In this ABC Weekend Breakfast Interview with News Presenter Fauziah Ibrahim, our CEO, Rhonda Brighton-Hall and guest Dr Amantha Imber, Organisational Psychologist Inventium, answer questions about the 2022 Jobs Summit, workplace flexibility, and belonging.
Transcription of the interview
And let’s talk about the actual job summit.
What were the main takeouts from that?
The think the big steps were things like obviously the conversation on gender, and the representation of women’s voices in the room, which was fabulous.
And there’s been some great quotes about that. The second one was the changing conversation about other groups that are underemployed or underrepresented; people with disability was a really great conversation.
I thought Dylan Alcott sort of starting it off was just perfect.
And then we also went across to mature age workers and whether or not we could rethink how we cut into pensions and things, which I think is another group that sort of often underrepresented.
And then the last one was increasing migration of course, to get instant skills into the workforce if we can.
So, I think they were the big shifts, but underneath that was also the shift in thinking how work works. Whether it’s fair and all those things, probably due for a re-shift in a while.
Yeah, we’ll get to that in just a moment. But Amanda we want to get your take too. What did you take away from this summit?
Yeah, certainly echo Rhonda’s thoughts. But just a couple of things from me, I think with the increase in the permanent migration numbers, I mean, that’s great that more people will be coming in.
But it also puts an onus on Australian workplaces to make themselves attractive to candidates and become talent magnets because well, that’s great that we can have more skilled people in, there are a plethora of organizations and countries that they can choose from in order to take their skills.
I also think it’s great in terms of the changes that are being made to the Fair Work Act in terms of increasing people’s rights to flexible work arrangements.
I mean, obviously we’ve been heading that way so much in the last two years, but then I’m starting to see organisations backtrack on that, but we know that having flexible work arrangements where it’s possible depending on the job, is really important.
The more autonomy we can bring to workers, the more motivated they’re going to feel at work.
So that’s what we saw coming out of the job summit. But we also want to talk about what perhaps wasn’t discussed there.
And in light of the pandemic, we had this huge shift in the way that we work. It was for a forced shift over the two or three years and now we’ve got employers wanting workers to come back into the office.
And I wonder Amantha, whether you think that work is going to go back to the way it was or what has fundamentally changed as a result of the pandemic.
I don’t think we could ever go back to the way things were, nor would we want to because I feel like we’ve had this taste of how life can be without spending hours a week commuting, for example, and what can replace that time.
But I think there are a number of challenges that a lot of workers face.
Certainly office workers, for example, a lot of the work that we do at Inventium, is helping people almost relearn the ability to do deep focused work in the age of digital distraction.
So in my latest book, Timewise, I cover a lot of different strategies around how can we get off our mobile devices and social media when we’re meant to be focused on the job at hand for example.
You know, Rhonda, this conversation of trying to get work life balance together and properly, and trying to get more out of life or, or satisfaction at work.
That’s something that’s a discussion that’s been had for years and years and years and decades now. But the pandemic really kind of fast tracked things didn’t and now with no consideration of work life balance and then consideration of flexible hours as well.
Will it last, will this consideration last, or are we going back to, you know…?
I think the biggest thing, we always look at the data first, so the data tells us that we’ve been moving to a totally different way of working since 2006 and so we’ve been walking towards a four day working week, portfolio work. Just a different way of thinking about how we structure our working career, we might have four or five careers, and so that’s 2006.
All the COVID in this period of time has done as fast-tracked us, probably five or 10 years and so we won’t go back, we won’t go back decades, I think you’re right to say it’s decades old, but we do have to move away from a permission slip sort of approach because the way that we’ve approached flexibility in the past is I asked my boss if I’m allowed to do this as opposed to as a team, we work out, how should we get all work done?
And that’s a very different mindset.
That’s the mindset about work design, learning on the job growing with each other. Teamwork, community connection, that’s a very different conversation than ‘am I allowed to go home early on Friday?’
Amantha, when we talk about how we get the job done, you talk about digital distractions. Is productivity when you are at work, the key to that work life balance, because eventually if you’re very productive in those hours at work, it will probably mean less hours or fewer hours at work.
And I mean, that’s what we do at Inventium. So Rhonda mentioned the four day week and we’ve been running a four day week at Inventium for the last two years whereby staff paid a full time salary, but they only work for normal length day, seven or eight hour days.
And I do the same.
I don’t work Fridays and we can only achieve that through being really productive and really mindful about how we use our time when we are at work.
So, you know, for example, when we’re about to set a meeting, we would ask ourselves could this actually be an email instead of taking up half an hour an hour of people’s times. Practical things like that.
We try to stay out of our inbox. I mean, the average person, according to research from Rescue Time, doesn’t just check their email or instant messenger every six minutes, which is crazy.
I mean, what can be achieved in six minute increments of time? Although I’m sure lawyers would beg to differ, but we really need to be more mindful with how we use our time at work in order to be more productive.
You know, talking about work and how we need to, you know, make our time a lot more productive, a lot more effective, I suppose at work.
And this is going to sound very philosophical.
What is work though? Isn’t it a case of we need to actually look at whether we are satisfied with what we’re doing at work and whether it actually fulfills certain needs that we have psychologically?
It’s absolutely work as a human right. And it’s the Article 23 of the Declaration of Human Rights and it’s the right to join the economy, to make choices to decide how you’re going to participate. And that’s why it’s so important for everybody.
It’s not just that group over there, but all of us need to belong and feel that we can participate in good decisions and what we know is that there’s four really clear factors about when that works for us.
So the first one is purposeful work: does it matter, is it useful, exactly as you just described.
The second one is good colleagues around those people who have our backs, we have theirs, we have fun together, so that fun; we don’t lose that productivity and that sort of banter with the barista downstairs is actually part of the day.
And then the third piece is agency, freedom to work in our way with our lives. And the fourth one is having accountability and we often forget that one.
We give people really lame jobs and think, well you’re lucky to have a job, but actually we need to feel that were valued when we turn up that it’s important we turn up, that we’re an important part of the community.
Not just a cog in the wheel.
Not just a cog in the wheel and that’s how we all like that.
And I think what I would love to have seen in the summit is pushing that education piece a bit more. It sort of went to apprenticeships and how do we get new people in the organization into training, but I would love to have seen this look at this normal person workforce that have really got latent potential to learn and grow, and think about how jobs could be also learning opportunities and how organizations could play a much bigger role in that rather than just here’s your day job, be productive today, but actually, here’s your day job today, it’s going to be different tomorrow, we’re going to get you there
Rhonda Brighton Hall and Dr Amantha Imber, it’s great to have you both on the program is we need to have our own little weekend breakfast job Summit, Thank you very much.