Talking Heads – 2019 HR in Hospitality Conference

By Steve Williams

The Future of HR: the changing workplace

Angela O’Connor – Founder and CEO, The HR Lounge


It’s a different world now and one in which a five day often dreadful commute has been swopped for much-needed flexibility between home and ‘work’. This is only going to increase in the future, with more people wanting to work remotely or, in the effort for businesses to seek out the right people, home working being offered as standard.

While on the surface this appears positive and in line with employee expectations, it can also come at a cost. Loneliness is a real issue for many workers, with detachment having not only an impact on performance but also on confidence; leading to reductions in engagement and performance.

Managing remote workers takes skill and effort beyond a reliance on email or other technical solutions for collaboration. HR professionals need to work with managers to find ways to connect through the phone, in person and through teleconferencing. They can also use feedback to find out what people feel about their levels of connection and how that impacts on their engagement and productivity. Talking to staff about their experiences is also a useful reason to bring people together to talk about how their experience can be enhanced.

It is also important for organisations to be clear with their staff that working at home does not come with an instruction to stay glued to a screen all day. Working at home without the distractions of the chat and breaks is much more intense than being in an office. Time away from the screen is needed on a regular basis, hopefully with some fresh air as well.

Detachment does not only occur with those who are home-based. It can happen in organisations where staff have high levels of screen time and limited opportunities for interaction and connection. Here, creating opportunities for connection and ensuring people can digitally disconnect at points throughout the day is the solution. But remember, people are different so it’s important to talk to them and find out what would work for them. You’ll find some have no issues with managing and regulating their detachment whereas for others, having more structured ways to interact with their colleagues would be a joy. It’s about finding the right balance.

And remember, whatever you advocate it will only happen if modelled by the top team and senior managers. You need to get these people on-board to drive the change. Only then can you take action to ensure that loneliness and isolation is recognised as an increasing risk, that it’s talked about and acted upon.


Angela O’Connor is CEO and Founder of The HR Lounge, a boutique HR consultancy which works with private and public sector organisations. (