, here:
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