A cultural revolution in the workplace: The shift towards an even more human business environment

Cara de Lange explains why all businesses need to shift towards a more human environment where staff can thrive, develop and grow.

Flying cars to work, robots replacing doctors, underwater cities, flexible working hours, more leisure time, working from home more, these were some of the answers I received after asking kids all around the world what the ‘next cultural revolution at work will be’ but…the responses that came up the most frequently were ‘be kinder’ and ‘don’t work so much!’

Can you imagine a world where your wellbeing is top priority every day at work? Where your boss is so tuned in that they spot the signs of burnout before you do? Where we bring our entire self to work in all our many facets and it’s totally accepted?

Over the past few decades we’ve done a great job of removing what makes us truly human from the workplace. We’ve been conditioned to leave emotions, empathy, vulnerability, self-awareness and compassion at the door when we come into work and many organisations still expect us to operate like machines.

It’s human talent, not capital or technology or anything else, that’s the key factor linking innovation, competitiveness and growth in the 21st century

Disturbingly, in a Korn Ferry Institute study where 800 leaders shared their views on people’s place in the future of work, two-thirds of respondents said that technology will create greater value than people will. Some business leaders went even further with 44% saying they believe the prevalence of robotics, automation and AI will make people ‘largely irrelevant.’

But as the Korn Ferry study also reveals, there’s a strong and emerging case that the future of work is going to involve human beings.

In fact, the evidence actually suggests that we’re indispensable. It’s human talent, not capital or technology or anything else, that’s the key factor linking innovation, competitiveness and growth in the 21st century, says Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum.

Work, he says, shouldn’t be a race between humans and machines, but a part of life that helps people recognise their full potential.

There is a growing need for businesses to create a work environment where people can flourish and be treated with respect rather than being pushed to the point of suffering high levels of stress and even burnout. Alarmingly, two thirds of employees in companies around the world feel at risk of burnout in the year ahead.


That burnout risk is certain to be exacerbated by the current pandemic where workers are having to balance work with social distancing, work remotely (and often with inadequate equipment) home school children, and deal with closures and quarantines. 

Few companies have training and policies in place that would enable them to mitigate the adverse impacts on their staff.

A report by Mercer showed that only 29% of HR leaders have a health and wellbeing strategy in place and a report released by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) in March 2020 stated that less than half of organisations train their managers on handling mental health issues and recognising burnout.

Many managers are simply not comfortable or adept at talking to their employees about stress, mental health and burnout let alone managing their own stress levels.

Businesses will have to work hard and fast to remedy these deficiencies and be able to mitigate the impacts of pandemic working on an already stretched workforce. It is so important to implement preventive measures in the workplace right now. There is nothing to be gained by waiting to create a whole workplace wellbeing experience – on the contrary there is a lot to be lost by failing to do so.

We need to ensure that the next generation are able to work in a more human workplace – one that embraces all aspects of being human. But how can we achieve that?

We can start by training managers on how to create a safe space, one that encourages them to talk and be open about mental health issues, one that enables managers to spot burnout in their staff. In this way we can create work spaces that allow people to be multi-talented, multi-faceted human beings and not machine-like.

We can also expand training on how to use human skills at work. To be human at work simply means using the skills that we are born with as human beings, the skills that set us apart from technology and robots. These skills include collaboration, communication, vulnerability, mentoring, coaching, empathy, creativity, innovation and compassion.

Now is the time to take that huge step further by not only using the word human but by BEING human and putting the full meaning of human back into each and every business.


About the author

Cara de Lange is an international burnout expert, speaker and founder and author of Softer Success.



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