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The University of Southampton
Economic, Social and Political Sciences

Managing and adapting to organisational change

Research by the University of Southampton’s Work Futures Research Centre has contributed significantly to the design of management change processes and policies across a range of organisations in the UK and internationally. The Centre’s research has informed a new training and qualifications framework and improved programme performance for healthcare workforces involved in digital innovation; led to new recommendations for sustainable workplace design to enhance employee wellbeing and productivity promoted by the British Council of Offices as part of their evidence base on office redesign; and influenced the development of organisational and professional guidelines for gender equality at work.

Research challenge

The modern workplace is changing, driven by advances of globalisation, the proliferation of digital technologies, increasing worker mobility and challenges of sustainability. Spending cuts necessitate fundamental redesigns to public sector work and organisations, and longer-term changes to the structure of the workforce are underway. Employees’ expectations are shifting as the workforce becomes more diverse, and employers are struggling to adapt organisational cultures to changing gender, race and age profiles.


Sociologists Professor Susan Halford and Professor Pauline Leonard have been examining the impact of workplace change on the organisation and delivery of services and the experiences of work. From the increasing digitisation of healthcare work to the trend to reconfigure workspaces through mobile working and hot-desking, it is clear that working lives and careers are changing. At the same time, their research has revealed sustained inequalities despite legislative and cultural change. Racism remains manifest in access to training and careers within the health services and gender pay inequalities and discrimination persist across the private, public and third sectors.

Our solution

The Centre’s research shows how the work required to make new technological systems function effectively is considerable and can vary significantly from place to place. Innovations such as telemedicine, electronic booking and large scale information systems are not quick or cheap technical fixes to current funding constraints, but impact on the professional and organisational aspects of healthcare work. Workplace design also has a significant bearing on individuals’ motivation, working relationships and wellbeing. If not communicated effectively, the introduction of new configurations of workspace are viewed sceptically as cost-cutting measures, even if the aim is to reduce carbon emissions. The ways in which workplace changes impact on social groups differently is a further concern. The researchers devise new models of consultation and transparency that can be replicated in work environments across sectors and occupations.

What was the impact?

More than 20 years of research by the Work Futures Research Centre has informed international public and practitioners’ understanding of managing and adapting to organisational change.

The Centre’s workplace design research forms part of the British Council for Offices web-based research evidence base that is used by commercial property developers, architects, property tenants, facilities managers and senior managers. The research has been adopted by construction engineers in the management of effective sustainable working practices and has also been published in Government Today and Public Servant.

The findings on the effect of race and racism on medical careers have been widely disseminated by the British Medical Association and have framed their good practice guidelines. The findings are also used by NHS managers and healthcare practitioners.

The study into the impact of increasing digitisation has been significant for policy makers, IT manufacturers, hospital managers and professional leaders. It has played an integral part in the introduction of the Department of Health’s new national 111 service that is set to replace NHS Direct for urgent but non-life-threatening health issues.

Impact on workplace change

More than 20 years of research by the Work Futures Research Centre has informed international public and practitioners’ understanding of managing and adapting to organisational change.

Susan Halford - Professor of Sociology ad Co-Director of the Work Futures Research Centre

Making the Workplace Work London, British Council of Offices. Leonard, P. (2010). Available at: 

One of ‘several high profile studies’  used as key evidence in constructing the BMA’s (2011) New guidance Good Management Practice: guidance for all doctors.

Research has been cited in the establishment of good practice in Diversity Policies across the public sector the Scottish Government’s ‘Fair Enough? Fair for All Progress Report (2011) .

Commission for Judicial Appointments ‘Judicial Diversity in the United Kingdom and other Jurisdictions: Review of Research, Policies and Practice’ 2011 (

Graduate Market Trends, summer 2009, article on the limits of female pharmacists' labour market choices:

Key Publications

List of all staff members in
Staff MemberPrimary Position
Pauline LeonardProfessor of Sociology, Director, Web Science Institute
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