Book News: June 2nd, 2014

In Future Work: Changing Organizational Culture for the New World of Work, Alison Maitland and Peter Thomson claim that we are in the early stages of a transformation of work and there is “no turning back”.

In the book’s newly published second edition, they provide compelling evidence that progressive work practices are gaining momentum throughout the world. And far from being the preserve of a few trendy tech companies, even investment banks and insurance firms are starting to embrace them.
“In the two years since the publication of the first edition of Future Work, we have seen yet more evidence that there is a revolution in working practices on the way,” says Maitland.

“Given the economic downturn of the last few years, it might be thought that organisations would revert to ‘safe’ traditional practices and abandon agile working as a luxury. Yet we are seeing more organizations recognising the need to adopt progressive working practices, even in traditionally conservative sectors such as law and investment banking. Companies like GAP and BDO in the US have meanwhile strongly reaffirmed their commitment to future work practices on the grounds that they are good for business and for employee wellbeing.”

The updated, expanded edition of the book includes an extra chapter on how to implement future work, including how individuals can drive change and how to avoid technology overload. Thomson explains: “The debate over Yahoo highlighted how important it is to manage new working patterns effectively. Poor management can, at one extreme, lead to people becoming disaffected and cut off from the organisation, and at the other extreme can mean people overwork and burn out. The solution to these challenges is not to give up and revert to out-dated working practices but for management and employees to work through the issues together.”

The book also tracks the emergence of new-style firms that are challenging the old model of work, such as Lawyers on Demand, and Matt Black Systems, an aerospace manufacturer where every employee has almost total autonomy to work as a “micro-enterprise” and there is no management hierarchy.

How then can organisations embed innovative working practices? The authors come up with five “TRUST” principles for firms that want to make a successful transition from the old to the new world of work.

They say the key to implementing future work is rewarding results, not hours. By clearly agreeing what needs to be achieved, managers can set their employees free from the constraints of presenteeism – the belief that they must be present in the workplace, often for long hours, regardless of whether there is work to do – and enable them to work more productive.

Published by Palgrave Macmillan 2014. £16.14