17 May, 2022
Career breaks don’t need to be career killers: here’s how HR can break the stigma
Career breaks are becoming an increasingly common part of modern work culture

The skills and experience gained from a career break can be just as valuable as those gained from a previous role. So why are they still viewed negatively, and what can HR do to change this? 

Career breaks are becoming an increasingly common part of modern work culture as a result of the pandemic. Many people are reassessing their work- life priorities, and looking to travel, discover new opportunities or simply take an extended break to recover from the overwork they’ve experienced over the last few years. 

However, even though career breaks are going to become more common, they are often still stigmatised, with research from LinkedIn showing that one in five hiring managers reject people who’ve had an extended period off work.

So what should employers be doing to destigmatise them? HRM spoke with two experts  about the benefits of career breaks and how HR can get on the front foot by asking all the right questions during a job interview. 

Making career breaks “part of the menu”

In 2018, Dr Juliet Bourke  took a six month sabbatical from her former job with one of the big four accounting firms. She moved with her husband and daughter to Italy, where she worked on her PhD, recharged and eventually returned to work with renewed motivation.

“My sabbatical gave me the space to appreciate work in a different way and to re-enter the fray with gusto,” she wrote in an article for BOSS in The Australian Financial Review.

Speaking to HRM, she says this was a less common thing to do back then. Since the pandemic, things have changed.

“There’s a greater need for the ability to take breaks now. It needs to become part of that menu of things that HR can offer,” says Bourke, who is now a Professor of Practice at UNSW Business School.

In a survey of 1018 employees around Australia, LinkedIn found that almost half of respondents (45 per cent) had taken a career break. Of this group, only 13 per cent took extended time off work because they lost their jobs, suggesting that the rest did so voluntarily.

“A [career break] is part of a rich tapestry of someone’s life, in the same way that you might ask them about what they got out of being with a past employer.” – Dr Juliet Bourke, Professor of Practice, UNSW Business School

However, within the 45 per cent, almost one in two believe there is still a negative perception and ongoing stigma around having these sometimes critical breaks from work. 

To address this stigma, LinkedIn recently introduced a new Career Break feature to enable professionals to showcase the skills and experience they gained from their time off to prospective employers.

“Parental leave, travelling the world, or taking time off for mental health to reduce burnout shouldn’t be frowned upon, and workers are entitled to take a career break whenever their personal circumstances demand it,” says Prue Cox, Director Enterprise SEA & ANZ, Marketing Solutions at LinkedIn. 

An effective flexible work policy can help HR to meet employees where they are and understand how best to support them – whether that is through a career break, a compressed work week, or otherwise.

Career breaks shouldn’t be a last resort 

Employers should talk about  career breaks when discussing  mental health and wellbeing at work, as part of a preventative strategy, says Bourke.

 “In the past, I have definitely seen people becoming close to leaving an organisation, then someone pulls out that menu and says, ‘Have you considered working flexibly? Have you considered taking a break?,’” she says.

Career breaks should be more about refreshing than recovering, says Bourke. Tapping into your people’s needs before they reach breaking point can make all the difference.

“We are burning people out faster than we have ever done before,” says Bourke. “The need to have ‘time out’ has increased, and we need to do that before we [experience] burnout. By then, it is way too late, because then you’re just spending your time on sabbatical in recovery mode.”

LinkedIn found that among Australians who’ve taken a career break, 12 per cent attributed it to burnout, and Gen Z was “far more likely” to cite mental health as a reason for taking a break than Boomers (19 per cent compared to two per cent).

“When thinking about flexible working more broadly, the younger generation are also more likely to leave a job if they don’t offer a feasible flexible working policy, with 64 per cent having left or considered leaving a job because of this,” says Cox.

Ask the right questions 

A career break can help employees build time management, organisational and networking skills just as effectively as they could in the workplace, says Bourke. 

“They can be really great learning moments, which then adds value back to the workplace.”

Cox says when you’re interviewing someone with a career break on their resume, asking the right questions is critical. 

 “Instead of questioning the career break in a negative way, it’s about framing the question more positively. The life experience somebody can gain from taking a career break can sometimes outweigh simply jumping from one job to another with no gaps,” she says.

Bourke agrees: “A [career break] is part of a rich tapestry of someone’s life, in the same way that you might ask them about what they got out of being with a past employer.  

“What you’re recruiting for is that person’s technical skills, judgement, values and interpersonal skills. A whole raft of things, including their life experiences.”

Bourke suggests asking questions such as, “What did you learn during your sabbatical?”, “Did it signify something for you?” and “How will you do things differently at work post your career break?” 

Focusing on the ‘what’ was learned during a break, instead of ‘why’ the break was taken, will steer the conversation in a more productive direction, and help reveal if they are the best fit for the role. 

“Given there’s a war for talent… there’s this untapped pool of talent in our community. One of those untapped pools are people who have stepped away from the workforce for a while. And that could be for a range of reasons, including parenting, elder care, study or travel. During each of these moments people develop different skills and I would love to see employers value that, rather than just what is learnt in the workplace,” says Bourke.

The power of visibility 

 Another way to lift the veil on career breaks is to have HR champion the employees who have already taken one, says Bourke. This boosts visibility, gives legitimacy to promises of a flexible work environment, and gives employees more confidence to follow in their footsteps. 

“When people see role models that have done it, it opens it up for everyone else. I certainly saw this after I came back [from my sabbatical] in 2018. A number of people took sabbaticals after me,” says Bourke. 

HR can profile these employees on the company’s intranet and online, through social media or the company’s website, suggests Bourke. 

Cox adds that: “Employers and HR should encourage employees who do take career breaks to include it on their LinkedIn profile, and take them into account when considering new hires and promotions. “

Supporting re-entry into the workforce 

While it’s valuable to prepare employees for a future career break, a key moment to prepare for is the return to work after a break, says Bourke.

“That’s actually the risky moment,” she says. “Because suddenly, you’re thrown back into that frenetic flow of work. There’s a real departure between your headspace and where the organisation is at.”

 Programs that help people re-enter the workforce after an extended break are important to help people build skills, bridge gaps in experience and regain confidence. 

“I found the first year after coming back [from my sabbatical] very difficult,” says Bourke. “It took me a year to enjoy my work again. I wasn’t expecting that. I thought I would just feel refreshed and therefore the enjoyment would come from being refreshed. But that wasn’t enough.

“In retrospect, if there had been stronger conversations with me which asked the question, ‘What could you do differently now? What would you like to do? How can we use these new experiences, rather than putting you straight back into the role you had previously held?’, it would have enabled me to get to a point of enjoyment of work faster,” she says.

