Movement towards a more sustainable worklife

Picture of Kati Barklund

Added on by 4 min read


It seems almost like a lifetime ago now, but just a few months ago in the beginning of the year, I shared my workplace prediction for 2020 about a movement towards a more sustainable work-life. Here it is:

“The strongest and most important Workplace Trend of 2020, I believe, will be a movement towards a more Sustainable Worklife. People are, in general, not feeling that well today—health, stress, and un-engagement.

We are longing for meaning, autonomy, mastery, and deeper relationships. Our organizations are not innovative and transformational enough, and our society and planet is suffering.

With more sustainable worklife, we will catalyze both human growth and organizational development, maximizing present and future value-creation both on individual, organizational, societal and planetal level. Happy People, Happy Planet and Happy Pockets.”

Since then our workplaces, work-lives, and life in general all around the world has faced massive change due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

So, what do I think about my workplace prediction now in the light of the last months events. Is it still valid, or would I like to adjust or change it?

COVID as a catalyst

I really believe that this workplace prediction is now more important and valid than ever before, and that this event that is fundamentally changing our whole planet, including our workplaces and work-lives for ever, is also going to be an important catalyst of the movement towards a more sustainable work-life.

We cannot continue in the same way that we have done previously. We need to create a change for ourselves, our organizations, and for our planet. We need to make it more sustainable. (click to tweet)

Except for this shift and new increased focus on health and safety that we have now got. due to the pandemic, I can see couple of other major shifts that are re-shaping the world of work and workplaces profoundly right now:

  • One of these shifts is our evolving values—why, where and how we work and what we as employees expect from work.
  • Another is our evolving technology—how work gets done and value is created and maximized in an ever-changing work landscape.
  • And, yet another is the fact that our world is more connected than ever with problems and possibilities now being both systemic and global.

These shifts are here to stay and they will just keep evolving in an increasing pace.

A more sustainable worklife

I still see a movement towards a more Sustainable Worklife, and I see the pandemic as another catalyst for this. Even before the pandemic, health and well-being was a real issue in many organizations. Because we have not been that healthy and happy.

We have been stressed out in so many ways, and not just digitally. We have not been engaged in our organizations and work, and we have not been really that connected with each other either. And, our organization have struggled with attractiveness, productivity, efficiency, and sustainability generally, and with innovation and transformation capacity specifically. This has been the case already before the pandemic, and will continue even more after.

Things will never be the same again, and we will need to find ways to start adapting our workplaces and worklives accordingly, to make sure to rise again and stay there over time.

And if we look at our society and planet, we can see that they've been and still are stressed out as well. So, we have stress and huge improvement potential both on individual, organizational, societal and planetal level. And this all starts with you and me, with us "people" and our worklives.

Human growth and organizational development

With a more sustainable worklife, I believe we can catalyze both human growth and organizational development, maximizing present and future value-creation both on individual, organizational, societal and planetal level.

And, now the pandemic is acting as an important catalyst for all this. It is giving (or forcing) us, people and organizations, a break to think about what really matters. It is showing us that remote work, remote leadership, and self-leadership works perfectly and will be here to stay at least more or less. It has also given the planet a break and some time to heal (ecologically), and it has brought together people and organizations in the society to create value and make difference in these times of crisis.

We can also look at the things that are important for us as people and employees, and what we've been longing for:

  • Meaning: contributing to something value adding, something bigger and better in the society that creates a difference.
  • Autonomy: being able to influence our work and life.
  • Mastery: developing our skills and knowledge.
  • Relationships: connecting with each others, having good and also some deeper relationships.

Collaboration is really both an enabler and enhancer here, because it is together that we can create more value and a bigger and better impact, together that we can influence more, together that we can develop each other and with each other, and together that we can create those deep relationships and a fantastic culture, and above all have great fun. Together.

The organizational development staircase

If we look at our organizations today, we do not really have the right environment in many cases to create the things we have been longing for.

Imagine an organizational development staircase with 3 stairs. From the bottom to the top - Stair of fear, Stair or trust and Stair of meaning.

In most of our organizations we are unfortunately still in the first stair – stair of fear. We are afraid of making mistakes, we do not trust each other, we tell others what to do and we try to control each other. It is really important that all organizations at least get to the next stair – the stair of trust.

Trust is an important key for us to open the doors for purpose and meaning, autonomy, mastery, relationships, and collaboration. (click to tweet)

Without trust we will not be able to realize the potential in our people and organizations and create maximal value for all our stakeholders, neither for our shareholders.

Trust is here both an enabler and an enhancer. If we would see ourselves as caterpillars, trust gives us the prerequisites of wings, so that we can become the butterflies, spread out our wings and take the sky.

So, for 2020, I still see that we will start a movement towards a more Sustainable Worklife. This I believe, will catalyze both human growth and organizational development, maximizing present and future value-creation both on individual, organizational, societal and planetal level. Happy People, Happy Planet and Happy Pockets. Lot’s of butterflies taking the sky.


Kati Barklund is a Senior Workplace Strategy Manager at the Swedish workplace and property advisory company Tenant & Partner, helping clients realize their employees’ and organization’s potential. For twenty years Kati’s been working on the forefront of both physical and digital workplace areas. Before Tenant & Partner, she worked at Microsoft, Coor, Skanska and Pharmacia. She is also a member of the Leadership team of WE (Workplace Evolutionaries), a fast-growing global workplace strategy community within IFMA, and Advisory Board member of the international acoustics company Acoufelt.

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