The future of work is not as we know it

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As a workplace futurist I am often asked what I think the workplaces of the future will look like and how managers and leaders can begin preparing themselves and their people now. The reality is that the future is now – not in 5 years’ time so the time to adapt and embrace change is today.

Never before as a society have we faced so much rapid change in our workplaces such as globalisation, multiple generations working together, automation, co-working, collaboration and the competition for talent.

Futurists suggest that by 2030 the most commonly spoken languages in the world will be Chinese and Spanish and that 50 per cent of the jobs today will have been replaced by machines or artificial intelligence. What does that mean for you and your workplace?

For women like you and I this environment can often leave us feeling lost, frustrated, overwhelmed, overworked and stressed. I see many women competing with other women and with men, climbing the ladder, wearing stiff suits, working long hours, sitting all day in a cubicle and suffering from mummy guilt.

I see screens taking over people’s lives as more and more they spend time in front of their computer screen, phone screen and windscreen rather than eye to eye and toe to toe with those they love.

I see bullying and harassment on the increase along with stress, depression, anxiety when all we really want and crave is to be free to be our authentic, fully expressed selves.

Today I invite you to imagine a new future, one where you get to use your unique strengths every day and where you can choose your environment, your work style and your experience of work. It’s possible and you will learn three key steps to do it for yourself including:

  1. Starve the fear and feed the love
  2. Stop telling, start asking
  3. #startwithU

But first let me tell you a little about my experience of it. When I first started my career, straight out of university I had a great job in public relations. I loved what I did, I worked with cool people, had a great boss and put my hand up regularly for new projects and initiatives. I worked hard but I felt satisfied and rewarded. I smiled a lot and I had bright shiny eyes.

After several years I found myself yearning for more and I began the journey of taking on new jobs and roles at different organisations, all the time doing what I thought I was supposed to do – climb the corporate ladder.

And while the work stretched me and I loved my teams, I found myself in toxic workplaces with stifling, rigid cultures and highly political, game playing environments.

If anyone asked me how I was I would say I was fine – intellectually I thought I was, and yet deep down, intuitively I knew something was wrong.

I found my health, sleep, relationships and life fulfilment were suffering and gradually like the frog in boiling water unhappiness crept up on me.

I did everything I could to buffer my teams from the toxicity and yet that too became more and more of a challenge as I became more depleted. I was sick and tired or being sick and tired and I knew there had to be a better way to work.

So I hired my first business coach and I started researching, reading and looking into what successful people do, what made workplaces great and what the workplaces of the future would look like.

And I’m delighted to say I found many organisations doing well by doing good and putting people, planet and purpose alongside profit.

Fast forward to today and I’m grateful to have the opportunity to share what I’ve learnt with many managers and leaders as I support them to create positive workplace cultures that allow people to volunteer their best work every day, not be trapped like monkeys in a cage.

So now here are three things you could apply that leaders with awesome company cultures are already doing in this new world of work.

1.  Starve the fear and feed the love

Fear is contractive. It sucks the life out of people and organisations. Fear is driven by rules, policies, procedures, compliance and control. When fear is the primary driver in organisations you are more likely to see gossip, narcissistic behaviours, politics and back stabbing.

To starve the fear don’t partake in gossip, in fact nip it in the bud when you hear it. Give people the space to make choices, to have a say and to be involved in the shaping of their work and environment.

To feed the love seek out opportunities to collaborate, share knowledge, resources and ideas with others, network inside and outside your team and company and find ways to be of service and add value.

Be generous in your praise and thanks, be open to new ideas and suggestions and celebrate attempt, not just wins.

2.  Stop telling, start asking

Most managers and leaders I see make the mistake of taking on the role of parent in the workplace. It’s not surprising that this happens – when we were children our parents told us what to do, at school our teachers told us what to do and we got our first job and our boss told us what to do, is it any wonder that when we become managers we turn around and tell everyone else what to do.

However as adults we don’t like to be told what to do, we prefer to think independently and make choices for ourselves so when someone else tells us what to do we are more likely to resist and push back.

How you overcome this resistance is by asking questions. Questions are expansive, they open us up, they engage the mind and make us feel valued. The brain is pre-programmed to answer questions, it can’t help itself.

When I ask you the question –can you remember your best friend at school I bet you couldn’t help yourself thinking back to your days at school and who was your bestie back then. It’s impossible not to.

So one way to get the best out of the people you work with, to keep them engaged and to ensure they feel respected and heard is to ask more questions, especially ones that stretch them.

3. #startwithU

When faced with a challenging, toxic workplace culture it’s easy to get caught in the trap of making our own bed and lying in it. That is B.E.D. – Blame, Excuses and Denial.

It’s easy to blame the boss, the economy and circumstances, to make excuses for our poor behaviour, performance or attitude or even deny the reality if things are going bad or we are lacking skills in an area.

A key differentiating factor in what differentiates good companies from great companies is that their leaders and people take ownership, accountability and responsibility for their actions, behaviours and how they show up at work. That means for everything, the good and the not so good.

How often have you heard:

  • “No one told me about that.”
  • “That’s not part of our departments remit.”
  • “I wasn’t invited to be a part of that project.”

To truly #startwithU you have to begin to become conscious to the fact that in everything you do you have a choice and then begin to be more conscious of the choices you are making on a daily basis.

These three steps will have you grow to become more ready for adapting to the future of the world of work and being in a good place to handle the continue pace of change. If you’d love to know more about what the future holds for the world around us I encourage you to watch this video. 

With love,

Heidi Alexandra Pollard xx

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Heidi Alexandra Pollard

As a workplace futurist and company culture hacker, Heidi Alexandra and her team are the secret super power for Australia’s most innovative cultures and brands. Heidi Alexandra created a simple model, called The UQ Powerhouse, that codifies what makes healthy, happy and productive workplaces for the future. She believes it is possible for businesses to balance people, planet and purpose with profit and that together we can end workplace bullying, depression, anxiety and suffering. Find out more at

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