Rejecting those who’ve taken extended career breaks is potentially shooting yourself in the foot. With the labour market the way it is, employers should embrace anyone with the skills and attitude to do the job well – especially those who’ve been brave enough to divert their path to do something a little differently. 

“Overall, career breaks and flexible working are here to stay,” says Cox. “New additions to the workforce clearly value the personal benefits of both.”

17 May, 2022
Woolworths, Wesfarmers bosses support wage rises as inflation bites
The Age
Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci has backed a proposal to raise retail workers wages.

The chief executives of Australia’s two largest private employers have thrown their support behind an increase in workers’ wages amid persistently rising inflation and a tightening labour market.

Woolworths boss Brad Banducci and Wesfarmers managing director Rob Scott both made comments on Tuesday supporting wage rises, with Banducci backing calls from industry body the Australian Retailers Association for an increase in the minimum wage in line with the underlying rate of inflation.

Scott, who oversees the operation of major retailers Bunnings, Kmart and Target, told the Macquarie Australia Conference he expected to see rising wages “across the board” in the year ahead, something he welcomed in light of the rising level of inflation.

“From a Wesfarmers point of view, I see real wage growth as a very good thing. Real wage growth is a good thing for the economy, and if it’s good for the economy, it’s generally good for Wesfarmers,” he said.

Banducci, whose company employs about 200,000 Australians, was also supportive of wage rises, though noted that there was no “silver bullet” that would fix Australia’s inflation woes. The retailer said shoppers could be facing a double whammy of price rises from suppliers in the next 12 months.

“We’re very clear that while we need to deliver value for our customers, we also need to make sure that our team can have salaries and wages that keep pace with the underlying increase in the cost of living,” Banducci said.

The supermarket boss said so far around 40 per cent of the company’s supplier base had requested price increases, and the supermarket was in negotiation with an additional 20 per cent. At Woolworths’ third-quarter sales results on Tuesday, the company reported inflation across its food business of 2.7 per cent, lower than rival Coles’ 3.3 per cent.

“There are indications from some of our larger suppliers that within 12 months, they will come back for a second cost increase,” Natalie Davis, Woolworths’ head of supermarkets told analysts. “That’s really reflecting the ongoing cost pressures they’re seeing on commodity prices, manufacturing costs and international freight.”

Despite these strong sales results, Banducci said the quarter had been challenging, with floods, supply chain disruptions and high levels of COVID-related absenteeism hurting the supermarket’s standing with customers.

However, the company said trading had been strong so far in the fourth and final quarter of the financial year, with the business now focusing on “returning to a more stable operating rhythm.”

Costs relating to COVID-19 have continued to fall, coming in at $66 million for the quarter, with the business saying it is continuing to look at cutting additional pandemic-related costs where possible.

On Tuesday, the Reserve Bank raised interest rates by 0.25 percentage points to 0.35 per cent, the first-rate rise since 2010. Speaking ahead of the decision, Banducci would not comment on what this might mean for shoppers, saying instead the supermarket was focused on “delivering value for customers”.

Shares in Woolworths had gained 0.6 per cent on Tuesday by mid-afternoon but fell in line with the broader market following the RBA’s decision.

3 May, 2022
Retailers ‘getting eaten up on all sides’ as wage rises loom
The Age
Gary Novis, chief executive of Retail Apparel Group, said wages rises would need be balanced against inflation on goods and freight.

Retailers are warning record high freight and goods costs will make it increasingly difficult for them to increase staff wages amid a war for talent that continues to force up the salaries of in-demand workers.

The federal budget predicted wages are forecast to grow in real terms from 2022-23 and then build until 2025-26 when economists say wages will begin to make up for sluggish growth from the past decade.

Gary Novis, chief executive of Retail Apparel Group, overseeing almost 600 Australian stores including Tarocash, Connor and Rockwear, said inflation on goods and freight was eating into retailers’ capacity to hike up wages.

“It’s going to be very hard for businesses, especially small businesses, to be paying way above the supply and demand or award rate,” Novis said.

“There’s got to be some sort of margin somewhere and that’s getting eaten up on all sides.”

However, he was optimistic inflation would settle and trusted the Fair Work Commission to decide award rates that weighed up pressures on businesses.

“What we will see are increases greater than previous years, but I don’t think you’re going to see these massive rises. Businesses can’t sustain that,” Novis said.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics on Wednesday reported consumer prices jumped by 2.1 per cent through the first three months of the year, taking annual inflation to its highest level in more than 20 years at 5.1 per cent.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions has pushed for a 5 per cent rise in the minimum wage in submissions to the Fair Work Commission’s annual wage review which must be completed by July, while the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) has called for a “measured increase”.

“We do believe a wage increase is inevitable,” ARA chief executive Paul Zahra said. “However, we believe this increase in wages should be based on the actual rate of underlying inflation, less the impact of increases in superannuation.”

Zahra said higher operating costs, freight and packaging costs had been absorbed over the past few years but retailers now had “no other option other than to pass on higher costs to consumers”.

Former Myer boss and retail veteran Bernie Brookes supports a rise in the minimum wage but said his business, handbag and jewellery chain Colette, was already paying more to attract store managers and IT professionals.

“There is a bit of a war for talent,” Brookes said. “The world has changed and a lot of people aren’t prepared to work five days a week in a grocery store or retail environment.”

Bunnings human resource director Damian Zahra said staff received a wage review each year that took inflation into account. Difficulty hiring in-demand roles continues to affect the hardware chain, while a Coles spokeswoman said there were new recruitment processes for the supermarket giant after “unprecedented labour shortages” late last year.

Michelle Bilston, a Melbourne retail worker of 35 years, said her pay rises over the past five years hadn’t kept pace with her increasing rent, grocery and utility bills.

Her most recent rise was about $10 a week but she said she now spends $50 more a week than before the pandemic. “If I lost my job tomorrow it would be a couple of weeks before I couldn’t pay my rent,” she said.

Grattan Institute economic policy program director Brendan Coates said businesses should expect wages to rise due to low unemployment but it would take until 2025 to make up for workers’ wages crawling alongside inflation for the past decade.

Treasury figures show wages grew on average at 2.3 per cent annually for the 10 years until December 2021, while the CPI had grown at an average rate of 2 per cent per year.

“At the moment, people are going backwards because of these global supply shocks, there’s not much that policymakers can do about that – when you have a global supply shock, it makes people poorer,” Coates said.

