New Work Patterns Are Emerging And They Are Largely Positive

The 2023 Gallagher ‘State of the Sector’ report is a survey of over 2000 HR and internal communication professionals. It highlights some very interesting recent changes in the nature of the traditional employee and employer relationship.

There were nine themes that came out of the research, but let’s just look at a few of the broader ones because some are very much focused on internal communications:

  • The rise of culture and belonging. Three quarters of the survey said the purpose of internal communication is to support culture and belonging. Internal communication was always first and foremost about communicating strategy and creating alignment around an organisation’s vision and purpose. This has always been true, but it was clear that creating a corporate culture and sense of belonging is now more prevalent and important than ever.
  • Reinventing the employee-employer relationship. Just over half of the survey respondents have started to revisit their employee value proposition. Existing value propositions have limited effects, because only just over half rated employee understanding of compensation, rewards and benefits as excellent or good.
  • Being a force for good in the world. Although 41% said they have a clear ESG strategy in place, most organisations still are struggling to strategically deploy ESG communications and share their views on sustainability. They instead choose to focus exclusively on diversity, equity and inclusion.

Taken together this all looks like quite a change in the traditional employer and employee relationship. In fact, employers have almost always held the upper hand in this relationship as they offer jobs to employees – they are making the monthly salary payments. However, as these three trends demonstrate, people want something more from their employer today than just a salary at the end of the month.

Employees want their employer to appreciate what drives them, what makes them arrive at work each day – often it isn’t the salary. They want to feel that they belong to an organisation that share similar beliefs, a culture that feels positive. They want to feel that the broad power of their organisation is doing some good in the world, for the environment, or diversity and inclusion.

Some employers are responding to this change – many are not. During the period of the Great Resignation it appeared essential for employers to listen carefully to their employees, but now there is a great deal of economic uncertainty almost everywhere it feels like the power dynamic is shifting again.

Some commentators are suggesting that skilled employees will give up on traditional jobs completely by embracing the gig economy. Traditionally most people have looked at these jobs as fairly precarious and without a requirement for specific skills – delivering pizza or driving a taxi. However, platforms such as UpWork and Fiverr are creating a place where highly skilled individuals can offer their services one task at a time.

The gig economy will become more important, but I can’t see a world in which every highly skilled worker prefers gigs to a solid employment contract with a single employer. Most people want the assurance of knowing they can pay their bills each month.

However, there are a few important changes in the employer and employee relationship that I believe are becoming more important for all executives to appreciate if they want to attract the best people, including:

  • More work is outcome-based. Some jobs need to be based on time performing a task – such as a food server has to be available when a restaurant is open – but many employers are finding that if they manage people based on output, rather than time at a desk, then it works better for both – even in the traditional salaried environment. This changes the management approach to focus on who is really delivering value, rather than who is present at their desk all the time.
  • Agency. One of the most common reasons for people to quit their job is that their manager does not listen to them or does not give them any scope to make their own decisions – they have no agency or control over their working day.
  • New working patterns. People want a greater ability to control the days and hours that they work. In the customer service environment this has been achieved by companies such as SensĂ©e by modelling the coverage we need in 30-minute intervals through the day and then asking our team to sign up for specific shifts based on the hours available. It allows the team more flexibility and ensures we can offer better coverage for our clients too.
  • ESG. Environmental, social, and corporate governance goals may just sound like an update of corporate social responsibility, but it really matters today. Employees are looking to ESG statements to give them an indication that this company is worth working for. Customers are also making purchasing decisions based on ESG and investors are too – nobody can seriously seek business funding today without a solid ESG plan in place.

There is a general move to a more flexible work environment. People are working from home or with hybrid contracts more often. They are also working more flexible hours with the ability to change their working hours fairly easily.

All this was not imaginable in professional jobs a couple of decades ago where fixed office hours had to be tolerated and colleagues would be called ‘part-time’ if they left the office on time.

Work is becoming more flexible and more meaningful. All this is very positive. The gig economy is also offering greater flexibility to those who are happy to work with a lower level of security, but with a greater potential upside. People want to believe in what they are doing at work and they also want employers to leave them to get on with the job.

(New eBook) The Team Leader Role in a Hybrid World

Think you understand what it takes to be a great Team Leader?

Well think again… because the switch to home & hybrid working is bringing about major changes in the way organisations view the role.

‱ In an office setting, Team Leaders must be managers, supervisors, motivators and enforcers (!) – as well as providers of practical support (especially when it comes to problem solving, knowledge and delivering emotional support)

‱ In a work-from-home setting, all those qualities still apply. But, in addition, they have an even more important role to play in employee engagement, communication, health and well-being support, and building team culture (WHEREVER people work)

So what makes a great Team Leader?

