Working towards the future

The workplace is changing – and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic is likely to shape the way we look at work long after the crisis is over.

Millions of people are now working from home and finding ways to remain connected and productive. And the mental wellness of employees is something that businesses in all sectors are becoming increasingly aware of.

The Institute for Research into Organisations, Work and Employment (iROWE) at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) has been working with organisations across the county to help shape the future of work in the region.

The institute, which is part of the Lancashire School of Business and Enterprise at UCLan, also engages with trade unions, professional bodies, HR professionals and policymakers to inform the development of effective workplace practice and employment policy in Lancashire.

Dr Adrian Wright, director of iROWE, says: “We pride ourselves on our ability to translate meaningful research findings that businesses can consider and use in their own workplaces.”

It is work that is set to become more important in the light of recent events. The institute is looking to reach out to businesses and organisations in Lancashire, including SMEs, to conduct research and engage in conversations about healthy, skilled, productive and inclusive workplaces.

The institute’s research into equality in the workplace explores the personal characteristics and circumstances of workers and the impact they have upon their working life, including recruitment, progression, retention and exit.

Reducing inequalities is key to health, wellbeing of workers

Dr Wright says: “Reducing inequalities is key to health, wellbeing of workers and the overall productivity of our region. Our research aims to enhance good employment practices for those experiencing inequalities in the workplace and help unleash the huge potential of workers in the region.

“This includes giving workers enhanced control over their work lives, which is a key factor in reducing inequalities. For example, one of our projects is looking at supporting those wishing to return to the workplace after taking time out due to caring responsibilities.

“Research findings indicate that flexible working practices and reimagining the makeup of jobs can go some way to empowering this group of workers, and leave the region better placed for the challenges of the future.”

Drawing on iROWE’s work on the growing phenomenon of coworking. Dr Wright says: “Emerging from the changing social, technological and cultural shifts in work, coworking has been positioned as a new economic engine centred around collaboration and community, while also responding to the loneliness and anxieties borne from working alone.

“In the context of isolation of working from home and necessity for social relationships at work, our research has considered how coworking spaces can become places of social support and a community for the self-employed.

“It has highlighted that social relationships can have a positive impact on health and wellbeing and enhance meaning in work. They must also be managed carefully to achieve these objectives to deliver improved work conditions and better productivity.”

The institute has also been looking at the impact of the changing world of work and issues around the increasing pace of change relating to innovation, productivity and technology.

Dr Wright believes that in these changing times it is important to give employees an enhanced voice and to create a workplace culture that offers support and puts health and wellbeing at its core.

He says: “Research shows that healthy, well-motivated employees can positively impact on business through enhanced productivity and effectiveness.

“Promoting a healthy and productive workplace is not just about being nice to each other, although this obviously helps. Right now, amid the coronavirus pandemic, it may be something as simple as keeping in touch with employees, adjusting work arrangements or showing care for employees general health and wellbeing”.

“In the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic and beyond it’s about maintaining good employment relations, built upon effective policies for managing people, equitable practices around recruitment and progression, fair pay and secure and productive work that supports the health and wellbeing of employees”.

“Healthy and motivated people will go that extra mile, give good customer service, take less sick leave and provide commitment and creativity. Management attention to the health and wellbeing of employees also create high levels of trust between employees and managers.”

For more information on the work of the Institute for Research into Organisations, Work and Employment (IROWE) at the Lancashire School of Business and Enterprise visit uclan.ac.uk/irowe or call Dr Wright on 01772 894721