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The real future of work (and it's not Gattaca)

By Mark Nicoll | Jan 18, 2021


Working from home is such a foreign concept for some, which can take a bit of adjusting to. 

When you’re used to a routine that involves travelling into an office, communicating with colleagues, getting the office ‘buzz’ and collaborating on work projects in the real world of physical meetings, suddenly being plunged into a different reality that involves turning part of your house or apartment into a work den seems somehow alien.

So after 10 months of this, how do you feel now ?

Have you as an employer truly embraced the new culture, or are you a reluctant convert out of necessity or duress?

Ok, so here’s the big question - if this “black swan” event hadn’t happened, what would the future of work have looked like, say five years from now?

Actually, we are living in it, it’s rushed up from behind us like a truck in your rear view mirror and the brakes have been cut, you just know it’s going to leave more than just a little dent.

How the remote work trend has taken root

Two years ago, Angela, my co-founder and I sat in a small office within a huge global HQ in London of one of those big insurance brokers, where four senior guys in employee benefits spilled their guts on what issues they had in trying to keep remote workers fit, eating well, getting proper sleep, mentally robust, financially resilient, etc etc.

So you see, yes, remote working has been a global “thing” for some time, and at scale. Fast forward those 2 years, and the issues are still the same, but exacerbated due to Covid.

Finding ways to deliver a full suite of wellbeing benefits in this situation, en-masse, can only be done digitally. Yes, you can piece together multiple apps, but how do you know if your wards are actually using them, or getting any benefit (hell, we’re in the benefits game right !).

Oh boy, the man/woman hours piecing that little lot together (good luck).

Then there is the question of ethics. There is a truly fine line when it comes to monitoring wellbeing activities, and to be fair, and more so recently, I am shocked by some of the language that comes out of certain quarters.

In 2021 an insidious theme that has manifested itself is that of employee data, and the capture thereof, seemingly at any/all costs.

Endless apps and wearables, and for your employees, it’s like having their own personal stalker on their wrists (and they know it).  Not everyone is a fitness nut, who wears stats like a badge of honour, in fact, that cohort is in the minority. Where is all this going?

When the future gets out of control

Remember the film Gattaca by chance? 


Here’s the plot…

“In the future, eugenics is common. A genetic registry database uses biometrics to classify those created as "valids" while those conceived by traditional means and more susceptible to genetic disorders are known as "in-valids". Genetic discrimination is illegal, but in practice genotype profiling is used to identify valids to qualify for professional employment while in-valids are relegated to menial jobs.”

While this is obviously a fictional portrayal, it is nonetheless a frightening indication of where we could be heading if this trend of constant data analysis and manipulation continues.  

Wellbeing and your data

Wellbeing done right is about inclusivity. It’s not just for the young and fit, it’s also for the older and not quite so healthy staff member - they will have a whole different set of needs, exercise, menopause, mental health, sleep etc.

The key is to deliver something accessible for everyone, in a similar way to how they already consume content (Netflix, Audible, Medium etc), and at every stage of an employee’s life, where they can dip in and out and get true benefit (there’s that word again).

The truth is this, your employees right now need you to stand tall and have their backs, seriously. And what about new interviewees? An awesome wellbeing programme at a company is a serious recruiting tool.

Having a desirable employer brand is key to recruiting and retaining employees, and as an employer, you now have the chance to literally own that term, and build the kind of mutual respect you could only dream of.

So I will leave you to ponder this question, “Employee Wellbeing”, who and what are your priorities?

I’ll let your conscience answer that.

Welcome to 2021: the future of work, right now.

Mark Nicoll

Mark Nicoll

I am a co-founder of Keep Fit Eat Fit and have a passion for visual communications as well as health, fitness and overall wellbeing. Having worked for lots of companies as well as myself, I know how important maintaining personal wellbeing is, and have a few pet subjects I will be writing about within our website.