“It’s going to take time to work through but you’re much more likely to have real wages growth with low unemployment.”

28 Apr, 2022
Vacancies fall as CBD workers trickle back
“The number of workers coming into the Sydney CBD has steadily improved over the first few months of 2022.” Janie Barrett

Vacancy rates across the office sector nationally are gradually reducing – except in Perth – as workers trickle back to CBD offices and businesses expand their footprints.

As office vacancies at a national level fell 0.2 percentage points to 13.5 per cent over the 2022 first quarter, the aggregate take-up of space advanced 14,200 square metres, according to JLL.

Those positive metrics for the office market accompanied sanguine signs in the national economy: at 4 per cent unemployment is at its lowest in 48 years  and job ads point to further hiring.

“Corporate Australia remains in expansion mode with headcount growth recorded over Q1,” said Andrew Ballantyne, JLL’s research head for Australia.

“With the Australian economy close to full employment, one of the challenges organisations face is the availability of skilled labour, especially in technology and health-related professions.

“The expected recovery in overseas migration will be an important ingredient in allowing organisations to fill open positions.”

While the Sydney CBD office market remained relatively flat over the first quarter, some 27,800 square metres have been taken up in extra space over the past year. The vacancy rate fell 0.2 percentage points to 12.3 per cent over the first quarter as some building space was withdrawn.

“The number of workers coming into the Sydney CBD has steadily improved over the first few months of 2022,” said JLL’s national office leasing head, Tim O’Connor.

”However, workplace attendance was heavily influenced by weather patterns and we expect that Q2 will provide greater insight into daily occupancy levels.“

It was a similar story in Melbourne, where the office market is showing some spark after two years of lockdowns. The CBD market has recorded a positive take up of 38,600 square metres over the past year. The vacancy rate dipped by 0.2 percentage points to 14.8 per cent in the March quarter.

“The Melbourne CBD recorded a number of large leasing transactions over the quarter, while Foxtel and LeasePLUS Foundation centralised operations into the CBD,” Mr O’Connor said.

“We still see healthy levels of enquiry from small and mid-sized organisations and owners are willing to split floors and undertake speculative fit-outs to capture this enquiry.”

Canberra posted the strongest quarterly take-up of space, filling an extra 12,600 square metres, and vacancy tightened to 5.5 per cent over the quarter, the lowest level since March 2008 and the lowest nationally.

By contrast, Perth’s CBD vacancy rate ticked up to 19.7 per cent, despite a 9,300-square-metre expansion into office space over the quarter.

28 Apr, 2022
Why InDebted is Australia’s best place to work
InDebted founder Josh Foreman wants employees to embrace extracurricular activities as part of their working week. Jason Smith

Introducing a four-day week for all employees, unlimited leave, the ability to work from anywhere in the world and the payment of a quarterly office stipend propelled consumer finance fintech InDebted up the ranks to be crowned the 2022 AFR BOSS Best Place to Work.

Apart from being chosen the overall winner, InDebted also won the award for the AFR BOSS Best Place to Work in the technology sector, beating finalists such as online jobs company SEEK, Culture Amp, a people and culture platform, and networking products provider Juniper Networks.

AFR BOSS Best Places to Work awards celebrate the achievements of an overall winner, 10 industry sector winners and five specialist category winners. More than 750 companies competed for a place in the awards this year. Innovation consultancy Inventium is the judging partner.

InDebted is an online debt collection agency, giving customers a self-service portal where they can resolve outstanding payments without speaking to anyone. Founder and chief executive Josh Foreman says the aim of the business is improving customers’ financial fitness, rather than “harassing them to pay accounts”.

InDebted introduced a four-day week about nine months ago, with three main aims. Amid a skills shortage, the fintech must compete for talent and needs to find ways to attract and retain staff. This is a particular challenge, given InDebted’s growth path. It employs about 280 people, up from 120 in the middle of last year and expects staff numbers to be close to 400 in a year’s time.

Foreman says the start-up, which has been operating since 2016, also wants to ensure employees are “as happy and healthy as possible,” noting that the COVID-19 pandemic took a toll on the mental health of staff.

“We were looking for a way to combat that because we saw that as a material risk,” Foreman says.

Lastly, the company wanted to give time to staff to allow them to pursue outside interests. That could mean anything from looking after a baby and spending more time with the family, to starting a business, volunteering or developing knowledge in areas of interest, such as climate change.

“One of the things we wanted to do is provide an environment at InDebted, where people don’t have to shy away from those things, but rather embrace them as part of their working week,” Foreman says.

Incredibly successful

Nine months later Foreman says the firm has seen “huge” improvements in the talent pipeline and retention, as well as employee satisfaction. The number of people applying for jobs has surged 280 per cent, and some 98 per cent of employees say their mental health has improved. Productivity has barely changed.

“It has been incredibly successful,” Foreman says.

The tech founder attributes the maintaining of productivity levels to the fact that InDebted has a fully remote workforce, so already has a “very good environment for optimising productivity”.

Further, before introducing the policy, the company undertook a series of goal-setting and planning exercises and found that the vast majority of staff felt they could meet their goals for the year in a shorter week.

Under the InDebted model, most employees take Fridays off, which is both efficient for the running of the company and ensures that staff do not end up working for some or most of the day because of the need to respond to requests from those who are working.

Specialist award-winners

Apart from sector-based Best Places to Work awards, specialist awards are given to companies whose policies are progressive in a particular field.

Vista, formerly Vistaprint, a producer of marketing products for small and micro businesses, won the Best Employee Experience award; digital, customer experience and media agency Affinity won the award for Most Outstanding Practice in Wellbeing; non-bank lender Wisr took out the Most Outstanding Practice in Diversity & Inclusion award; and SixPivot, a cloud management solutions provider, won the award for the Most Outstanding Practice in Employee Flexibility.

Last year SixPivot took out the Most Outstanding Practice in Diversity & Inclusion prize, while the overall award was taken out by SEEK.

Vista, a Boston-based company listed on the NASDAQ exchange, introduced “remote-first” working.

Says Marcus Marchant, Vista CEO for Australia, New Zealand and Singapore: “Our default position globally is you’ll always be remote with us, except if you’re at a production facility. You can work anywhere in the world, anytime in the world. We work asynchronously and really go for work-life balance, or work-life harmony as we prefer to call it. We really want you to find a way to work within your lifestyle, that really suits you.”

Most of the local employees are in Australia, but Marchant points to a colleague who based herself in Canada over December and January because she wanted to obtain a ski instructor’s licence.

