Maddy Savage will be moderating Back to the Office Digital Summit 9-10th of September 2020.
After a decade as a BBC staff reporter and radio presenter in London, Maddy moved to Stockholm in 2014. She is now a freelance journalist focussed on Nordic business and lifestyle trends, and has reported extensively for BBC Worklife, the BBC’s digital platform for stories about getting ahead in our rapidly changing world. She also works for US Public Radio network NPR, HuffPost and Monocle magazine. Maddy is a regular moderator at some of the region’s most prominent tech and media events.
We at Summit & Friends sat down with her and had a chat about the event:
S&F: During this difficult time, what have you taken away from the experience?
MS: Finding innovative and balanced ways to work and live has never been more important. As the world starts to open up after easing lockdowns and restrictions, it’s vital that we discuss and learn from our experiences during Covid-19 — both positive and negative.
S&F: Are there any benefits from this difficult period that we can point to?
MS: There are some, many employees have demonstrated high levels of productivity while working from home, putting a spotlight on the potential benefits of increased flexibility and remote working. However, the pandemic has also been a struggle for many. Some of those living alone have experienced mental health struggles linked to loneliness and social isolation. Within families, women have done disproportionally more childcare and homeschooling than men, and are more likely to have been furloughed, lost their jobs or chosen to give up work in order to handle caring responsibilities. The pandemic has also exacerbated other inequalities linked to class, race and sexuality.
S&F: Do you think the workplace changes are here to stay? What still needs to be fixed?
MS: The Nordic region is a great base from which to anchor debates about the future of work and workspaces. It has long led the way when it comes to championing work-life balance and encouraging flexible and remote working, which meant many employees here were able to swiftly adapt to spending more time working from home during Covid 19. However, we now need deeper discussions about how to manage this trend in the longer term. With some workers and managers itching to get back to the office and others keen to remain at home, blanket company-wide policies may not be the answer.
From a broader perspective, Sweden’s high death rate has tarnished its international reputation, and the travel restrictions imposed on Swedes by other Nordic countries have had an impact on regional business and tourism. While Nordic economies haven’t been hit as badly as some other European countries, unemployment is increasing and the region is dependent on international trade; what happens next will be connected to global trends.
There also need to be deeper discussions about the benefits and pitfalls of Sweden’s growing gig economy. There has been a lot of innovation and disruption in the delivery sector during the pandemic for example, but people working in this area tend to lack financial security and may face more risks when it comes to the potential exposure to Covid 19. And we need to make sure we don’t forget traditional industries in our discussions about shaping the future of work. Food, construction, energy, shipping and transport employees — alongside teachers and healthcare staff — have shown their value during the pandemic. Their ongoing needs should be valued as much — if not more — than those of office workers.