On the 13th May 2019, senior Corporate Social Responsibility professionals gathered at Barclays in Canary Wharf for a thought-provoking GivingForum on the topic of: Managing Social impact in a Changing Workplace.

To begin with, Ejaz, the CEO of GivingForce, warmly welcomed everyone to the event, shortly followed by welcoming remarks from Kinga Lodge, from Barclays. Then followed lively presentations and audience feedback sessions on key topics.

Presentation 1 – Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the wellness agenda

David Biden, from Human+, launched the discussion through a stimulating presentation which introduced the topic of Artificial Intelligence (AI), the 4 day working week and the wellness agenda. David walked us through the basics of Robotic Process Automation (RPA), showing us real life examples of the impact of RPA on day to day tasks at work. David was very good at humanizing the topic of AI, and in the course of his talk, dispelling common false perceptions of robots taking over our jobs. We had discussions around the benefit of RPA in the workplace, such as minimizing human risk, work consistency and reducing the amount of time spent on mundane data entry/validation tasks.

Conversations naturally progressed to the value of RPA in allowing more time to be spent on activities that necessary could not be automated, such as volunteering and personal development. As a result, RPA could help us achieve ideas of 4 day working week, as well as free up the 5th day to dedicate to other activities that would benefit employees and wider society.

Presentation 2 – The 4 day working week

Alistair Bance of B Strategy then gave a presentation about the 4 day week. Using the real life example of B Strategy’s time spent at the GivingForce offices and how for a 9 week period Friday was used as a day to encourage the GivingForce team to look at the business as a whole and create an agile work environment for the futures. The effects of it on both employee morale and productivity were incredible, and created a synergy for the business to move forward in a more efficient and streamlined way.

This led to some pragmatic insights into how companies can start thinking about this idea internally and how this 5th day could be utilised within their own companies. Whilst initially there would be an opportunity to look to increase productivity within their organisation, there would inevitably be a natural progression to using this additional time for the benefit of wider society and sit alongside the organisation’s CSR programme. Machine learning could offer CSR teams a variety of opportunities which could then bring value to and impact the work they are currently doing.

General discussion

Further discussions focused on how CSR teams could increase their social impact. The questions posed to the room were devoted to activities CSR teams would like to spend more time doing, how they could harness this time, and whether this was a feasible concept for their teams. Certain attendees mentioned that freeing up time for tasks that do not fall directly into the immediate remit of their jobs would be great, however in large CSR teams that work across various jurisdictions and time zones, flexible working can be difficult. Others suggested a team rota mechanism as a solution to such problems. This schedule built in time into employees’ days for exploring and working on new ideas that would improve their day to day tasks. Therefore, instead of the entire team keeping a day aside for, it meant that everyone had the time to work on new innovative ideas in turns without impacting the team’s day to day productivity.

Conclusion and Wrap-Up

There was a general consensus that a 4 day working could bring myriad benefits but significant hurdles may need to be overcome in traditionally organised businesses that may not be able to adapt to this in the long run.

The event concluded with an informal networking session. Guests and speakers were invited to continue the conversation and make connections with others leading the way in CSR.

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