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The future of work has been just around the corner for some time...

by Rachael Yolland


My favourite book, Replay (Ken Grimwood, 1986), tells of a 43-year- old man who repeatedly dies and awakens in his 18-year-old body. He relives his life, each time choosing
a different path using hindsight. Effectively a precursor to Groundhog Day, the tale that repeatedly references the way many have lived during lockdown. Another walk, anyone?!


With many companies, and perhaps governments, wishing for the benefit of hindsight, this was not needed by Ashfield MedComms. There are no regrets and we didn’t pause with the rest of the world; we put our work family, our people, first.

We continued to be people-obsessed, and in 2020:

  • 150 people were hired and 200 were promoted
  • Our learning programme, The Academy, was delivered 100% remotely
  • We invested £4.5m in training
  • Over 100 people graduated from our award- winning allegro programme, accelerating the development of medical writers.

We also:

  • Gave those with COVID-19 caring responsibilities the gift of time, without guilt or impact on pay
  • Turned engagement into an addiction: building on strong psychological safety and trust, we communicated authentically, stayed together virtually, encouraged humanised check-ins and had fun together
  • Focused on mental health by creating resources around resilience and managing from home, and trained one in 35 team members to be Mental Health First Aiders. One in three people accessed dedicated wellness support
  • Paid bonuses and reviewed salaries for all, keeping all jobs safe
  • Supported our community through donations (totalling more than £20,000) to many charities, including the Trussell Trust, and
    we provided ~150 laptops to schools. Our well-established Dynamic Flexible Working policy allowed our people to transition to permanent homeworking immediately,
    and to plan days around the myriad of new concerns, such as home-schooling, family care and maintaining wellness. All this always sat alongside a compassionate recognition of individual needs and strengths. One size would not fit all; each of our colleagues had their own story to tell.

Fast-forward to the future of work

We have an opportunity to continue to disrupt convention and challenge the way we work, something that has been with us for a while. As mindsets shift, expectations change and diversity in thinking becomes ever more important; we need to remain agile. We need to continue to respond to the changes across our people and our business to further strengthen our trailblazing proposition.

What comes next?

Ultimately, we want to build on the positives learnt from enforced homeworking while still enjoying new freedoms when the time is right. We need to place ourselves outside the ‘languishing zone’, where people feel ‘meh’ about the world, and ensure that we can all find our flow; that ‘sweet spot’ when time floats away, where we work at our best and feel fully engaged and energised. This may result in many of us being in the office on some days and at home on others. Some days may be longer, others may be more flexible, with thoughtful planning and organisation.

Critically, we need to keep sight of the key components that form the PERMA model where flow also has a home (Seligman, 2012), where ‘flourishing’ is our desired outcome, which will Make it Matter for our people. Prominently, research shows significant positive associations between each of the PERMA components and physical health, vitality, job and life satisfaction and commitment (Kern, Waters, Alder, & White, 2014) – a worthy list.

The PERMA model:

  • Positive emotions – experiencing positive feelings such as gratitude, inspiration, curiosity, enjoying the ‘here and now’
  • Engagement (flow) – when truly engaged time stops, we lose ourselves, we concentrate intensely
  • Relationships – positive social interactions, a feeling of belonging to a team
  • Meaning – serving a cause
  • Achievements – taking pride in success, feeling valued.

So, the future of work is not just about the actual work, but that should come as no surprise. Our challenge is to consistently check that the melting pot of inputs is creating the right outcomes for our people, especially with a fluctuating change from permanent homeworking to greater freedoms in physical location, mobility, accessibility and working patterns.

Ultimately, at Ashfield MedComms we trust our colleagues to make their choices about their working arrangements, so they can do their best work. Long gone are the days of a parental approach to leadership and forcing a set routine simply because it’s easier to administrate.

One size certainly does not fit all, but one philosophy does: managers and individuals working in partnership to agree what works, reflecting the type of work they do, our clients’ needs, deadlines, personal development, teamwork, home needs and more.

Finally, psychological and physical safety will continue to be fundamental hygiene factors. Some people will be nervous about returning, and that’s understandable. We will walk hand-in-hand with our people and inspire meaningful, progressive and lasting change.

To find out more about Ashfield MedComms, visit

Rachael Yolland is HR Director International at Ashfield Health, part of UDG Healthcare plc

In association with

23rd July 2021

From: Marketing


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