Working with Australia’s leading organisations means we are supporting them on a range of strategic business initiatives, to drive safety outcomes in the workplace of the future. These organisations are extending themselves beyond the regulatory assessment of ‘reasonable practicability’ and embracing innovation. Here is a snapshot of some of the pioneering work.

Collaboration is creating relevance

Addressing issues including mental wellbeing and workplace responses to domestic violence and sexual misconduct require multidisciplinary approaches. The risk management skill set which health and safety professionals possess has an important part to play in a holistic approach that should be used in collaboration with human and resource management professionals. The most creative organisations understand that cross-disciplinary teams are best placed to respond to new workplace challenges and facilitate pooling of ideas from safety, human resources, industrial, wellbeing and other professionals – working in true collaboration.

The recent discussion paper on Mentally Healthy Workplaces in New South Wales recognised the importance of identifying organisational psychosocial risks together with individual psychosocial risks such as bereavement, or new parent fatigue which may render workers more vulnerable to psychosocial risks at work. A traditional risk management approach does not provide a complete answer and organisations are responding by allowing safety professionals to upskill to identify  meaningful strategies that will improve health and wellbeing.

Networks and contacts

Safety professionals cannot possibly hope to be subject matter experts on every topic as their work, and the tools available to them, expand. Take for example, big data. We all know that if we can harness and mine the wealth of data we capture, we are more likely to be pro-active and could, for example, better predict issues like plant break down or fatigue onset. This opportunity sees safety professionals reaching for their metaphorical rolodex to build an understanding of, or the ability to source, specialist skills in data analytics and coding.

Pioneering safety professions are building and maintaining wide networks of specialists from a variety of fields and encouraging their teams to do the same. Being less insular makes the profession more relevant and responsive.

Some of the most pioneering safety initiatives we have seen in recent times draw on the skills of illustrators, computer animators, actors and advertising creatives (to name a few). As our appetite for digesting written information decreases, the most innovative organisations will foster collaboration between safety professionals and others to ‘keep it real’.

Viva la refinement

Avoiding the temptation to ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater’ when responding to challenges. Asking if existing frameworks, with refinement, will address new challenges. The supply chain risk of modern day slavery is a good example. Where the pre-qualification processes, system of inspections, audits and verification that are familiar tools to the safety professional are ones which, with refinement, can be deployed to address aspects of working conditions at the ends of supply chains so they are not exploitative.

Nimbleness and harnessing technological platforms

We have previously written on the employment law challenges which arise from highly flexible workforces. For safety professionals a similar set of challenges arise because there are likely fewer traditional ‘touch points’ with workers and less ‘face time’ when compared to more traditional models of work.

Increasingly, flexible approaches are being used to induct workers, maintain training, provide an appropriate level of supervision and create and maintain the safety culture businesses desire in highly flexible workforces. Nimble organisations are supporting safety professionals to build multi-disciplinary teams to change their modes of delivery and to embrace the same technological platforms which allow for the flexibility in employment to communicate safety messages.


Our ‘future of work’ series has been considering how businesses will need to grow and adapt to changes to the way in which work will be performed in the future. Many of these developments flow from significant advances in technology that we have seen over the last 20 years – for example, increased automation, increased use of robotics and increased computing power have made many traditional roles redundant, while increased communications potential has meant that many workers can perform their roles flexibly. We understand these developments as the law firm known for our role in transformational legal industry and labour and employment issues, we believe it is our responsibility to harness our knowledge, experience and relationships to forge a path for the Future Employer.

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The gig economy is only one of the reasons that workers of the future will not have close connections with one employer or business – another is the movement towards arranging their life so that they spend substantial periods of time not working at all.

The trend towards regularly spending long periods of time away from the workforce is highlighted in an article by Christine Long in the Sydney Morning Herald considering people who only work a few months of the year, and the renowned demographer Bernard Salt’s column in The Australian that looks at changes that millennials will bring to the workforce. Continue Reading The future of work: managing a workforce that is away half the year

We have been watching with close interest the exponential expansion of crypto-currencies. These instruments, such as Bitcoin, Ethereum and Litecoin, are methods of secure, electronic transfer of value between individuals using advanced digital encryption techniques – without any central regulation by government.

Recent research published by The Conversation suggests that crypto-currencies are showing no signs of being merely a speculative bubble. With their recent translation from purely online origins into tangible interfaces, for example, the establishment of Bitcoin ATMs in Australia, employers need to consider not only the future of work, but the future of the ways in which businesses will be able to, or might want to, reward contribution. Continue Reading The future of work: when will I be able to pay employees in Bitcoin?

One of the more interesting recent developments in relation to work has been the continual rise and development of the gig economy – that is, workers developing niche areas of specialist expertise, but having careers characterised by a series of interactions with various organisations, rather than being employed by one company for many years. This doesn’t just mean a person working in multiple jobs over the course of their life, but that they are much more likely to be running their own independent business providing services to customers.

