Three Q's

With Mapien Executive Director, Belinda Honey

Belinda Honey is an Executive Director for workplace strategy leaders, Mapien. With offices in Perth, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, Mapien solves people problems using experience, technical capability, data and behavioural science. The company services approximately 2,000 clients spanning a diverse range of sectors including oil and gas, resources, construction, education, aged care and FMCG.

1. As a people cartographer with a large client base, what are your major impressions of workforce changes as we re-emerge from the pandemic?

“Well, if you look at the kind of world we were living in pre-COVID-19, it was very different from this one! We had new projects, expansion and a broad positivity that reflected an economy that was on-the-go again. You could feel the momentum building. Then everything came to a screaming halt.

"Now, the priority for clients is how they get people back to work and how they do that safely. Many clients are also taking the opportunity to consider what they want their future organisation to look like –how can the organisation be structured to support the business strategy in a changed world.

"For instance, everyone is now talking about how you start managing workforces who want to remain working from home at the same time as another part of that workforce returns to the office. That, in turn, has a big effect on leadership and culture. Business is very preoccupied with that dichotomy and what this looks like going forward.”

2. How can employers, and employees, best prepare themselves in a world of constant and unpredictable change?

“I think there are two key issues that have emerged which we need to consider:

"One is trust, and the ability for leaders to allow employees to work off-site and independently. COVID-19 has shown how this can work, but leaders will need to keep engendering that trust.

"The second aspect is about wellbeing and mental health and the impact changes in the way we work may have on that. We have a team of organisational psychologists looking at how this can best be monitored when a large number of employees are not visible. In the workplace, you can connect with people in an office, a kitchen or an elevator. When they are working from home, it is a lot harder.

"During the pandemic, it has been interesting to see how age has impacted the way people work from home.

"Many in the 20-30 year-old age group struggled due to the lack of contact and social interaction while workers who were older found it much easier. Companies will now have to look at these demographics and consider different options.

"From an employee’s perspective, I think there will need to be an appreciation of the impact that COVID-19 has had on workplaces and what this will mean for them personally.

"Some employees have been impacted through hours and wage reductions, stand downs, etcetera, and employers have used JobKeeper to minimise the impacts where they can. For many businesses the transition out of this state will not be quick or easy."

3. What do you think the workforce of the future will look like?

“After 30 years of working in the HR arena, I have never seen a period like this where the next six-12 months is almost impossible to predict. Everyone is saying: `well, we’ve come through this so now what?’.

"However, I would say that as we’ve all seen, people have been very good at adjusting to change and looking after one other. Any future workforce will have to do the same.

"We’ve also seen how adaptable we can be in embracing of technology but everyone will also need to be creative in all sorts of other ways. The future is going to be a highly creative place.”

Editor’s Note: Since this interview was conducted, and consistent with comments made by Ms Honey, global engineering company Worley, announced that 46,000 employees would not be returning to the office. CEO, Chris Ashton, said in a post COVID-19 world, there were new ways of working.