With the workforce fully remote, Vista has come up with a variety of ways to connect with staff. On Wednesdays there is a “stand-up” meeting, where parts of the business showcase what they are working on. There is a second company-wide meeting for an hour each Friday morning, but it is a social occasion, often involving online games. All employees are allowed to listen in to executive planning and commercial meetings to increase transparency, which Marchant says would probably not happen in a “room environment”.

There is a policy of no meetings on a Friday afternoon so employees can focus on their personal development. As a result of the changes, engagement, diversity and health and well-being levels have all improved.

SixPivot’s success this year came from a decision to offer unlimited domestic violence leave for victims and perpetrators. In addition to the leave, the firm provides paid emergency accommodation, cash support of up to $5000 and individual and family counselling.

To date, SixPivot has had one team member — a potential perpetrator — come forward because they were concerned their behaviour was “borderline” and wanted help to prevent any escalation. Another staff member has taken advantage of the program to support an extended family member.

SixPivot founder and chief executive Faith Rees says the policy came about after it emerged that three of the six female employees working at the firm at the time had experienced domestic violence.

Change the behaviour

About two years ago, a male staff member told Rees that he had had a fight with his partner and, in the words of Rees, “did some things that he wasn’t proud of and needed some help”.

Rees adds: “He basically didn’t know where to go, or how to get that help. So that was why we [thought]: ‘We can support the victim in terms of everything from giving them financial support and helping them change address. But if we really want to make change, we have to make change with perpetrators. If we can create a safe place for the men in our organisation to come to us at that point [where their behaviour might become aggressive], or before they get to that point, hopefully we can start to change the behaviour’.”

When potential perpetrators take leave, they must commit to counselling and provide Rees with information and contact details of the counsellor or expert to enable the CEO to have a written communication.

“I don’t need to know all the details, but we do need to know that they are continuing to seek help,” Rees says.

Back at InDebted, which is hoping to raise another $US40 million from investors in the next three to four months, Foreman says the company provides a $US1000 quarterly stipend to cover office-related costs. The money can be used in a variety of ways, including purchasing equipment for the home office, co-working membership fees and facilitating collaboration with colleagues.

Paid annual leave is unlimited.

“For most people in the business, as a guide we use six weeks of leave every year as a healthy amount to ensure that people are well rested and balanced,” Foreman says.

28 Apr, 2022
Inflation 'means pay cut of $2k for average worker'
ACTU president Michele O’Neil said “this is the worst real pay cut for working people this century”

Unions said the soaring inflation rate means the average worker will receive a real pay cut of nearly $2000 in the first half of this year, nearly four times more than the Morrison government projected in the federal budget less than a month ago.

While the budget forecast a 4.25 per cent inflation rate this financial year and a fall to three per cent in 2022-23, the ABS said on Wednesday the rate had jumped to 5.1 per cent.

Latest figures show annual wages growth tracking at 2.3 per cent, with the ACTU claiming workers will be almost $4000 worse off by the end of 2022 based on current trends..

According to the ACTU, workers received an $800 pay cut in real terms in 2021, with the Morrison Government projecting an additional cut of $500 in the budget for the first half of this year. The AB data shows actual wage cuts this year will be four times more than projected, leaving workers nearly $2,000 worse off in the first six months of the year.

ACTU president Michele O’Neil said “this is the worst real pay cut for working people this century”

“Workers know you can’t trust Scott Morrison’s promises that wage growth is around the corner. It has taken less than a month for the projections in the budget to fall apart,” she said.

“Australian workers deserve a government that will stand up for their interests and fight for wage growth, not one that makes empty promises and sits by while their wages go backwards and cost of living sky-rockets.”

1 Apr, 2022
New offices for the hybrid era? Many companies are on board

OMAHA, Neb.—If you build a shiny new office building, will your employees show up to work in it?

Many U.S. companies are banking on it because they believe working in person is better for collaboration and training young employees. So even though most employees are still working from home offices and dining room tables today, some companies are willing to spend big on showplace headquarters.

Businesses recognize there is a place for offices despite the fact that they plan to give workers more flexibility to work from home and might see cost savings from limiting their real estate holdings.

In a sign of how committed companies are to keeping offices, some 57% of the more than 2,300 office projects that giant architecture firm Gensler is now working on were started last year, in the middle of the pandemic. But as they’re building, companies are tweaking designs to reflect that offices may become spots that workers visit primarily to collaborate with others, instead of places where they toil all day, every day.

Jordan Goldstein, the co-firm managing principal at Gensler, said companies are placing a premium on having more meeting rooms with the technology to accommodate remote and in-person participants, as well as more flexible space for people to choose where they work within the office.

Mutual of Omaha plans to build a glassy new headquarters in its namesake Nebraska city that could wind up as Omaha’s tallest building.

But the insurance company says the plans for its new building reflect its commitment to flexible work. The company has 4,000 employees in the Omaha metro area but is planning a building that can only accommodate between 2,200 and 2,500 people on any given day, Mutual spokesman Jim Nolan said.

“The only way that works is by embracing remote and hybrid work,” he said.

The number of people working remotely is clearly growing because so many companies learned they could do it during the pandemic. The Society for Human Resource Management estimates the number of totally remote U.S. workers will double to roughly 36 million people by 2025. But the CEO of that trade group, Johnny C. Taylor Jr., said that will still only account for a little over 20% of the workforce. The other nearly 80% will work in an office at least part of the time.

Another survey done last year by CBRE Group, the world’s largest commercial real estate services and investment firm, showed that 87% of large companies planned to use a hybrid schedule after the pandemic, with workers in the office part of the time.

And separate worker surveys that SHRM and Gensler conducted last fall both showed that more than half of workers wanted to be back in the office at least one day a week.

But so far businesses have been slow to bring employees back. An average of 36.8% of the workforce was back in offices during the fourth week of February in 10 major U.S. cities monitored by Kastle Systems, which tracks building access-card swipes. That number has been creeping up since early January when it fell as low as 23% during the omicron surge.

Mutual of Omaha CEO James Blackledge said bringing people together in an office at least periodically will boost productivity and creativity, and having a gleaming new $433 million office should help the company attract new talent. Plus, the new headquarters will likely be smaller overall than Mutual’s current headquarters complex, but the exact size will be determined later in the design process.

Elsewhere, two high profile projects already underway are Walmart’s new headquarters being built in Bentonville, Arkansas, and the new New York City home for bank JP Morgan Chase.

