The last word
Professor Fiona Devine reflects on the future of work and working practices.
As my colleagues at the Work and Equalities Institute (WEI) remark in this issue, this is a watershed moment for the future of work and working practices.
As WEI Director Anthony Rafferty notes, the pandemic has not just impacted our working lives today.
It has made us think about the long-term future of work, about the way we collaborate with each other in the workplace, and about the place of work in our lives overall. How much we will commute to work and by what means will affect our carbon footprint too.
Closer to home, the pandemic has also made business schools think about their own ways of working. In response to COVID-19, schools initiated great change to their ways of working, with the move towards online teaching, hybrid working models, and virtual seminars and conferences the most obvious examples. Now we find ourselves asking how the move to online learning will accelerate, deepen and widen in the world of business education. Most, importantly, what is the balance between face-to face and online learning?
Here at Alliance Manchester Business School (AMBS) the jury is still out on what that balance might be. We know that our students really like a blended approach – such as we offer on our Global MBA – and really value in-person teaching and learning.
These considerations are just as relevant to lifelong learning and the wider executive education market too. As we come out of the pandemic, finding new and innovative ways to bring staff together and further develop team cultures will be a central focus for employers.
Indeed at AMBS, where we run a number of customised programmes, we are already seeing the popularity of professional development open programmes on the rise. Such programmes not only give learners the opportunity to acquire new leadership skills. In addition, they generate significant networking opportunities, and there is every indication that the market for executive education is likely to grow significantly.
The pandemic also made business schools think about their own ways of working.
Meanwhile, in the aftermath of the pandemic, another major trend we are seeing across business schools is a renewed focus on the wider benefits to society of their teaching and research, and increasing alignment with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The University of Manchester is already well ahead of the game in this context after last year being named the world’s number one university for action on sustainable development in the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings.
The University was praised for its success in embedding SDGs in areas such as teaching and research practice, public engagement activity, and responsible campus operations. The award shows how taking societal commitments seriously affects all aspects of a university’s operations, including its physical infrastructure, management, and procurement. The whole environment in which we research and teach has to be considered.
Precisely these points were discussed at the recent Manchester Festival of Climate Action which considered the challenges at the forefront of the climate crisis (see page 12). In one session Jenni Rose, Senior Lecturer in Accounting and Finance, hosted a panel debate with three of our current MBA students exploring how teaching accounting needs to change to reflect climate change risks.
As one of our students Nkem Igwe succinctly put it during the event: "Through my studies I look at sustainability from every angle. Companies are now looking for how well you are investing in sustainability and how much you care about it before you invest. AMBS is consciously bringing sustainability into every aspect of what we do, into every subject."
No matter how we deliver our learning in the future – be it online, blended or in-person – we must not lose sight of these core substantive messages along the way either.