The Vision for the ABP Conference 2016

ABP Conference Vision.  

Eighty-seven percent of workers are either miserable or very miserable in their jobs. That was the finding of the 2013 Gallup Survey which analysed over 2.5 million people across 189 different countries. 

It is a stark and depressing statistic, and one which reflects the real problems with modern work, both in workplaces and in styles of working. There can be no clearer indication that a revolution is needed in the way we work. If not, the social, economic and emotional impacts of this state of affairs will be profound. 

I have recently left behind a career in advertising to re-train as a business psychologist, and my motivation was this current situation. It became clear to me that a change was both needed and inevitable. I believe that there is no group better qualified to facilitate this change than the world’s business psychologists. 

The theme of this year’s conference is The Future of Business Psychology  in 2030. We have focused on the largest dilemmas, and on what we see as the areas which are vital in changing the landscape of modern work. They are also, as a result, the areas which will need the greatest focus and energy from all business psychologists. 

If I envisage work in 2030, I hope it will have achieved certain things. One is true gender equality, in pay and in terms of maternity and paternity leave. Equally, I want flexible working to have become a reality, with the structure of work fitted around a healthy lifestyle and with active encouragement of a work/life balance. 

The focus of the new world of work should be the well-being of staff instead of productivity. Workers should be part of a problem-solving culture which allows them the freedom to use their intelligence and creativity; one in which they are trusted to perform their jobs well. Roles should have a sense of meaning and purpose, so that every worker feels they are making a difference in the world. I want the monotonous nature of work to be gone forever, and for it to be transformed from a soul-deadening slog into engaging and challenging callings.  

Such transformation is often viewed as dangerous by big business, but as is understood fundamentally by business psychologists, those who are engaged in their work are more productive and less inclined to illness. I see multiple disciplines and social sciences working to transform the workplace together, bringing businesses with them.  

It may be that our peers will have to take a hit and engage in some pro bono work to catalyse the transformation. Creating a sea-change through start-ups would allow them to be created along the lines of a new vision of work. We may have to work with them to embed great working cultures and best practices. And with such help, and the likely success which will follow, more established businesses will have to follow their lead or fall behind. 

Whatever the precise processes we follow, the change needs to be great. A world of work in which only 13% of those within it are happy is not sustainable, quite beyond being unsatisfactory when it comes to quality of life. By 2030, that figure will have to change.