Still one of the great traditions in Dublin is a coffee in Bewleys café. Even though the Bewley family are long gone from its management it still holds for me anyway, a unique space in my heart. My Mum as a treat would bring us for lunch to her Bewley café of choice in Georges Street. It was glorious and decadent in my child's eye but what really stood out after all those yummy cakes was Mr Bewley as my Mum called him.
Although I never met him (and neither did she as far as I'm aware) his actions are what gave him mythical proportions. You see my Mum told us that he had made all his employees owners of Bewleys too. I wasn't sure how this could happen at seven years old but I marvelled at that lady behind the cake counter that 'owned' all those cakes. Of course I now know it was a co-op that Mr Bewley had founded and wow what an amazing ahead of its time restructure.
Not only this but he had opened up his home gardens to traveller families. In fact I now know he was one of the foremost supporters of traveller rights and those less fortunate than himself generally. Looking back he was a brave social reformer and philanthropist who said what he believed and put those beliefs into action. Mr. Bewley was concerned at what he saw as a dehumanising of society as material values grew more dominant.
"We are making life more impersonal...and the individual counts for less and less. Man must serve the needs of the economic system he has created rather than the reverse."
Over forty years later and these words are even more potent with globalization its main driver. That's because globalization refers to the economy, not the society. So when we talk about inclusion and wellbeing particularly in the workplace we need to start with this truth. Human beings design, populate and buy from an economy and globalisation makes this really complicated.
Neurologically and socially humans evolved as a hyper social species but this connection has limitations. Any social group is not infinite and physical proximity is hardwired into our circuitry for trust and safety to develop. So when the pandemic hit it was like a giant magnifying glass on work practices of a global economy with 'virtual work' becoming the norm for many for the next two years.
Many people started jobs in this period and have never met and may never meet their managers or even other team mates. Firms took the chance to reduce costs by becoming fully virtual and disposing of costly office space but so too did the chance of their employees to really connect and build that trust that is so essential for inclusion and wellbeing to flourish.
But I work virtually a majority of my week so I'm not against it - far from it. What I see is when the economy dominates how we live, it's not a healthy balance. Choice and flexibility are key here. Different ages and life stages for instance will influence how and where you want and can work.
Also the rise in the number of new inclusion/wellbeing roles in many of the leading employers is indeed a very positive and welcome move. But how useful will they be if there is 'one' of them in an organisation or a key requirement to fill the job being strong analytical skills required to navigate the over classification rampant in our world right now?
Companies and businesses are set up to make money which means the drivers are short term - quarterly and annual financial targets. I argue that not unless a company is willing to forfeit more of its profit margin annually or else take on a new business model altogether (e.g. one extreme being that co-op like Mr Bewley) to invest in inclusion and wellbeing, then there will be no change worth talking about.
We can moan on about retention rates and the cost of hiring but not unless it hurts the bottom line of a company then that's all it will be...moaning!