Cumberland Lodge has published a new, cross-sector report on Working Identities, focusing on how work impacts on peoples’ identities and sense of belonging. It highlights cross-sector recommendations for improving our working lives.

Working Identities focuses on the changing ways in which work impacts on peoples’ identities and sense of belonging. It highlights cross-sector recommendations for improving our working lives.

The report sheds light on the rapidly changing world of work and its wide-ranging impacts on individuals and wider society. It addresses the impacts of structural discrimination, and explores five key areas of working life:

  • ‘Working-class’ identities
  • ‘Precarious’ work and young people
  • Digital revolutions (including digitalisation and automatisation)
  • Meaningless (‘bullshit’) jobs
  • Youth unemployment and worklessness

It draws on the collective experience of trade union representatives, working rights campaigners, academics, non-governmental organisations, businesses, policymakers and community practitioners.

The report highlights key risks for the future of work and society, and urges policymakers and practitioners to:

  • Move away from evoking class-based identities in public discourse and shift the focus towards more inclusive and broader aspects of our working identities
  • Develop employment protection legislation for digital workers
  • Carefully manage digital change in the workplace, making sure that people have the opportunity to adapt and expand their working identities alongside such changes
  • Create work opportunities and mentorships, as well as supportive communal structures for young, unemployed people, so that they can develop positive work-related understandings of themselves, even during difficult transition periods
  • Ensure inclusivity at work through legislation and quotas, and by removing structure barriers (e.g. prohibitive childcare costs)
  • Rethink public procurement, digital ownership and taxation, to allow profits generated through modern work to stay in, and be invested in, local communities.

Working Identities was launched with a panel discussion at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre, Westminster, on Wednesday 27 November, with guest panellists:

  • Kate Bell - Head of Rights, International, Social and Economics, Trades Union Congress (TUC)
  • Jacqueline O’Reilly - Professor of Comparative Human Resource Management, University of Sussex
  • Mark Littlewood - Director General, Institute of Economic Affairs

The report’s author is Dr Eva Selenko, a psychologist and Senior Lecturer in Work Psychology at Loughborough University, who was commissioned to support the Cumberland Lodge project as a freelance Research Associate.

Improving working lives

Dr Jan-Jonathan Bock, Programme Director at Cumberland Lodge said, ‘This report marks the culmination of a 12-month project to explore how work-based identities are being transformed in an age characterised by precarity, digitalisation, frequent job changes and meaningless labour. We carried out an initial, interdisciplinary review of current research and thinking around working identities in the UK, to help inform our discussions, and we went on to convene a two-day, multi-sector conference in March 2019, from which many of the key themes and recommendations in this report emerged.

‘Those ideas were reviewed and refined at an expert consultation held in July this year, involving conference representatives and further specialists, before being presented in our final report.’

In his Foreword to the report, our Chief Executive, Edmund Newell, said, ‘We look forward to seeing how [this report] inspires policymakers and practitioners to reflect upon – and take positive action to improve – peoples’ working lives, both now and in the future.’

Tweets relating to this project can be found at #clWorking