News & Insights

Read and share Parliament Hill insights and news on the tips, trends, and key developments we’ve identified for benefit management and member satisfaction.

Celebrating 20 years of change

Parliament Hill is celebrating its 20th anniversary, and this is a fine opportunity to explore the massive changes that took place in the world of work over the last two decades.

It has been an era of game-changing scientific and business creativity, where many inventions we use routinely today feel like they have always existed and some even drive vast new business sectors.  And the pace of change is accelerating.  A much-used test is Moore’s Law - the number of transistors in a computer chip doubles every two years - was a good rule of thumb.  That rate is slowing today, but new developments like artificial intelligence are emerging to sustain this phenomenal rate of change.

Historians will set this era in context.  In this second millennium, we have witnessed the end of a second Elizabethan age, mourning the passing of a much-loved Queen; we’ve enjoyed successful global events, Olympic Games and World Cups and we’ve endured a plethora of prominent political events, brutal wars and deadly terrorist attacks like 9/11.  There were erupting volcanoes, tsunamis and hurricanes, and climate change led to increasingly severe weather.  Taken together, these all had severe impacts on most organisations, and everyone had their own unique experience of the 2008 global credit crunch, the COVID lockdowns of 2020-21 and, in the UK, Brexit.   

But what were the underlying mega-trends?  Let’s assign the outstanding workplace developments in the last 20 years into four main groups:

Nature of work – the structure of jobs and associated working practices were revolutionised. Although we still make things and still need professional and personal services, there’s a been massive shift towards a remote service approach to teamworking and customer delivery, including the creation of a vast digital sharing economy.  The working community was enabled at lightning speed by the world wide web, digital tools, open networks, collaborative working, a world of work where sector knowledge and skills in even the most menial jobs had to be complemented by higher order digital skill for success.   

Communications – the widening of access and increasing mobility of network communications has been inescapable.  Many inventions we find it hard to manage without were only invented a few years ago, a torrent of game changing creations: YouTube (2005), Facebook (2005), Twitter (2006), Spotify (2006), iPhone (2007), Android Phones (2008), Tesla (2008) and Bitcoin (2009). Alongside inventions from the 20 th century such as the World Wide Web, Google and GPS that took off in the 21 st century, these innovations revolutionised almost every aspect of the economy.

Paper has doggedly resisted its long-predicted demise, but we finally moved to less paper or even paperless as personal computers, iPads and iPhones took over,effectively they became consumables and transformed the office space. At last, we saw the end of the FAX machine, the serried ranks of filing cabinets and the mail room, to be replaced for good or for ill by vigorous growth of IT Departments.

Office buildings  – trends in the changing structure of the office that began in the last century continued to accelerate. Mobile technology made it more and more possible to have open plan working in distributed teams.  Continued redesign of the office was encouraged by advances in technology enabling hot desk working, less compartmentalised, much more informal layouts and latterly more meeting and social areas for staff to maintain human physical contact that helped people engage better with each other.  A whole new business of temporary office hire was accelerated by the Covid lockdown but was soon followed by a noticeable trend towards working from home particularly hybrid patterns, multiple permutations of office and home working. And the ultimate hustle: it is now possible to run a business with only a smart phone, no office required?

Employment – the nature of the workforce using this technology changed.  The workforce is now so much more equal, more diverse, better educated and technically trained.  More and more staff could use the power of the new technology: to find and keep data more readily, undertake research and access learning tools: all better to stay in touch and get an edge.  Our work climate has become more informal, more flexible, less hierarchical and more empowered (not always I know) where changing working practices are today reflected in more flexible working hours and a more relaxed dress code so that every day is ‘dress down Friday’ where business suits, ties and high heels are a thing of the past.

And some things haven’t changed

Some things don’t change. Just as business travel is not totally replaced by Zoom or Teams, tried and tested leadership and management skills needed in any profession or in any business - such as strategic thinking, teamworking, flexible working, innovation and creativity, customer service and commercial agility – still determine business success no matter how the technology changes.  Leading a team online presents different challenges to F2F, but it calls on the same personal core skill set to motivate and empower people. 

Digitisation has reached almost every part of organisational life, driving the shape of business over many years, but analogue skills are clinging on. A ‘less’ paper rather than paperless office means you can still find copiers, scanners, whiteboards, marker pens, pencils and the humble paperclip in the stationery cupboard.  Finally for fans of David Brent’s ‘The Office’, Gareth’s stapler cast in a jelly by his nemesis Tim still resonates today.  


Author: Dr Mark Pegg, Director, Chalfont Associates

To find out more on what else Parliament Hill have planned to celebrate our 20-year anniversary, please click here .

Get in touch

To make an online enquiry, please fill in the form below