Eight Trends for the Future World of Work

Getting work done in a new way.

John Dony
March 01, 2021

Like many of you probably have, I’ve spent a good chunk of this long winter reflecting on the past 12 months (if there’s one thing shoveling snow is good for, it’s reflection). And like many of you, mostly I’ve simply been dumbstruck by the fact that it’s been a year since life has been anything approaching normal.

But part of my job is to take these sorts of musings and translate them into something useful – something that will help organizations make the best decisions they can to protect their people.

To that end, late last year, I set out to synthesize what I had been hearing from EHS and business leaders both before and during the pandemic. And while it was obvious that the circumstances of our work had changed drastically, it turned out the underlying drivers, needs, and trends hadn’t. When I sat down (or shoveled) and thought about it, it seemed to me that COVID-19 didn’t really change us so much as it accelerated us on a path we were already on.

Even before the pandemic, our organizations were in the process of addressing what I termed the “eight trends for the future world of work”, which we published an infographic on back in December:

  • Lean, asynchronous & distributed work teams
  • Demographic changes and new modes of leadership
  • Increased focus on ESG and sustainability
  • Radical transparency
  • Whole person valuation
  • Technology as a mandate, not a luxury
  • Thriving internal and external partnership

You may notice that’s only seven trends. COVID-19 has had many obvious and sobering negative impacts to our lives. But it has had upsides, too, and one of the big ones is the eighth and final trend: a new recognition for and appreciation of safety and health as the glue that connects and supports our organizations. As safety leaders, we’ve known this forever, and we’ve been challenged over the years with articulating it fully to plant managers, to executive leaders, to boards, to investors.

But our moment is here, and with the light at the end of the tunnel in sight in the form of the ongoing vaccination effort, our job now is to hold on tight to it and use it to continue to transform our organizations into the safe, healthy, and sustainable ones that they need to be in the future.

Like many of you, I’ve often wished for this past year in which I’ve spent 24 hours a day with a TV-binging 3-year old, a nervous wreck of a dog, and a frazzled and stressed extended family, all while helping organizations navigate a once-in-a-century catastrophe, to be a distant memory.

But also like many of you, I suspect, it’s been something that has given me focus. A renewed sense of purpose both personally and professionally. Something that has made me more certain than ever that the path we’re walking together is the right one and that we can and will achieve the progress we strive for.

Thanks again for joining the National Safety Council on this path. We’ll continue to walk it with you, whether in the dark days of winter or the better days of the spring and summer ahead.

John Dony

John Dony formerly served as Vice President of Workplace Strategy at the National Safety Council.

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