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Transformation, the Future of Work and Optimism 2021

This study commenced in September 2021 led by our Advisory Board Member Jeff Kerr Bell.

The Centre for Optimism asks people and organisations, “What makes you Optimistic?” Why? The science says realistic optimism is the underpinning of good mental and physical health, leadership, strategy, innovation and resilience.

Even before the pandemic, society saw a rise in anxiety around technology’s impact on work. Likewise, the pandemic-driven increase in working from home with more technology has seen both positive and negative responses in employees and employers.

In this survey, we ask people to share theirexperience, practices, thoughts and wisdom to help people, leaders, organisations – and you – discover how to increase optimism about the future of work and become more innovative and resilient.

Can you see a "Better Normal" for post-COVID work practices in your organisation?

This question was at the core of our Better Normal study of 2020.  As we have realised the changes work habits of 2021, the respondents in this survey are now more confident of a workplace changed for the better by COVID.



Selected Comments: Participants were offered an optional box to add a comment.

"Cleaner, healthier, more innovative, more flexible"

"We need to make sure that people are empowered and belong and not alienated in this challenging time."

"Teams will genuinely have flexible working to maximise productivity, learning and efficiency and not just time off for hair cuts."

"More adept use of online meetings and connections."

"Greater trust in people's ability to work flexibly."

"It starts with acceptance and not looking back at what was. We need to get more comfortable with ambiguity and also listen more to our people who have learnt new ways to work and ensure we bank these learnings and not try and go back to what was before."

"I am working in the outdoors, but in an industry that is brutally closed down. However, the state of emergency means that nothing can happen. Participants in a group tour may be capped, which currently occurs, and small reminders of practices, which I hope will not be necessary for a length of time."

"The previous normal did not work. So the better normal has to look at the changes that have taken place and include them in the 'better' process."

Comments on "Do you see a "Better Normal" for your work post-COVID?"

What is the main element you want in your future business environment?


What makes you optimistic about the Future of Work? 

"The pandemic has made people and organisations rethink what hybrid work looks like and will lead to better outcomes for wellbeing and employee satisfaction.

"Better work-life balance

"Innovation and opportunity

That remote and hybrid work will be a norm for the future

People and companies might be more flexible and realistic.

Broader diversity of skills will be required, which presents an opportunity for many.

I believe that business will bounce back once the lockdowns end. But, importantly, I believe some of the changes and 'pivots' that have happened over the 20 months will improve efficiency and help work-life balance.

Uptake of remote/working from home during the Covid pandemic has demonstrated high productivity in workforces, reduced need for intense management and considerable savings in personal time formerly taken up by travel, work meetings and social mingling. The almost overnight uptake of Zoom and other Apps across Aus and the Globe have improved connectivity in workplaces and between interstate and OS branches and facilitated partnerships. The need for business travel will never be the same again! While there have been greater pressures on many parents working from home and having to home school, particularly in Victoria (Australia), many families have benefitted from more shared time and the increased understanding and appreciation of each other, good and regular home-cooked meals, etc. On the other hand, I know in some families there has been domestic violence and stress; some relationships have imploded and made things worse.

Ability to return to the office post-vaccine. Greater flexibility. Things will be better than 2020/21. There is a better use of technology.

There are always so many possibilities in what we as humans can do and need to do moving forward. I feel I have so much more to offer: I am just getting started.

I believe that people are creative, inventive and that they cannot be suppressed. I understand that even with compliance issues, with the possibility that some businesses may not survive, there will be a renaissance of different models to engage people. I have hope.

A new way of work

Who do you see as a leader driving a positive future of work?

Me!  “If it has to be, it is up to me!” reflected many answers.  So too “all of us” and so too everyone.

“Younger people are now stepping up to the mark and driving change”

There were many examples of “My Boss”

Well-known contemporary tech leaders like Elon Musk featured along with the leaders of Google, Satya Nadella at Microsoft and the Atlassian founders.  So too Melanie Perkins of Canva.  Andrew Forrest is popular too.

A favourite of ours David Cooperrider and the Appreciative Inquiry movement was nominated.  Simon Sinek was nominated several times.  The Centre for Optimism and Victor Perton featured in several answers.

Others: Adam Bowcutt, Adam Grant, AHRI, Alan Joyce, AMP’s Alexis George, Amy Singe, Andy Haldane of the RSA, Anne Moore, Paula Kensington, Bill Gates, Brene Brown, Chip Conley, Adam Grant, Lee Harris, Abraham-Hicks, Cindy Hook, Damian Falkingham, David Ulrich, Deloitte CEO Adam Powick, Dr Kirstin Ferguson, Eve Bell, , Greg Embleton, Halla Tómasdóttir, Bryn Freedman, Harley Finklestein the President of Shopify, Heather Yelland of The Elevation Company, Holger Knaack the Immediate Past Rotary International President, Richard Claydon, Simon Sinek, Jeff Berwick, Julie Sweet, Justin Gray (Datacom New Zealand), Kaj Lofgren, Kathryn Goetzke for Hopeful Mindsets, Jim Doty for Compassion Lara Olsen the MD South East Water, Marina Go, Director, Energy Australia, Chair, Netball Australia , Mark Bouris, Martin Probst of PROfound Leadership, Mary Crooks CEO of the Victorian Women's Trust, Michael Priddis CEO of Faethm, Michelle McQuaid and The Change Lab, Mike Cannon-Brooks, Alison Hernandez, Nick Bell, Seth Godin, Gary Vanerchuck, Stephen Pinker, Tracey Ezard, Adam Voigt, PINGIN WISE’s Jamie Bartie, President Robert Nelson of Sacramento State University, Sally Curtain

Business organisations included the Victorian Chamber of Commerce

Political figures included two retirees Angela Merkel and Gladys Berijiklian. Others who were nominated included Italian President Mario Draghi, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Victorian State Premier Dan Andrews, David Seymour of New Zealand’s ACT Party, Penny Wong, James Merlino, Tanya Davies MP, Tanya Plibesek, Melbourne Mayor Sally Capp.

Religious figures like the Dalai Lama and Buddha appeared.

Broader answers included “Those who practise Servant Leadership will be most likely to drive a positive future of work.”


Is your organisation undergoing a transformation?


Any story to share on companies, organisations and leaders driving positive change?

Federation Square Pty Ltd has been very accommodating on all levels and genuinely concerned about me. However, with no visitors, no tours. Just knowing that somehow, I do count makes all the difference.

Adidas is making the change by incorporating the word optimism in their mission

I am self-employed. Remote work and online meetings have often suited me, particularly in my voluntary work with broader connections in Rotary.

Court Services Victoria’s support for singles WFH during covid - thoughtful and action-oriented.

Optimistic and inspiring messages about ‘what will be’ are more likely to lead to realising the benefits of transformation. Michael Priddis and his team at Faethm are leading that work on the positive outcomes from transitioning Workforce and technology innovation.

Be optimistic, show respect, walk the talk.

They have to be flexible and consider how any interventions have other ramifications they demand of their workers.

Bringing people together in a time of change

Get your work done on your time - and that can be different for us all.

I am just trying to do the best we can in the current situation.

Leaders and organisations are becoming more purpose-led and driven - this is a significant change and evolution to celebrate and do more of



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