Audrey Birt: Shaping the workplace of tomorrow

Audrey Birt.
Audrey Birt.
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Audrey Birt says change is needed in Scotland to value individuals and to approach our lives differently

It was perhaps my bravest decision when I decided to stand down as director of Breakthrough Breast Cancer in Scotland, but I wanted to focus on my work as a coach and consultant to enable transformational change in people and organisations – in particular, in health and social care.

And this was also a start of a transformational time in Scotland when we started to speak about the kind of society we wanted to live and work in. While these conversations were emerging so, too, was research I was commissioned to do by Oasis School of Human Relations into the Workplace of Tomorrow if people and planet really mattered. I interviewed people from a wide range of backgrounds and what stood out was the synergy between them. No matter what the context many paradoxes (like the more we control, the less quality we experience) of much of the current workplace were identified.

Perhaps the outstanding theme for me was the dehumanising effect people experience. Stress and depression were epidemic in many organisations with much of that related to experiences at work. The increase in extreme wealth alongside the growing effects of poverty was also mentioned by everyone as such a source of distress and dismay as well. So many people felt stuck. So it was really important in this work to identify organisations who had started to do it differently and understand what we could collectively learn from that.

What emerged from this was 7 Principles to Shape the Workplace of Tomorrow. We offer them to stimulate new approaches and not as tablets of stone:

• Connect people with their passion, their purpose and their planet;

• From leadership to leaderful;

• Create authentic organisations;

• Approach complexity with inquiry;

• Develop relational innovations;

• Trust more, control less;

• Pattern hope to help the future emerge.

Changes like these don’t happen overnight but helping people start somewhere is perhaps the best way to engender the hope for a different way of being in the workplace.

I wrote up this work as the discussions heated up around the referendum. Campaigning for a Yes vote for me was so related to the themes of this work as well. It was about saying there is another way to approach how we live our lives. Without fundamentally changing the way we value people and how we can have power and influence over our own lives, I believe that change will not happen.

The journey I have been on in my working and political life in this last two years has convinced me that there is a rising and compelling call to do things differently. We are waking up to the need for change in Scotland and I’m determined to play my part in making that happen.

Audrey Birt is an independent coach and consultant