Walmart said it was overdue for a new headquarters regardless of the pandemic because it is currently spending tens of millions of dollars every year to maintain an outdated patchwork of more than 20 offices in northwest Arkansas for its administrative and support staff.

JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon has said that the rise of work-from-home might mean the company only needs 60 desks for every 100 employees because they will be shared. But he remains committed to a new headquarters for 12,000 to 14,000 of the bank’s employees because many tasks will still need to be done in person.

Deluxe, the company once known primarily for printing checks that now processes nearly $3 trillion in payments a year, invested $12.2 million during the pandemic in a new 94,000-square-foot Minneapolis headquarters that opened last fall. When they return on a more regular basis later this month, employees will be expected to be there more often than they work from home.

But the new headquarters is less than one-third the size of Deluxe’s old one. The company cut its overall real estate footprint in half nationwide to better reflect its current needs with more people working remotely.

Deluxe CEO Barry McCarthy acknowledges that parts of each of his employee’s jobs can be done remotely, but coming together and being able to work as a team is a bigger element.

“There are very, very few jobs that are just individual contributor jobs with little or no interaction required from others,” he said.

McCarthy, like many CEOs, says he believes office work is better for training and mentoring younger employees because they can watch and interact with their coworkers better and get more immediate feedback on their work.

The roughly 100 headquarter workers at shoe and apparel company Merrell moved into a new office in Rockford, Michigan, in January. The project was in the works before the pandemic began, but CEO Chris Hufnagel said the company reworked the plan after it became clear that many employees would still work from home, at least part of the time. Hufnagel said he believes the office will be the “epicenter” for the company’s work.

“I think everyone realizes that there are parts of our jobs that we do better when we are together,” Hufnagel said.

And then there are companies that plan to largely do away with their offices in favor of remote work. But even those firms may keep a small office presence.

Intradiem CEO Matt McConnell said the software company had its most profitable year ever in 2021 and didn’t miss a beat while its 150 employees and 75 contractors were all working remotely. After checking with employees, the company shifted to a remote-first plan and will let its current headquarters lease expire at the end of 2022.

“It’s just this big, empty space that no one is using. It doesn’t make any sense to maintain that,” McConnell said.

But Intradiem, which is based in Alpharetta, Georgia, will likely still maintain a smaller headquarters with space for its IT workers to put together equipment to send out to home-based workers, and the company will encourage teams to occasionally get together in person. They may also rent some space at shared offices run by WeWork for employees across the country to use.

Modular flooring manufacturer Interface just opened a new headquarters in 2018, but the pandemic prompted the company to spend $400,000 remodeling the building and investing in new technology and furniture to adjust to workers only being in the office part of the time.

Darby Gracey, Interface’s director of worklife and workplace strategy, said she knows the roughly 175 headquarters workers didn’t miss commuting in Atlanta traffic while they worked from home, but the company has asked them to return at least some of the time.

“We believe a major part of culture comes from the ability to sit down and have a cup of coffee with an colleague or have a white-boarding session with a teammate—just actually getting together in person and being able to read body language—we believe that there’s a lot of value in that and it’s something we’re standing firm on,” Gracey said.


1 Apr, 2022
The visa changes that may ease Australia’s skill shortages
Australian Financial Review

London | Many Australian businesses grappling with shortfalls of skilled workers are pinning their hopes on the Australia-UK free trade agreement due to come into force later this year.

A survey of almost 300 businesses by the Australia-British Chamber of Commerce (ABCC) found that 87 per cent expected the FTA’s easing of visa rules in both countries would help drive their growth, and half were planning to hire staff using the new pathways.

Lendlease Australia chief executive Dale Connor told the Chamber that his company was “experiencing a real skills gap”, including a dearth of quantity surveyors and engineers.

“Anything that enables us to access a wider pool of capability without friction is very important,” he said.

Under the FTA, which was finalised in December, Australia-based companies will no longer have to prove they could not find a qualified Australian for a job before hiring a Brit, and vice versa for Britain-based companies.

Professionals sponsored by a company will be able to bring their families for four years instead of two.

Working holidaymakers can be up to 35-years-old (the previous limit was 30), can stay for three years instead of two, and no longer have to do rural work – allowing employers to fish from a wider and more experienced pool of potential recruits.

“Given we cannot find enough of the skills we need, and this is likely to continue for the foreseeable future ... [this] will certainly help a lot,” Deloitte Australia chief executive Adam Powick told the Chamber.

Accenture Australia chief executive Pete Burns said his firm would now consider “a formalised rotation program for younger staff with the UK firm, to complement the already strong movement between the two countries”.

But the Brits will also be keen to poach skilled Australians, and can offer higher London salaries.

Daniel Hodson, who chairs a project on the future of the London as a financial centre, recently told a parliamentary inquiry that the working holiday visa changes were significant.

“I ran an exchange that had 1000 employees – mostly graduates. The average age was 29. It shows that 35 is actually quite important, certainly in City terms, in terms of employability,” he said.

At the same hearing, John Cooke from the lobby group TheCityUK said investors in either direction needed to move key staff into the market when they expanded and were often stymied by the visa system.

“It may be extremely difficult to get a visa to move the personnel or experts you actually need to make that investment operate,” he said, welcoming in particular the prospect of longer visas. “If those things can be guaranteed under a treaty commitment, that is good.”

In 2020, there was almost $135 billion of Australian capital invested in Britain, and 600 Australia-owned firms operating there. More than 1400 British companies operate in Australia.

In the ABCC’s survey, three-quarters of respondents said the FTA would benefit them, and 20 per cent said this impact would be “significant”.

Boosting investments

Besides being able to shift managers and skills around, there would be streamlined investment approval processes that would help fund managers and venture capitalists to invest across the Australia-UK border, and help companies to tap those funding sources.

“Investing in the development of new products will become more rewarding as we will be able to transfer IP swiftly between the two countries,” Laing O’Rourke’s group director of people and corporate affairs, Josh Murray, told the Chamber.

“UK developments in large construction off-site manufacturing, for example, may become more readily re-usable in Australia, so we can be even more agile and capital effective.”

Australia’s process of ratifying the FTA will be set back by the federal election, which will restart the clock on key aspects of the process.

Britain’s parliament is likely to start the final phase of its deliberations in May. Despite vocal criticism from Britain’s agricultural lobby, the deal looks set to win majority support from British MPs.

As with all FTAs, the changes might not be immediate: the two governments have given themselves up to five years to implement all the deal’s visa changes, although it is understood both governments are keen to move quickly.