Over the last 15 – 20 years, many businesses have made the distinction between core and non-core functions, using that distinction to drive and make judgment calls about the nature and form of their relationships with those contributing to their business (including employees, contractors, suppliers or others). With the development of the gig economy, businesses will need to be more sophisticated in their analysis, taking a much more fundamental and holistic view of how they want the business actually to operate – entrepreneurs, leaders and managers need to consider how the emerging gig economy will impact on the structure of the business’s relationships with its contributors.

So, how can your business make the most of the opportunities that a gig economy offers, while also managing the legal, reputational and business risks of dealing with multiple independent contractors? Continue Reading The future of work: using the gig economy to your advantage

Working from homeThere are lessons to be learnt about the future of work in one of my favourite episodes of The Simpsons titled ‘King-size Homer’, from the seventh season which aired over 20 years ago.

As you may recall, Mr Burns tries to get employees at the nuclear power plant ‘in shape’ by leading a workplace exercise program. As expected, however, Homer avoids this by taking advantage of the rule that someone who weighs more than 300 pounds will be classified as disabled and can then work from home. Unsurprisingly, he manages to gain the necessary weight and a computer terminal is installed in the Simpson house to allow him to do his very safety-critical work (monitoring a nuclear reactor!) remotely. Continue Reading The future of work: avoiding the nuclear reactor bird

Work imageWhat will work look like in the future and what lessons can employers take from that? Two recent reports have identified the trends in the way in which we will work in Australia over the next 20 to 40 years.

In the first, Tomorrow’s Digitally Enabled Workforce, the CSIRO looks at what they describe as six ‘megatrends’ for jobs and employment markets over the coming twenty years: Continue Reading The future of work – what are the lessons for employers?

We recently had the pleasure of hearing from Futurist Ross Dawson in an exclusive conversation about the powerful drivers that are reshaping work at a dramatic pace in the coming years.

Join us for the second of a two-part series on the future of the world of work. During this discussion-based session, our US and International Employment team will address the high-level legal issues and implications of the key themes that Ross discussed in Part 1, including technology, society, structure, work, location, performance, and leadership.

The discussion will address critical questions employers should consider when it comes to employment in the future, including:

• What does the move to distributed work models and the gig economy mean for employment protections and representation across the globe?
• How do talent acquisition and performance management models keep up with “any time, any place” working?
• Where the law does not reflect the new reality, how do employers balance compliance with keeping their competitive edge, and how do employers take advantage of the new possibilities that Ross outlined?

The speakers are:

Dave Baffa, Partner, Labor and Employment
Rachel Bernasconi, Partner, International Employment Law
Ana Cid, Partner, International Employment Law
Chelsea Mesa, Partner, Labor and Employment

If you missed out on Part 1 of this series, you can view the recording here or read our recap here.

Register here for the webinar.

The future of work is in the process of being created. The leaders who seize the immense opportunity to attract and leverage the best talent in a swiftly changing world will excel. Interestingly, our own data shows that more people are hopeful about the future of work than they were five years ago.

You are invited to join Seyfarth co-hosts, David Baffa and Jesse Pauker, for a conversation with Ross Dawson, futurist and one of the world’s leading thinkers on the future of work. This keynote will explore the powerful drivers reshaping work at a dramatic pace in coming years, including:

  • Technology such as pervasive data capture, AI, and 3D videoconferencing that will shift the role of humans in work
  • Rising expectations from employees, investors, and customers that will shape business practices
  • The shift to platform business models which is reshaping the nature of value creation

As a result of the pandemic, companies will have to make fundamental strategic decisions among a diverse array of location-focused or hybrid work configurations, and optimise work practices for the reality of distributed workforces.

As organisations redesign work to focus on the unique human capabilities that complement AI, the war for talent will intensify and job roles will become more fluid. These shifts will accentuate uncertainty and risk in workforce management, but also offer the potential to build exceptionally effective organisations.

If the timing doesn’t work for the first live webinar, you can get a recording to watch in your own time by registering.

Register Here for the webinar and to secure your recording.

Stay tuned for information for part two of the Future of the World of Work, for insights on the legal implications and issues that organisations should consider as workplaces evolve.

 

 


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SurveillanceTechnological advances in monitoring and surveillance call to mind the lyrics of The Police’s widely misinterpreted hit, Every Breath You Take. But how will this emerging new frontier play out in workplaces and work practices? As technology continues to accelerate, many employers are starting to think about how to harness these developments in order to achieve greater workplace productivity and consistent health and safety outcomes.

When we think of workplace surveillance, it’s easy to get stuck thinking about the traditional measures that have been widely used for the last 10 years or so – email monitoring, CCTV and the occasional dash-board camera. These methods have historically been used for safety, security and compliance. But as workplaces become more remote and isolated and there are lower numbers of employees on any one site, organisations are looking beyond traditional methods and embracing the latest monitoring technology – both to deal with safety and security, but also as a direct way of measuring employee productivity. Continue Reading Every breath you take, every move you make – the future of measuring workplace productivity