A new report released yesterday, commissioned by financial protection specialist Unum and authored by The Future Laboratory, reveals how the workplace is evolving and what employers need to do to successfully manage employee wellbeing over the next 15 years.

Supporting economic analysis reveals businesses in five key sectors (accountancy, legal, retail, IT and media & advertising) could face costs of between £29bn and £101bn if they fail to get to grips with this changing workplace. For a 100-strong company, these hiring costs and the impact on productivity equate to between £643,000 and £2.2m.

The report – ‘The Future Workplace’ – reveals four areas in which the workplace will change, with British workers seeing the Ageless and Mindful trends as the most important ones for businesses to embrace. The four trends are:

  1. Ageless: a workplace which allows ‘returnment’, encouraging older workers to remain or return to the workplace instead of retiring, and sees workers’ energised to continue to work until a later age because they want to, rather than have to
  2. Mindful: a workplace which nurtures mental health and encourages workers to recharge mentally and achieve balance in their busy hyper-connected, digital lifestyles
  3. Intuitive: a workplace that uses data and insight on its workers’ environment, mood, wants and needs to create an all-encompassing, intelligent and intuitive environment
  4. Collaborative: a workplace that embraces the collapse of traditional structures to promote open and social exchange, operating a flat structure and embracing the impact of more women in the workplace

‘The Future Workplace’ combines a survey of 1,000 British workers with insights from a group of leading experts from The Future Laboratory’s Futures100 network, including representatives from The CIPD, Eversheds and Kings College London. The report found that failure to embrace these trends will cause a breakdown in adapting to employees’ changing needs causing stress and burnout, making them significantly more likely to leave their employer. With staff turnover costing on average £30,614 per employee for employees earning £25k+ per year across the five sectors, this could end up costing UK businesses up to £101bn.

Peter O’Donnell, CEO of Unum said: “The workplace is changing, becoming increasingly people-centric, so organisations competing for talent will need to be more supportive of their staff than ever before. Employers need to start taking action now to adapt effectively to its evolution or they face significant financial repercussions.

“A balanced and comprehensive benefits package will be as, if not more, important in the future to fuel loyalty and improve staff retention to help a business thrive. Giving staff a financial back-up plan if they fall ill and can’t work is often overlooked, but Income Protection can complement and support a company’s wellbeing programme allowing businesses to show their employees they care.”

Tom Savigar, Chief Strategy Officer at The Future Laboratory and author of the report said: “Over the coming decades, British workers will be faced with an increasingly turbulent social, political and economic environment which employers must start preparing for now. An ageless and mindful workplace is what British workers truly want to see their employers embracing so there is a clear need for businesses to augment how they care for the mind as well as the body to enable their staff to work better and for longer.”

Also commenting on the report, Mark Beatson, Chief Economist at the CIPD said: “This report highlights some intriguing possibilities for the future that could potentially make work more productive and more meaningful. Employers keen to take advantage of new thinking need to ensure they take both the workforce and their managers with them when considering and implementing change.”

For each trend, the report outlines the issues employers will face if they do not adopt them including cost implications, and suggestions of how to start incorporating the trend into the workplace now:


Trend Uptake by employees – % of employees interested/ very interested in this type of workplace Potential cost to UK businesses of not adapting Issues for UK businesses if they don’t adapt Expert reaction Suggestions on incorporating trends into workplace
Ageless 77% £44bn Alienation: you will alienate and lose powerful and valuable 50+ workers

Anxiety: more employees will feel anxious, disillusioned and unrealised as individuals

Waste: you will waste a lot of money and time reinventing the wheel

Talking about the ageless trend, Julie-Ann Tate, Leadership and Talent Manager at M&S said “For the first time in history we have all of our age groups working together where, historically, we haven’t really had that before. At the moment, we’ve benefitted from people who are committed, and their age does not play a factor.” Brain training: Employers will help ageing workers stave off the risks of dementia and degenerative disease through regular activities that exercise the associated parts of the brain. They will also encourage employees to take better care of their mental health, taking inspiration from apps that help users to record their moods.

Wise networks: Managers will capitalise on older workers’ experience and knowledge by using them as part-time consultants who can impart wisdom throughout the workforce. Workplaces will switch from a youth-centric mind-set to an all-age system of learning and development.

Mindful 66% £101bn Blindness: being an unconscious organisation means you will miss important things that could damage your future success

Indifference: promoting a culture of non-stop work can prevent innovation

Loss: you will have more stress-related complaints and sick days, higher staff turnover and higher operational costs

Discussing the mindful workplace, David Cox, Chief Medical Officer at Headspace said “In decades gone by, the focus was on how to support physical health to support optimal performance in the workplace. The 21st century perspective looks at how we can support psychological health.” Tech-free timeouts: Employees will be increasingly encouraged to seek time away from their desks and office environments, with technology-free days at work and company away-days to remote retreats, in order to boost creativity and face-to-face communication.

Meditation pods: Employers will redesign their workspaces to reflect the need for different ways of working – from open-plan environments for collaborative working to isolated spaces based on individual focus and concentration.

Intuitive 38% £29bn Disregard: you will be viewed as archaic and unattractive to first-class talent, and frustrate employees who think and act faster than your systems allow

Vacuity: you lose talent because the KPIs you set will be void of true insight about employees

Collapse: the relationship between you and your employees will be a guessing game, resulting in lower productivity, loyalty and staff retention

Commenting on an intuitive workplace, Ben Waber, President and CEO of Sociometric Solutions, said: It’s not about individual data. It’s about understanding the patterns that make people happier and more effective at work and then creating this environment.” Big data offices: Organisations will develop big data plans using analytics and machine intelligence to identify patterns hidden in this massive flow of data. By 2030, new kinds of HR departments, focused around people analytics, will be making decisions for workers based on the data they harvest.

Orchestrated workplaces: Workplaces will analyse information about worker interaction and use this to build new collision points that help foster new ideas and creativity.

Collaborative 40% £61bn Pessimism: you will have employees who are disheartened, with low team camaraderie and low self esteem

Confusion: your employees will be unaware of each other’s skills, knowledge, whereabouts or abilities

Cost: wasted time and money, inefficiencies and lower profits

Discussing how to incorporate collaborative into the workplace, Stowe Boyd of Gigaom Research said “Employers are actually trying to reconfigure their workplace so it’s more like a city; and so they have things like pop-up stores right in their office.” Empathy workouts: More employers will use training methods that focus on converting masculine and aggressive work traits into listening skills, understanding other people’s perspectives and relationship building.

Idea incubators: Workers will have the opportunity to form and receive necessary support for their own projects – often having them propelled into new components of the company itself. Departments will band together across the company, working together in commune-like spaces to incubate not just their businesses, but their personal lives.

To download the full report please visit: www.unum.co.uk