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Designing More Human Workplaces

3 minute read

By Sarah McLellan, Author of Make it Human

We have experienced quite possibly the fastest and most radical over-hauling of work, ever. And yet, feelings of unhappiness and loneliness, burnout and work-related health issues are at an all-time high. In addition, relationships between organisations and people are fractious.


We have an opportunity to purposefully design happier, healthier, more human workplaces for us and generations to come, if we choose to do so. If we don’t, we risk slipping into a murky pool of existence, rather than being.

Under immense heat and pressure, metal will change form. This is what COVID did for work. After years of slowly experimenting with technology and new work patterns, suddenly many of us had to work flexibly from home. Collectively, we experienced uncertainty, ambiguity, and anxiety on a level many had never encountered. With this tidal wave of emotions came reflection. A search for purpose mixed with a taste of autonomy fuelled our belief something better was out there. We saw the Great Resignation (many employees choosing to quit their jobs in a quest for something more meaningful), Quiet Quitting (the disgruntled but perhaps more risk averse choosing to stay but do the bare minimum) and now we face the Great Gloom (feelings of unhappiness gathering like a mighty storm, as the promise of something more fulfilling fails to fully deliver).

As the immediate threat declines, and pressures begin to feel more ‘normal’ again, the need to evolve feels less urgent. We are bouncing back, returning, perhaps, to a shape near our original form. Urgency around topics such as Diversity, Equity and Inclusion are, worryingly, being pushed back down the priority list. But the scars haven’t healed, and our experiences have ignited a spark for something new.

Last year, we saw many employer and employee tussles playout. In our complex, ever-changing world, navigating the paradoxes of work (purposeful and profitable, digitised and human, etc.) is a never-ending task. The glimmer of something more satisfying lingering on the horizon (hybrid work, purposeful jobs, growth, inclusion, balance) is still stoking the debate and for some it has reached tipping-point. Industries have experienced mass walkouts with unions striking to make their message heard. Others face huge cultural failure – unfair, discriminatory, abusive workplaces exposed, harbouring the worst in human behaviour. Trust is diminishing, and without this, conversations cease, problems multiply, and people revert to old habits.


I believe we can build happy, healthy, human organisations where people and business thrive. It starts with understanding the ingredients we need to flourish and committing to building and maintaining a climate for human growth. Like many things, it’s in the mix of a continuum and with multiple minds we find the recipe that works. There are people leading the way – daring to flip the model and focus on human growth first, knowing that when they do this, sustainable business results follow.

Together, let’s Make it Human.



Sarah is a work psychologist, strategic partner and business leader with 20 years' experience using people science to build happier, healthier more human workplaces.  Sarah leads Make it Human, a consulting company partnering with organisations to cultivate cultures where people and business thrive. Her book, 'Make it Human', captures this vision and includes models and stories to enable practical steps towards making this a reality. Find out more or get in touch at:


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