The FTA is potentially less significant for Britain than for Australia, warned Minako Morita-Jaeger, policy research fellow at Sussex University’s UK Trade Policy Observatory.

“While the agreement did achieve comprehensive tariff elimination covering almost all products, the economic effects of this increased market access will be small – simply because Australia is not one of the UK’s major trade partners,” she wrote in a recent blog post.

The UKTPO estimated the deal would boost Britain’s GDP by between 0.05 and 0.07 per cent, similar to the British government estimate of 0.02 to 0.08 per cent by 2035.





1 Apr, 2022
The jobs that will pay the highest salaries in 2040
Australian Financial Review

Nikolas Badminton was born in the Somerset village of Martock, England in 1972. He didn’t do well at school and dropped out to work as a milkman before his parents encouraged him to go back to college to study a newfangled subject called computing science.

Fast-forward to today and Badminton has his own child – a 19-month-old son – there is no milkman in Martock and the subject he studied turned out to be the basis of modern life. Like all parents, he wonders what lies ahead for his child – but he knows more than most.

Badminton is a futurist. This means he spends hours of every day reading about new technological developments across all sectors to see patterns that help him speculate about what the future holds. He is paid to share his vision of technological trends with organisations such as NASA, Google, Microsoft and the United Nations.

So, what lies ahead for children being born today? What will the workplace look like when they turn 18 in 2040? Will university still exist? Will robots be doing our work?

“It’s not which jobs will be automated, but when they will be automated: every part of the economy will be affected,” says Badminton, whose book on the subject, Facing Our Futures, will be published by Bloomsbury this year.

“Machines are predicted to be better than us at translating languages by 2024; writing high-school essays by 2026; driving a truck by 2027; working in retail by 2031; writing a bestselling book by 2049; and performing surgery by 2053,” says Badminton. “In fact, all human jobs will be automated within the next 120 years.”

Some jobs may not exist at all in the future: taxi drivers are likely to be replaced by self-driving cars; cashiers and retail staff will largely be replaced by machines that will let you pay for items yourself (such shops already exist). Deliveries might be done by drones, and much of telemarketing and customer service will be done by ­artificial intelligence (AI).

Changes for accountants and lawyers

Accountancy, construction, law and medicine will still exist, but they will look very different. “For example, right now we are in the early stages of fully-automated surgery,” says Badminton. “So you could say that at some point in the future, you would roll up at a hospital, you go in, get prepped – maybe there are some humans to help out in the prep – but no human touches you in surgery, and ultimately you heal faster and the machine operation can tap into the knowledge of all the surgeons in the world – that’s the trajectory we are heading towards.”

What is more, AI has proved to be more effective than human doctors in terms of diagnosing certain conditions. That, of course, has huge implications for human doctors. Similar advances are being made in dentistry, where robots are already doing routine jobs better than humans can do them.

In accountancy, work that used to be done by humans is now being performed by computers; while in law, AI will be able to read through vast swathes of research that previously a recent graduate would have had to plough through. A study by the multi­national professional services network Deloitte concluded that 100,000 legal roles will be automated by 2036.

But amid all the disappearing jobs there is good news. “While there will be a shift towards automation, I think we’ll be a world of the human and machine working together in symbiosis,” says Badminton. “We will be freed from repetitive work to do more creative things together. I call this new world the ‘wisdom economy’.”

He explains: “AI will not be good at creative problem solving, empathetic reasoning, philosophical debate and the human group dynamics of collaborating for a very long time. Deep human connection, empathy, curiosity – very human things – will be vital. Our human inquiry is still going to steer the ship.”

Tap into your creativity to succeed

Carolyn Parry, founder of career coaching and training company Career Alchemy and president of professional body the Career Development Institute, agrees. “As AI increases, the parts [of us] that make us human – our empathy, creativity and problem-solving ability – are going to be more important than ever,” she says.

Parry adds that our resilience and adaptability will also be vital as the rate of change in the world will keep increasing. Most importantly, she believes, parents and grandparents should not assume that what worked for them will work for their children – quite the opposite.

“What parents can help their kids with is to get them to think originally – and I’m not just talking about drawing and design here, I’m talking about original thinking. New developments will come at the intersection of so many different disciplines. So if you think about a Venn diagram, you take three different disciplines and you overlap them – that’s where the opportunity is. This is where the cure for cancer will come from.

“Anything related to Stem [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] is good – if it interests them. But if it doesn’t, don’t push your youngster down a route they don’t want to follow. It’s a recipe for a disastrous start in life.”

Here are the jobs of the future:

Human-centred designers and ethicists

Salary: £100k+ ($174,370+) (Estimated 2040 salary, taking inflation into consideration).

Today they would be: Systems designers, software engineers, professors of ethics, psychologists, philosophers.

Education needed: Anything from computer science, philosophy, psychology and design and ethics. “There are a lot of people doing master’s degrees and PhDs in this field today,” Badminton observes.

When we use technology such as Facebook or Twitter today, we do so by agreeing to their terms and conditions. In exchange for us being able to communicate and access information, we hand over lots of our data. If we post pictures of our children, Facebook owns those pictures. If we share details of our health, it owns that information, too. In the future, that will change, according to Badminton.

Technology will be designed so that the human using it will be the priority, not the company. “A human-centred design turns the tables on everything. It says, ‘Let’s put the rights of the person using the system ahead of the comp­any’s rights; let’s work out ethically how we can work with them,’” says Badminton. “It asks, ‘What’s going to be right and fair for the human individual?’”

Twitter is already operating this way, but many more qualified individuals will be required to roll out the approach across other tech-based businesses.

Data scientists and brokers

Salary: £75k+.

Today they would be: Software developers, data and business analysts, database administrators, AI trainers and engineers.

Education needed: Computer science, data analytics, psychology, statistics, economics, data science

“By 2040, data will be created at a rate of more than 200 petabytes per year [a petabyte is 1000 trillion units of text or information], with more than 8000 digital data interactions per person every day – one every 10 seconds or so,” says Badminton.

“Every company will need teams of highly-trained data scientists to help them explore opportunities in the data they have and empower their employees and customers. There is an idea called ‘data dignity’, which means that you have the right to own the data you produce. So, every time you go on Facebook, for example, you will own the data you produce. You have the right to keep that private or to sell it to people that can use it – so you have your own personal data economy that can earn you money.” People who sell your data for you will be members of a new ­profession: data brokers.

Robot therapists

Salary: £250k+.

Today they would be: Psychologists.

