Work futures

Our academics collaborate with businesses, unions, policymakers, civil society organisations and social movements to help shape the future of work. In an uncertain world characterised by political, environmental and technological transformation, our research expands the capacity for working people to have power, agency and control over the changing world of work.

Placing work in social, political and economic context, we undertake a radical rethinking of its possible futures in an age of geopolitical contestation, disruptive innovation and platform capitalism. We believe that the fate of those who work, from highly-skilled professionals to precarious gig workers, is by no means set in stone. Between automated luxury and alienated redundancy, we shape the future of work as it unfolds across organisations, cities and communities. Our research is grounded in a commitment to better and decent work as the road to fulfilled lives, liveable cities, strong communities, stable democratic institutions, and the eradication of injustice based on gender, race and class. We are members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Future of Work.

Our multi- and inter-disciplinary research sets impactful agendas in the worlds of policy and practice, creating positive social impact in collaboration with stakeholders across public, private and third sectors. Current research interests of theme members include: the pandemic’s impact on the spaces and places of work; platform work and capitalism; the future of the professions and elite professionals in a digital age; the technological transformation of work in areas such as Air Traffic Management; the fight for decent work in agricultural and manufacturing supply chains in the Global South and North; new forms of labour migration in Eastern Europe; and populism’s relationship with perceptions of automation risk. We also currently hold the stewardship of the British Universities Industrial Relations Association.

The inter-disciplinary aspects of our research and impact are articulated at the University of Bristol through engagement with the Faculty of Social Sciences and Law Research Groups (including: Cultural Work; Digital Societies; Perspectives on Work), editorship of the Bristol University Press online magazine Futures of Work, and the University’s Research Institutes (including the Cabot Institute for the Environment).

Contact us

Organisations or individuals interested in working with the Work Futures research group, please contact:

Dr Alex Wood

BSc (Hons), MPhil, PhD
Senior Lecturer in Human Resource Management, University of Bristol Business School

Dr Devika Narayan

PhD, M.Phil, MA
Lecturer, University of Bristol Business School and Bristol Digital Futures Institute

Recent projects

Members of the group are involved with a range of externally funded projects working alongside numerous stakeholders and beneficiaries. Recent examples include:

  • ESRC Centre for Socio-Digital Digital Futures.
  • ESRC Impact Accelerator Account and Research England (ASPECT) projects on next generation financial services and the role of Fintech in the south-west of England (with FinTech West).
  • ESRC Impact Accelerator Account on protecting the rights of migrant workers in electronics supply chains in Hungary through public procurement, in collaboration with Electronics Watch.
  • ESRC Digit Innovation Fund project on the effect of Covid-19 on coworking spaces.
  • ESRC Accelerating Business Collaboration on work and modern slavery in the construction industry.
  • EPSRC Human-Data Interaction Fund focused on telemetric data and workplace bargaining.
  • British Academy Gig Rights project.‌

Current postgraduate research students are investigating

  • Digital platform labour in ride-hailing services in China (Runfeng Xing)
  • Critical perspectives in work and organisational psychology (Zoe Sanderson)
  • Modern slavery in the construction industry (Chris Pesterfield)
  • Higher Education Futures: Towards a Concrete Utopia of Education Commons through Design Fictions (Paris Selinas)
  • A distant encounter: facing emotional demands in outsourced service work (Carlos Ramos)
  • The motivations of highly-skilled migrants to work in London’s financial sector (Richard Slimmon)
  • Physical vs virtual proximity in knowledge intensive work (Hira Halfeez)

A woman dressed in a gig workers uniform Gig Rights and Gig Wrongs

Initial findings from the Gig Rights Project: Labour Rights, Co-Determination, Collectivism and Job Quality in the UK Gig Economy can be found here Gig rights and gig wrongs (PDF, 1,223kB)

The policy briefing for this reseach can be found here: Gig right and gig wrongs policy briefing (PDF, 157kB)

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