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Julia Hobsbawm on The Nowhere Office: why hybrid is here to stay | Forward Thinkers

From Succession and Mad Men to The Office, popular culture recognises the dysfunction at the heart of office work. Now, the biggest shift in working life for 100 years provides an opportunity to develop something better and more meaningful, says work expert Julia Hobsbawm. In this video she talks to The People Space’s editorial director Siân Harrington about why the Great Resignation is a cultural moment, how hybrid may be hard but it’s here to stay, and how HR can humanise business

10-minute watch

In March 2020, millions of people around the world left the office and began a new way of working. Nearly two years later, while some are drifting back to the office, work has changed for good. Gone are the days of the traditional 9-5 office life. The genie is out of the bottle and work expert Julia Hobsbawm is adamant it isn’t going back in.

“The pandemic has lifted the lid on a lot of latent desires that workers, and indeed the c-suite, have to be human in a machine age – to have a life, to have space, to be with your families or to do your washing and also to have colleagues, also to have a community in a workplace,” she says. “And the Great Resignation is people rejecting the idea that work was fabulous and doesn't need amending.”

With some 40% of workers in developed economies classed as knowledge-based, service sector workers – and this being the fastest growing sector of workers in the world – it’s a profound change that employers will have to address. But it’s not easy to navigate. There is no one-size-fits all answer. However, says Hobsbawm, the offer of hybrid working in a meaningful, manageable way will be “part of the allure to attract and retain workers in the way that perhaps pay and perks and job titles and travel used to be”.

Drawing on the thinking that underpins her new book, The Nowhere Office, in this video Hobsbawm discusses why employers should embrace this opportunity to reset work. This is a pivotal time when we can try to end the endemic stagnant productivity and stress crisis that predated the pandemic and tackle the issues that have long mattered to people and businesses: how to balance home life and work life, and how to cope with the cascade of technological opportunities and threats. She discusses hybrid haves and have-nots, why remote is not desirable for most organisations and why we are nowhere near where it's all going to end up.

About Julia Hobsbawm

Julia Hobsbawm writes about work culture, work-life balance, and the age of overload. She is Chair of The Demos Workshift Commission and Founder and Chair of Editorial Intelligence. She writes for Strategy + Business, and for outlets including the OECD network.  In 2021 she was listed in the HR Most Influential List. Her book The Simplicity Principle won Best Business Book of 2020 while Fully Connected was shortlisted for Management Book of the Year. She was awarded an OBE for services to business and regularly speaks to global audiences in government, public and private sectors. . The Nowhere Office is released on 17 February 2022 in the UK and 12 April 2022 in the US..

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Published 9 February 2022
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