Education needed: Psychology with other disciplines, such as computing, neurolinguistics, social work and ethicstics.

You may have heard of the phrase “the internet of things”, which refers to the idea that objects can be connected over the web, letting them talk to us and each other. The popular example is the smart fridge, which would be able to text you and let you know that there was no milk left, or that it passed its use-by date.

Or it might be that your alarm clock will talk to your toaster, so that your toast is done when you get into the kitchen. It might also be connected to other toasters to get information about how much other toasters are being used and when.

But what if you don’t use your toaster any more? How will your toaster feel about that? And yes, your toaster will have feelings

“Machine learning, smart devices and robotics will be so prevalent in society that these will become ­sentient and start to feel like we do,” says Badminton.

“Professional psychologists will ­upskill to understand the nuances of artificial intelligence and how machines learn. Our toasters may need help – and we will be there for them.”

Robot translators

Salary: £50k.

Today they would be: Human linguists and translators.

Education needed: Languages, linguistics.

“I spoke to a Year 13 student this week and he wants to be a linguist,” says futurist Matthew Griffin, founder of global futures think tank the 311 Institute. “But while once upon a time he might translate Chinese or Italian, now he could translate AI.”

Some believe that we should teach artificial-intelligence programming in schools the same way we teach French: just as French is the language of French people, programming is the language of computers.

According to Griffin, Google and Facebook recently discovered that AI bots, originally designed to talk to each other in English, had actually invented their own languages.

“Artificial-intelligence translators will be people who are skilled in trying to understand the different languages that AI has created for itself and by itself.”

Food engineers

Salary: £75k.

Today they would be: Farmers.

Education needed: Biochemistry and engineering.

“Today, we have the ability to 3D print food,” says Matthew Griffin. “We also have the ability to grow different kinds of food in bioreactors – which is where you take a cell from an animal, put it into a bioreactor and literally end up with a pound of that meat. So a food engineer is a person who is able to engineer different foods at the molecular level.”

Metaverse architects and world builders

Salary: £100k+.

Today they would be: Architects, video-game designers, FX artists, visual artists, musicians and sound engineers, fashion designers, retail experts.

Education needed: Computer design visual effects, com­puter programming, hardware design.

Put on a virtual-reality (VR) headset now and it feels like you’re in another world. The “metaverse” is the idea that VR will become a normal part of our lives, like the internet or computer games.

“We will live in a mixed-reality world, so I could wear normal-looking glasses and look around my world and it will be augmented with information about objects,” says Badminton. Facebook has spent billions on the concept, with Microsoft and Google investing, too.

Instead of having business meetings via a Zoom call, by 2040 we may meet in VR spaces. “Virtual versions of ourselves will meet in virtual conference rooms, with virtual art and furniture,” says Badminton. “This virtual world will be built by huge teams.”

Activist artists and creators

Salary: £75k+.

Today they would be: Artists, writers, TV programme-makers.

Education needed: Art, music, choreography.

Badminton predicts that by 2040, television as we know it will have ceased to exist. The current world, where people make entertainment and we watch it, will be replaced with more collaborative and interactive forms of TV, music, videos and art.

He also believes there will be a resurgence of live theatre and street performance. This will be about more than just entertainment: “It will bind together society, create purpose behind life and take on governments and big business alike.”

Local entrepreneurs

Salary: £50k+ to millions.

Today they would be: Entrepreneurs.

Education needed: Any.

We are already seeing entrepreneurs selling services and products online from the UK with worldwide reach, using local and international freelancers to help build their businesses. In the future, millions more people will start their own business. “Some of it’s going to be online, some offline, some will be artisanal services that people want because they don’t want a robot to make them a sandwich,” says Badminton. “I could start a business in Somerset creating T-shirts and I could sell to a group in Bhutan.”

Cybersecurity and misinformation experts

Salary: £100k+.

Today they would be: Software developers, data and business analysts, database administrators, AI trainers and engineers, cybersecurity experts.

Education needed: Computer science, information theory.

We will need online policemen to respond to cyberattacks and ensure privacy, security and safety for all. We will also need people who will guard against misinformation. “There are currently troll farms that pump misinformation on to social-media platforms and we will need trained people to understand what is fake and how to stop it,” says Badminton. “These will be among the best-paid jobs in organisations in the late 2030s and throughout the 2040s.”

Healthcare professionals and biohackers

Salary: £75k to £1 million+.

Today they would be: Doctors, nurses, surgeons, physiotherapists, nutritionists.

Education needed: Traditional medicine and an array of specialities, including nutrition and technology.

Longevity seems likely to become a key goal for the ultra-wealthy, as the average age of those with more than £10 million in earnings may advance to about 130 years old. “There will be specialist hospitals with enthusiastic doctors, nurses, surgeons, and research and development looking at how everything from implantable tech to psychedelics and diet ensure a longer life for those who can afford it,” says Badminton.

Biohacking is the practice of using implantable technologies, diet, supplements, medical procedures and stem-cell injections to extend human life decades beyond the current normal range. “In the future, if you are ultra-wealthy and want to live forever, we can make that happen,” says Badminton. “Biohackers will have qualifications that allow them to advise on diet, implants, technology, sleep, psychedelic therapy and so on. An ageing population also means there will be a big demand for carers and nurses.”

Will people still do traditional degrees?

Career coach Mark Anderson predicts the rise of apprenticeship degrees, in which students undertake paid work alongside their studies, with their education paid for by their employers. Students may earn “micro-credentials” on shorter courses that contribute to their degree and many courses will mix online and face-to-face learning – a process widely adopted during the pandemic.

The jobs market of the future will continue to evolve, meaning that people will need to be reskilling and continuing to learn throughout their life.

Anderson advises young people to look at the list of 17 world development goals published by the United Nations. “These are world problems that need to be solved – hunger, clean water, pollution, education,” he explains. “This will help you find an area you care about.”

Badminton believes that in the future, work will be purpose-driven and there will be no straightforward jobs for life – instead, people will work on different projects simultaneously. “We’ll be a society of generalists and people with multiple projects on the go,” he says. “Jobs might be seen as a ‘constellation of projects’.”

Which is why Badminton is hopeful for his own child. “In 2040, he will be 19. I am glad that he will be able to take advantage of all the automated services around him and not have to spend weekends flipping burgers.

“The fact that kids today can build a business on a phone, it’s incredible... If you have got the skills and work hard enough, you can achieve something pretty incredible.”

— The Telegraph London

18 Mar, 2022
What’s remote work doing to our brains?
HRM Online
HRM Online

Learning and creativity often take a hit under remote work conditions. What’s happening in your brain when this occurs and what can you do about it?

