SheSays x Soho House: re-designing the 9–5 could revolutionise the way we relate to our work

Our education system and working systems are deeply connected: the way we shape one impacts the other. In the same way that the coming ‘new industrial revolution’ caused by the Age of Automation will change what education needs to look like, it will also cause us to think very differently about how we work, as well as how we relate to it. But we needn’t wait until the changes promised by automation fully take hold as people are already exploring new alternatives to the traditional 9–5, office based structure and are beginning to implement it, today.

It’s within this context that I took great interest in the latest event, hosted by diversity entrepreneur Leyya Sattar, Co-Founder of The Other Box and Casey Bird, president of women’s creative community SheSays in collaboration with Soho House. In many ways both organisations are reflective of huge driving cultural trends that are taking place right now that are transforming the way we work: changing structures to drive inclusion on one hand, creating spaces where people can work or play on the other. The event entitled: Redesigning the 9–5 was a highly inspiring panel discussion attended by a mix of creatives within agencies, in-house specialists, freelancers and entrepreneurs. The discussion exposed a range of themes in workplace transformation that I believe we will see going mainstream within forward thinking traditional business in the coming years:

‘Virtual culture’ for remote but connected workers: female creatives, frustrated by lack of flexibility within traditional companies and the pressures of family are building initiatives within their own business or starting to build their own businesses on their terms — developing connected virtual teams of experts that charge based on meeting objectives rather than hours. It was fascinating to hear the story told by panellist Emma Sexton, co-founder of Flock Global who also had a great response to the question “but how do you create culture without an office”? Simply by reflecting values in how we communicate with remote teams, in the way we work together, and the way we accommodate changing lifestyle needs. Panellist Pippa Bhatt, founder of production company MADAM, is led by three mothers — she showed how with a remote team women needn’t choose ‘family OR success’ — it is inclusive of women by design, and therefore you can have both.

Collaboration over competition: while some competition between businesses will always exist, there is an increasing interest in today’s entrepreneurs as what Flock’s manifesto refers to as “Sharing contacts and pooling resources… a very different way of doing business from the traditional competitive mindset” Promising signs of this are also appearing in the traditional working world: Another panellist, Ernestina Potts referenced how having a side business in an unrelated field positively impacted her role as Head of Campaigns at virgin, providing creative inspiration and new ways of seeing business problems. This focus on collaboration could create better working cultures: dissolving the perceived need for internal ‘fiefdoms’ and political struggles that impact the quality of working life and therefore, productivity.

The ‘third space between work and play’: I can’t take credit for this idea — I nabbed it from the amazing Otegha Ugwaba of Women Who. This idea is the most fascinating to me personally as it shows how work life balance is being replaced by work-life merging. Members clubs for the creative industry represent a ‘third space’ that facilitate the synergies emerging between work and play; where people build business contacts that become friendships and vice versa, where side hustles and passion projects make people better at their day jobs, where people start their own businesses and attract investment from the organisations they used to work for.

The merging of the work and education systems: co-working spaces (an area that Soho House has interestingly, also moved into) act as a catalyst for change in the traditional working world: WeWork and Second Home partner with education business General Assembly to create classes that enable people to up-skill at speed, and pivot into new careers within 3 months rather than taking costly and time-consuming 2 year full-time postgraduate courses; something which many people’s modern lives cannot accommodate.

Thanks to this evening, SheSays will definitely stay on my radar as a community that has its finger on the pulse regarding the latest changes to working culture. I look forward to seeing what they do next.

Photo credit: Leyya Sattar, who I also thank for the event invitation