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Making work human: why people-centred companies are the future of work

By Derek Irvine, SVP Strategy, Workhuman

Businesses are facing a watershed moment in the way work is performed, managed, and experienced.  And while change can be difficult, this sudden shift in direction presents organisations with the unique opportunity to reinvent how they operate in a world where traditional modes of work have been turned on their head.  

As business and human behaviour expert, Daniel Pink posits, “If work is such a huge part of human life, shouldn’t humanity be a huge part of working life?” In my recently released book, “Making Work Human,” co-written with Workhuman CEO Eric Mosley, we look at how organisations can better infuse the workplace with humanity and why doing so is the way forward.

Despite the challenges they are currently facing, organisations are still striving to maintain connection, community, and a sense of purpose at the heart of their businesses. Companies with human-focused workplaces, whether physical or virtual, are seeing that employee engagement, innovation, and productivity can still thrive, even in a rapidly changing work world.

By following a simple blueprint for making work human, business leaders can ensure that they are creating a workplace that attracts, engages and retains the best talent, even amidst the new realities of the workplace.


Expressing genuine gratitude for people’s work efforts and positive behaviour can go a long way in building strong relationships and creating a culture of positivity. Yet, according to a recent Workhuman survey, nearly half (49.4 percent) of workers reported that they hadn’t received a single “thank you” from their colleagues or manager during the pandemic. 

This is despite the fact that recognition can be given in any number of ways, from Slack messages and emails, to video or phone calls. Even in today’s remote working world, technology like social recognition platforms can still empower everyone to recognise employee contributions, not just managers. In turn, social recognition data can help organisations understand and address the urgent challenges facing organisations today, like performance management and diversity and inclusion. Ultimately, when people feel recognised and appreciated, both individuals and organisations alike benefit from greater engagement and productivity. 


Although there are a seemingly endless number of channels for people to communicate with in the modern workplace, the value of regular, one-to-one chats in person (or over video) cannot be underestimated. 

‘Talk’ doesn’t mean just mean the everyday communication needed to get tasks done. It’s more about managers checking in with employees on a regular basis and coaching employees with insight and training. In these tumultuous times, having frequent manager and employee check-ins is particularly important in bringing people and teams together in a community-driven, human workplace. 


So much of our time is spent with colleagues during the working week, and as pets, partners, and children have begun to enter the frame of our work lives, it stands to reason that we ought to embrace bringing our whole selves to work, and celebrate the important moments in each other’s lives, such as a wedding, a baby, or even completing a virtual marathon.

Celebrating each other’s achievements and milestones is a natural way to bring more humanity into the workplace, and build community and connection. 


When it comes to building more human work experience, companies can take guidance from the Charter of Workplace Rights. Like the UN’s 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Charter of Workplace Rights includes fundamental rights like equal pay for equal work and the right to time for rest and leisure.

Working to uphold these workplace rights – whether it’s the workplace right to privacy, safety, or meaningful work – creates workplaces that are more responsive to human needs, and companies that not only improve employee experience, but also business results. 

Recent events have accelerated the need for virtualisation in the workplace, but although technology will inevitably play a key role in today and tomorrow’s work world, the same is true of humanity. Alongside technology, organisations can make advancements in creating human-centric workplaces, where people feel welcomed and celebrated for what they bring to the table. 

As the UN declared over 70 years ago when it adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone has the right “to just and favourable conditions of work.” Embracing today’s charter of workplace rights and implementing a concrete strategy for creating a human-centred work experience will allow organisations to thrive and innovate, not only amidst the recent tectonic shifts in the business landscape but into the years beyond.