When employees come together to brainstorm, it’s common to enter a state of ‘burstiness’ – they’re rapidly bouncing concepts around, building on each others’ ideas and getting closer to finding an innovative solution.

That creative spark is often extinguished in remote work environments.

It’s an experience that’s all too familiar for Joel Pearson, a Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of New South Wales.

He recalls what happened when he and his team at Future Minds Lab, an experimental start-up that operates within the School of Psychology at UNSW, began taking part in virtual brainstorming during Sydney’s lockdown last year.

“It felt like we had a clock ticking down in front of us. It was really hard to throw casual ideas around in the same way we could in the room with someone,” says Pearson.

“When you’re in the room with someone, the most interesting and creative things will often come from left field. Or right at the end of a meeting, someone will throw something out there, and another person will chime in and say, ‘Oh, that’s interesting. What if we tried that?’”

Dr Fiona Kerr, founder and CEO of the NeuroTech Institute, explains that creativity flourishes in the presence of others through the process of brainwave synchronisation.

“Our brains fire a lot when we’re together, especially when we’re creating. The higher the level of inter-brain synchronisation between people, the higher the level of intra-brain synchronisation in each individual’s brain, which is how much different areas in the brain collaborate and connect, and the speed with which they do that,” says Kerr.

Interactive networks

People thrive in the company of others.

Being together enables us to learn from, and build off, each other’s ideas.

“When you’re in a creative zone, you have multiple parts of the brain operating at once,” says Kerr. “The salience network, the default mode network and the central executive network are all interacting, and when they’re all firing, they block out a lot of external stimuli and you can focus very deeply.”

“When we ask, ‘Where do people get their insights?’, very few people say, ‘In the office.’ They get them when they’re walking the dog, or having a shower, or washing the dishes… Working from home has increased the opportunity to create those conditions.” – Lynda Edwards, Lead Consultant, The NeuroLeadership Institute.

In-person interactions also allow complementary ideas to sit side by side.

“There’s a saying about wisdom being the ability to hold different thoughts in your head at the same time,” says Kerr. “Creative ideation is when you are starting to either disconnect networks and reconnect them, or to build new networks out of what you already have.”

Your proximity to other people also helps to send creative sparks flying.

“There are about 2000 chemo signals [chemical signals the body gives off] that we absorb when we’re physically with another person, and this influences how we process information, and how we encode and rebuild ideas,” says Kerr.

Stimulating environments are often key in sparking rich electrochemical activity.

This collaborative stage is often where creative ideas are born, before you start to encode and make patterns with the data.

Insights in solitude

Creativity is as much a group activity as it is an individual exercise in contemplation.

“After collaborating in direct proximity, the brain needs time to let the ideas settle, make connections and put scaffolding in place. For that, we tend to like being on our own,” says Kerr.

This provides strong scientific support for the value of a hybrid model. Neurons start firing when employees are ideating together before they’re given space to dissect the information when working from home. 

An effective creative process will involve a few rounds of swapping between the group phase in a live situation to allow for the neurophysiological impacts that only happen with proximity, and the individual phase, normally with two to three phases of each stage, says Kerr.

The NeuroLeadership Institute, a research body bringing neuroscientists and leadership experts together to create evidence-based leadership advice, has identified several design principles that contribute to the ‘conditions of insight’.

These are: being in a quiet space, internally focused, in a positive state and not directly focusing on the problem you’re trying to solve.

The institute’s Lead Consultant, Lynda Edwards, says those conditions are more likely to occur outside of the office.

“Employees who have access to a home office with a decent-sized desk and a good setup will have ideal opportunities to create. The physical setting can promote the conditions in our brains to increase the [likelihood of having an] Aha! moment,” says Edwards.

“If you want to put existing information together in new and exciting ways, you need to have a quieter brain. When we ask, ‘Where do people get their insights?’, very few people say, ‘In the office.’ They get them when they’re walking the dog, or having a shower, or washing the dishes… Working from home has increased the opportunity to create those conditions. It’s had a really positive impact on creativity.”

Distant learning

Rote learning new information may be easier in a quieter space when you’re not distracted by the hustle and bustle of a lively office, but for more creative learning that requires extrapolation, a physical workspace is far superior, says Kerr. 

Face-to-face encounters that involve a high degree of eye contact better embed learning, a recent experiment revealed.

“Researchers put electrical caps on students in a classroom and looked at how the kids connected with each other,” says Kerr.

“Half of the children had to look each other in the eyes for two minutes before they went back into the classroom and the other half didn’t. Even though they were all sharing space, the ones that actively looked at someone else had more activated brain areas, and were more engaged and proactive in coming up with ideas.”

Though you might engage in eye contact over a screen, it’s a more impoverished type of interaction compared to in-person, says Kerr.

“There are parts of your brain, especially socio-emotional areas, that don’t ever turn on over a screen. You’re not getting chemo signalling, and the majority of electrochemical connection around inter-brain synchronisation doesn’t happen, especially if you have not met in person.

“We have hundreds of areas in our brain that are looking for micro-behaviours – all these signs we normally get when we are face to face with someone. They often can’t be coded over screens, but our brains are still looking for them. That’s partly what is driving video call fatigue.”

Learning is also enhanced when there’s an “emotional tag”, says Kerr. 

Unsurprisingly, an emotional connection is far more likely to form when we meet someone in a face-to-face setting.

“The more hooks you can put onto a piece of information you lodge in your brain, the easier it is to find again and bring it back into conscious memory.” –
Dr Fiona Kerr, Founder and CEO, the NeuroTech Institute

Kerr recently conducted an experiment investigating how complex decision-making differs in a group versus individual scenario. 

In the study, individuals were either: on their own and had to learn how to apply new knowledge; working on the task on their own, but with another person close to them in the room; or they first collaborated with another person on an initial task, before completing the complex problem.

“The people who collaborated with another person face to face before completing the individual problem learned faster, and applied the knowledge more quickly and consistently throughout the exercise.”

Whether online or in-person, teaching the information to someone else is also going to enhance memory retention, and embed the memory more strongly.

“It’s not just a matter of getting information into our brains,” says Pearson. “If you revisit the information within 24 hours, and then again within a week or two, long-term retention will be far greater.

Edwards advises providing opportunities for social connection through learning.

“When you see that person or team again, it helps to bring back the learning content. We know it goes into the hippocampus, the memory centre of the brain, a lot more strongly if we have that social setting”.


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