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What is the future of work? ‘It is human, it will always be human’

12 May 2022

Whether the future of work is remote, in-person or hybrid, this Future Human 2022 panel were in agreement that it must put people first.

It’s no surprise that the pandemic loomed large in the minds of the three Future of Work panellists at Future Human 2022 today (12 May).

There was an amusing moment when Monica Parker, founder of future of work consultancy Hatch Analytics, told the audience about a client who told her at the beginning of the pandemic that remote working might lead to the end of the human race because people wouldn’t be able to meet their partners in the office and procreate.

Parker has spoken at Inspirefest, the predecessor to Future Human, previously. She told panel moderator Ann O’Dea, “I love the name of the event Future Human because when people ask me what is the future of work, it is human, it will always be human.”

While Parker’s client became a convert to remote working, fellow panellist Dee Coakley admitted that she preferred not to work remotely.

“I’m an extrovert. I like a lot of people around me. I like bouncing off people. That’s my preferred way of working,” she said.

It was an unlikely admission from the CEO of Boundless, a platform co-founded by Coakley in 2019 to help employers recruit distributed teams across borders.

Lisa Stevens, chief people officer at professional services multinational Aon, offered her insights about managing larger remote teams. Stevens, who oversees a workforce of 50,000 people, dialled in from the US.

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“At Aon, we’ve adopted something called smart working,” she explained. This involves allowing workers to choose their own career paths and where they work from.

Right after the panel event, Rand Fishkin, founder of audience research software start-up SparkToro, spoke about the concept of ‘chill work’.

SparkToro’s chill work concept involves the team working independently and with a “very low management overhead”.

While Fishkin said modern capitalism “sucks in a lot of ways”, he acknowledged the conflict that he is himself an entrepreneur with several different tech companies.

“I am the least CEO-like CEO,” he said of his position at the helm of his latest start-up. Fishkin was previously in charge of a larger team of 200 at software company Moz. (His title was, funnily enough, Wizard of Moz.)

“Life is about more than just work,” Fishkin told the Future Human audience.

As Parker said, the future of work is human. Or perhaps wizards, if you are Rand Fishkin.

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Blathnaid O’Dea was a Careers reporter at Silicon Republic until 2024.