The changing workplace: supply or demand?

Epson's display solutions

The changing workplace: supply or demand?

Down with the ivory towers

Our world is changing rapidly, and we are grappling with the fact that the accepted norms of yesterday will not be tolerated tomorrow. Societies are demanding more; from their governments, from companies and from each other. Movements campaigning for equality and sustainability are setting a tone that can no longer be ignored.

We as corporations have a significant role to play. It is not good enough to expect others to make changes if we do not make them ourselves. With several companies now boasting greater profits than some countries’ GDPs, we have a responsibly to lead by example. Looking to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals we must look at where we can contribute and make a meaningful difference.

Anecdotally, a colleague of mine was recently interviewing a job candidate who wanted to know what our company was doing to ‘give back to society’. This is a sign of the times; when someone looking for work is already making demands of their potential employer. The campaign is no longer on the streets, but within our walls; as is the proof that it’s no longer acceptable that corporates should exist for the good of themselves alone.

With the demands of this next generation come an expectation for better working practices and improved work-life-balance. They are driving a change in cultural attitude and doing away with the traditional working model in favour of a more efficient, more connected and more flexible approach.

Three years ago, we ran a project to uncover anticipated working trends, and even then, 62%[1] of Europeans believed that a world where employees could work from home would have a positive impact on productivity. More recently, Cisco’s Connected Futures study cites 25% of employees claiming that the biggest challenge they face in their job role is lack of work-life balance. 

I will look in more detail at the operational side, and at remote and connected working solutions in a later post. But right now, I want to look at behaviour.

It’s worth noting now that no amount of flexibility or remote working culture will be enough if the organisation offering it, or the technology supporting it is not sustainable and ethical. Maybe in the short term, but not for long.

Already we see consumers willing to pay more for brands they believe to be socially better than others – that have strong ethics or sustainable approaches. And the new generation of workers we are all so eager to attract will not want us if we cannot prove that we have wider societal value.

To the candidate that wanted to know how we give back; it’s a fair point. For us it’s not a lack of ethical or sustainable values or behaviours, but that fact that we haven’t been talking about them.  And up until now, no one really wanted to hear.

As a Japanese company circularity is in our blood. As a nation of restricted resource, from the very beginning our products have been developed to minimise resource and maximise value.  We were the world’s first company to announce a complete phase out of CFCs and have publicly tracked our CSR performance for over 20 years. In 2018, the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) approved our Greenhouse gas reduction targets. We are a member of the Responsible Brands Alliance (RBA) and have been recognised by FSTE4Good for the 15th consecutive year.

Within my own product area, I’m very proud of the fact that our projectors are TCO Certified, meaning that they have been independently recognised as having been produced in an ethical and ecological way.  At every stage – from design through manufacture, use and end of life - Epson’s display solutions are built to be sustainable. We also own our own production facilities so can control both production and workplace standards. As a result, we exceed the requirements of international labour laws.

I am fortunate to work for a company that is sustainably and ethically minded, and I can feel secure in my knowledge that when our customers buy our display solutions they are investing in a product that has been produced in an ethical manor, in factories that we control and that its impact on the environment will be minimal. All of this while enabling connected, collaborative and flexible workforces and learning environments.

Technology can have an enormous and positive impact on the way we work and how our work places change. And while it enables things we only dreamed of in previous years, it’s the social demand for change, and expectation of what that change should look like and entail, that will shape how technology develops.

Ultimately, just because we can do it, doesn’t mean we should. After all, there is no business to be done on a dead planet, and increasingly, nobody wants to work for or buy from  a company whose values don’t measure up.

But change for the better can be delivered in a sustainable and ethical way; if that change enriches our lives, improves our education and performance, and ensures a positive work-life balance, then let’s give change a go and embrace the exciting opportunities that new technologies can afford.

[1] Epson WOT report, 2016