The rapid acceleration of flexible working habits delivered a clutch of unpredictable consequences, including a loss of social connectivity and a destabilisation of Auckland’s central city. In response, Britomart embarked on two research projects that looked at the future of work and the social and economic sustainability of the central city.

The first research project, a publication entitled Three Views on the Future of Work, spoke to three experts about changing workplace patterns and how to respond to them. Sarah Wright, an associate professor at the University of Canterbury’s Business School, has been studying the phenomenon of workplace loneliness for decades – and noticed a dramatic increase in reports of it since remote work became more common. Sarah’s research, which has been published in the Harvard Business Review, talks about the consequences of workplace loneliness and the effects it has on everything from mental health to productivity. The solution? “This is not just a worker problem, but also an organisational problem,” Sarah says. In our interview, Sarah talked about the need for workplaces to rethink the social structures and the way they are encouraging connection and a sense of belonging among their teams.

Flexible work is here to stay, but that makes forging connections even more of an imperative. These connections are the bedrock of social cohesion, a key ingredient to collective action on sustainability. In our first Future of Work publication, we also spoke to Dallas-based architect Erin Peavey about the way companies can configure their office spaces to foster a sense of connection. And John Kirwan, the founder of workplace wellbeing organisation Groov, discussed the importance of mental health strategies at work and the positive impact they can have on everybody’s sense of belonging.

In our second publication, This is how we want to work now, we asked five workers under 30 what work meant to them. The popular narrative around younger workers has sometimes suggested they are flighty and flaky – but our group was a committed range of individuals who had a deep understanding of what they wanted from their workplaces, and how important in-person connection at work was to them. Just as important, they were clear about their purpose, and how their work could be a meaningful contribution to resolving the wider issues at play in the world. We made free printed copies of both these publications available in Britomart’s Atrium on Takutai, as well as publishing all the interviews online. We hope the research helps business leaders contemplate the fundamental role workplaces play in connecting people, and the way these connections can enrich the city and people’s lives. This work extends beyond social sustainability, as social connectivity is vital at encouraging a sense of belonging and a consequent desire to collectively tackle environmental challenges.

NEXT / Find out how Auckland stacks up against comparable global cities in an interview with Pam Ford, Director of Investment and Industry at Tātaki Auckland Unlimited.