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A brave new working world: The trends circulating in HR news

By Nick Wilson | |6 minute read

In HR, the past few days have seen a frenzy of activity as employers and employees grapple with the implications of new and emergent working trends.

Employees are voting on climate with their feet, hybrid working leaves its mark on real estate, and are bigger businesses starting to take the four-day week seriously?

Climate quitting: How your environmental policy can push staff away


This past week, BBC Worklife reported on the new workplace trend of “climate quitting”.

Thirty-five per cent of UK office workers would be willing to quit their jobs over weak climate action from their employers, survey data from carbon removal marketplace Supercritical suggests.

When Gen Z was asked, the percentage climbed to 53 per cent. So-called “climate quitting” is hardly surprising, said Paul Polman, former chief executive of Unilever, considering the existential dangers posed by the climate crisis.

“People of every age, but especially Millennials and Gen Z, want to give their time and talent to the companies which share their values and are contributing to a more hopeful future,” said Mr Polman.

While quitting might seem a muted kind of protest, Alexis Normand, chief executive and co-founder of global carbon-accounting platform Greenly, said: “As an employer, if I had people publicly quitting, it would be such a big PR problem that I would immediately announce a set of measures to show that we care about this stuff.”

Just as some are quitting to highlight their concerns, others are choosing to drive change from within.

“There are lots of routes to take direct action and engage a company on climate,” Mathew Hampshire-Waugh told BBC Worklife.

The uncertain future of real estate in a hybrid world

In the most recent episode of the McKinsey Podcast, McKinsey senior partners Aditya Sanghvi and Jonathan Woetzel sat down with global editorial director Lucia Rahilly to talk about what effect a hybrid workforce might have on real estate across the board.

First, the case was made that hybrid working is here to stay. Not only have attendance rates stabilised for over a year, but actual attendance also aligns quite closely with employee expectations, and a substantial number of knowledge workers would rather resign or accept a pay cut than come in more often.

Secondly, the contributors considered whether areas with a high density of office buildings have already been affected by hybrid working. According to Mr Woetzel, the answer is a definite yes.

“If we look at neighbourhoods which were very office-dominated, the first main impact is simply fewer people in those offices. That, in turn, means fewer people on those streets, fewer people in the shops or just anywhere in the neighbourhood,” said Mr Woetzel.

He continued: “That, combined with the rise of online commerce, is creating a big challenge for those downtown retail spaces and public spaces in those office-intensive areas.”

Not only have areas of high office density been deprived but, according to Mr Woetzel, residential areas have seen something of a surge in business.

“As people are closer to home, we’re seeing demand for those homes rise. And then, around those homes, there’s a minor resurgence of retail. So, we see the shopping and commerce patterns shifting as the people shift,” he said.

For more, listen to the full conversation here.

Medibank trials a 4-day work week

When discussing the four-day work week, many commentators have made the claim that small businesses will lead the way. Once the benefits are incontrovertibly clear, big businesses will follow.

“It tends to be the smaller organisations that are leading the way,” said Swinburne University of Technology Associate Professor John Hopkins.

“Organisations were saying that they couldn’t necessarily compete with bigger firms on salary, so they were competing on working conditions and offering a four-day week.”

It’s against this context that the significance of Medibank’s trial of a four-day week comes into view. With several thousand employees and generating multiple billions in revenue each year, Medibank is at the forefront of big business adoption.

As covered in an article for Sky News, Max Melzer explained the trial has been dubbed “the gift” and will use a 100:80:100 model, where workers will maintain 100 per cent of their pay while reducing their hours to 80 per cent, so long as 100 per cent productivity is maintained.


Hybrid working

In a hybrid work environment, individuals are allowed to work from a different location occasionally but are still required to come into the office at least once a week. With the phrase "hybrid workplace," which denotes an office that may accommodate interactions between in-person and remote workers, "hybrid work" can also refer to a physical location.

Nick Wilson

Nick Wilson

Nick Wilson is a journalist with HR Leader. With a background in environmental law and communications consultancy, Nick has a passion for language and fact-driven storytelling.