New research shows that around two-thirds of companies have created a future of work taskforce. This is despite the majority of companies lacking a clear understanding of what the future of work means for their organisation.

Research outlined in a new Aon report, a global professional services firm providing risk, retirement and health solutions, shows that almost two-thirds of companies (62 per cent) have a future of work taskforce, a team in charge of deciding how the company’s strategy will progress following the pandemic.

Furthermore, almost a fifth of businesses (17 per cent) stated that they did not have one at present but setting up this taskforce was something they would be actively looking into.

However, despite this push towards setting up sustainable and resilient strategies for the future, only under a third of companies (32 per cent) reported having a clear and consistent definition of what the future of work means for their firm.

When surveyed about which factors would be the most important when defining the future of work, main priorities included improving diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace (45 per cent classed this as ‘extremely important’), how to deploy resources as flexibly as possible (35 per cent) and maximising workforce agility and resilience to address future disruptions and risks (34 per cent).

John McLaughlin, Chief Commercial Officer, Human Capital, EMEA at Aon, said:

The key takeaway from our latest HR Pulse survey is how the pandemic has served as a catalyst for us all to rethink how we work, where we work and how work should be done. Organisations are largely shifting from a critical, reactive stage to planning their future. By dividing organisations’ response to COVID-19 into a three-stage framework, we can see whether respondents believe they fit into the first category, “React and Respond”, the second category, “Recover” or the third, “Reshape”.

When organisations were questioned about what camp they would categorise themselves within, less than one in 10 (8 per cent) stated they were still at the “React and Respond” stage, which focussed on crisis management and business continuity.

The vast majority of organisations (56 per cent) said they were in the “Recover” stage which entails focussing on returning to the workplace, updating business goals and adjusting operating plans.

However, it was the third of companies (36 per cent) who classed themselves as falling within the “Reshape” phase, who were found to have a a better understanding and definition of the future of work. These firms also have more focus on how their resources are deployed, using data better, maximising agility, bolstering resilience and boosting their Employer Value Proposition.

Staff communication about the future of work is also more frequent and direct in organisations that are in the “Reshape” stage. This includes more frequent use of surveys (56 per cent) in comparison to those within the “Recover” stage (45 per cent). The report found that companies within the “Reshape” category placed additional emphasis on agility, future talent and reshaping the workforce.

Mr. McLaughlin continued, by describing the “Reshape” phase and what this would mean for organisations going forward:

What is clear from the findings is that organisations that say they have reached the third stage – Reshape – are more likely to focus on the future of work.

However, the future of work is a big, multi-faceted issue that is hard to tackle, not least because it’s not clear what the term means. Its definition is often rooted in predicting the future, which is onerous – and clearly impossible. Instead, organisations can tackle the future of work by breaking it down into elements, such as optimising investment in a workforce, reducing people-related risk and ensuring a workforce is flexible and resilient enough to be capable of rising to future challenges.

*This research was taken from Aon’s report ‘Global COVID-19 HR Pulse Survey’ which surveyed 561 companies within Europe in various industries.