By Julia Hobsbawm

The first report from the Chair of the Demos Workshift Commission, Julia Hobsbawm, says that lessons learned from the Covid-19 pandemic should inform an entirely new way to approach work, workplace, working life and productivity.

In The Nowhere Office, Julia Hobsbawm says that as we return to post-pandemic working life, fixed time and place will no longer be the defining pillars of work for traditional office workers, with the pandemic having proved that going back full time to an office may be neither productive economically or culturally desirable.

Instead, Julia Hobsbawm argues we should embrace the World Health Organization’s complete definition of health, and focus on Social Health in the workplace. She also suggests that the UK should raise productivity and engagement through a Purpose-led agenda which acknowledges that work-life and home-life must be far more aligned in a hybrid model where possible.

Her suggestions offer a radical alternative to ‘business as usual’ when lockdown ends, including the way the government handles work-related policy. Julia Hobsbawm suggests it is unlikely that there will be or should be a full return to presenteeism-based office life, and that leadership and management culture must embrace this change or perpetuate a cycle of low productivity and epidemic workplace stress.

In the paper, The Nowhere Office, Julia concludes that:

  • We should be campaigning for a new way to pay for time spent working, based potentially loosely around set hours, but much more firmly around set outcomes, with flexibility, autonomy and experimentation priced in.
  • Parliamentarians should set up a Commission on Social Health to examine what the modern metrics of work should be.
  • Leadership and management culture needs to embrace a complete end to presenteeism and a redrawing of what success looks like.
  • Policymakers need to rethink the tax structures around home-based energy bills, travel and commute pricing.

Julia Hobsbawm, Chair of the Demos Workshift Commission and author of The Nowhere Office, said:

“The world of work has changed hugely in the last year and yet when you look closely you can see that it is a world which has been crying out for change for far longer than that. Everyone wants jobs but they want something else too: meaning. Work-Life balance. In other words, a workshift. The pandemic has lit the touchpaper on discussions which need to be had and change which needs to happen. I hope that we are catalysts for such discussion and indeed badly-needed change.”

Read the full paper here.