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The Future of Work

John Godfrey, Director of Levelling Up | Legal & General

4 min read Partner content

The nature of work is changing, with technological, social, and environmental factors having an increasing influence on the UK’s workforce. Legal & General’s Director of Levelling Up, John Godfrey, explores the changes to where we work, how we work, and why we work.

My colleagues at Legal & General delivered important services for ten million customers during the pandemic and we saw first-hand the changes to where we work, how we work, and why we work. Looking forward, decarbonisation could be the opportunity of the century to not only build a green economy but also to shape a better future for work.

‘One desk, one office, one boss’, patterns of working are slowly giving way to personalised and bespoke places of work. Post Pandemic Places, research from Demos for Legal & General, found that 65% of the working population were forced to change their place of work during 2020. Since then, many people have made permanent the switch to hybrid, lower-carbon, and more flexible places of work. 

Millions of people cannot, though, work from home. Key workers in public services have few options about where they work: firefighters and paramedics work where there are emergencies and hospital medics are needed where the patients are. Supporting our key workers are the hidden workers, such as agency cleaners, whose often unseen efforts are crucial to the delivery of public services. We are working with all tenants across our substantial property portfolio to support these hidden workers.

In retail, for example, the pandemic accelerated recognition that the ‘one size fits all’, leasing model was no longer fit for purpose. Our Real Assets team created the ‘flexible partnerships model’ that broke from the traditional long-term leases, to offer a fully flexible approach with baked-in optionality to occupiers from start-ups all the way to superstores.

‘How we work’ matters too: the old model of ‘one career, one job, one employer’, is nearly at its end. Even the more recent model of ‘one career, many jobs’, looks likely to dissolve as working lives are extended by decades. A child born today will complete their undergraduate degree or equivalent by 2044 and could still be working through the 2090s. This must beg the question of whether the skills learned at 21 could still be relevant in 2090? If skills need to be refreshed or replaced every decade, we will need a skills system of a different order and, most likely, delivered by devolved authorities closer to their local economy.

‘Why we work’ is an important part of the decisions we make about the organisations we choose to work with. The way that a company treats its responsibilities to the environment, society and its governance has become an important part of an employers’ appeal. As the ESG movement has mainstreamed, companies with strong records on, for example, reducing carbon emissions or cutting the gender pay gap, are more appealing to consumers, candidates, and investors.

“On average, people living in the most deprived communities in England have over 18 years less of their lives in good general health than those living in the least deprived areas”. The gap between health outcomes in different parts of the country is too high. This is bad for people, bad for employers and bad for markets.

We want health to become a mainstream part of the way businesses are understood and reported. To do this we are campaigning to change the Future of Work by cementing health as the fourth pillar of ESG, so that ESHG becomes the norm. Last year the CBI launched its new policy theme on health, backed up by its Work Health Index. Business For Health is a community interest company designed to help businesses play their part in supporting the government’s Manifesto Commitment to add five years to Healthy Life Expectancy.

At Legal & General we are optimistic, and we think businesses can tackle health inequity and so have partnered with Sir Michael Marmot to create ‘The Business of Health Equity: The Marmot Review for Industry’. The review lays a roadmap for the role of industry in ‘levelling up’ and sets out how business can improve peoples’ lives and reduce health inequality.

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