Read the eBook (no need to register)


(Digital Event) Creating The Ideal Hybrid Workspaces

Time and date: 11.30-13.00, 7th June
Chair: Sandra Busby, Managing Director of Cnect Wales

In our latest digital event (11.30-13.00, 7 June), we’ll discuss creating the perfect office space in Bricks & Mortar and homeworking environments.

What are the key elements that’ll determine how effectively your hybrid workspaces function? And what technologies are required to create digital workspaces that bring the worlds of home and office together?

Sandra will be joined by experts from Sensée, as well as a leading contact centre based in Wales.

Register for the Digital Event today

(Pic courtesy of

Is Improving Mental Health baked into your hybrid working strategy?

In 2020, almost everyone was talking about the effect of enforced working from home. Studies were quickly undertaken where academics explored how the sudden change in working arrangements had affected people – in particular their mental health.

Burnout was common. Depression and stress were often being triggered by a low quality of leadership – because leaders were simply not equipped to manage people remotely. This BMC Public Health analysis from 2022 said: “While personal factors are not controllable, the quality of leadership provided to employees, and the ‘place and pattern’ of work, can be actively managed to positive effect. Innovative flexible working practices will help to build greater workforce resilience.”

In the early days of the pandemic it was clear that executives needed to manage rapid change across a number of fronts. Many were moving to a work from home (WFH) environment with no experience of remote management. Many leaders had no way to manage without constantly calling and micro-managing their team and many individual team members found that working in this environment, with none of the social activities of a workplace, became intolerable.

But how have attitudes and management practices changed? Have companies learned how to work within this flexible environment or are they still muddling through?

Learning from our WFH mistakes:

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development stated in their 2022 Health and Wellbeing at work report that ‘management style’ is still a main cause of work-related stress. The report stated: “This finding is a stark reminder of the negative impact people managers can have on people’s mental wellbeing, if they are not trained and supported to go about their management role in the right way. Good people management can help manage and prevent stress which can be linked to common mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.”

The CIPD has created some practical guidance for managers, to help them become more aware of how their actions can influence the mental health of their reports.

What the research is telling us:

Research by the International Labour Organisation titled ‘transforming enterprises through diversity and inclusion’ notes that the experience of the pandemic has elevated the importance of how companies manage the mental health of their employees. The report said: “The physical and mental health and well-being of employees quickly rose to the top of the enterprise agenda as it became critical to continue operations at the start of the global crisis (Fisher 2020). Remote working has been implemented at scale, almost overnight, with many enterprises now moving towards ‘hybrid’ working, i.e. mixing remote and office-based work, even though that was unthinkable for many before the pandemic”

Forbes published an analysis of research from the office group IWG. This said that WFH and hybrid workers are in a strong position to improve their mental health because they exercise more, they don’t waste time commuting, they sleep more, and all this additional exercise and sleep is drastically improving mental health.

The Harvard Business Review said: “In 2020, mental health support went from a nice-to-have to a true business imperative. Fast forward to 2021, and the stakes have been raised even higher thanks to a greater awareness of the workplace factors that can contribute to poor mental health, as well as heightened urgency around its intersections with DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion).”

The HBR article makes some powerful statements about how employees now see their workplace: “Employees need and expect sustainable and mentally healthy workplaces, which requires taking on the real work of culture change. It’s not enough to simply offer the latest apps or employ euphemisms like “well-being” or “mental fitness.” Employers must connect what they say to what they actually do.”

Planning your hybrid strategy:

This is the real message. Before the pandemic, helping employees manage their mental health was the type of support that a responsible employer would offer. Others would see it as an unnecessary expense. The HBR research notes that, when they surveyed employees, 76% said they had reported the symptoms of at least one mental health condition in the previous year.

Three-quarters of the workforce have faced at least one mental health issue in the previous year. This is why the sudden change since the pandemic needs to be baked into boardroom strategy. More people are talking about their mental health and attempting to deal with problems through treatment or therapy – rather than just “coping.” It also applies to all levels of the organisation – even the top. 

There are also many specific factors about how work is organised that can contribute to mental health conditions. In the HBR research, 84% of respondents said that at least one workplace factor was influential in their mental health problems. 

The way we were working before the pandemic was not working. By adopting WFH and hybrid work with good communication and support we can create workplaces that don’t contribute to stress and anxiety. It’s in the interest of both the employer and employee and can contribute to a wider strategy focused on diversity and inclusion. 

What is your own post-Covid strategy and does it directly embrace how to improve the mental health of your employees?