Herbert Smith Freehills
Future of work

Global law firm Herbert Smith Freehills wanted to build on the success of their 2019 report on the future of work, but needed a distinctive angle to cut through all the noise about the post-pandemic workplace and maintain momentum.



In 2019 Herbert Smith Freehills launched Future of Work: Adapting to the democratised workplace, exploring the opportunities, risks and challenges for employers in the context of an unprecedented rise in workplace activism.

The report explored how workers were becoming more vocal – about the workplace, their employer and wider social issues – and how employers need to be prepared for what’s ahead.

Based on a global survey of almost 400 cross-sector C-suite executives, the campaign was a clear success, so the team wanted to extend the campaign into 2021 and beyond, to cement their position as a leading authority on workplace activism.

(See blog: The gift that keeps on giving: 3 reasons to create annual thought leadership programmes.) 



The second edition, Future of Work: Remote/controlled, was again based on a global survey of almost 400 cross-sector C-suite executives to allow comparison and trend analysis. The focus on workplace activism was maintained, but the Covid-19 pandemic operating environment catapulted certain issues to the foreground, including hybrid working, digital surveillance, corporate advocacy, talent strategies and the psychological contract of trust between employer and worker. 

Two years earlier, employers were very clear about the issues that were likely to trigger activism in the workplace. In 2021, respondents projected a rise in activism, but were far less certain about what might cause it. This was compounded by the impact of Covid-19 on the workplace: accelerating existing trends (notably remote working and the focus on wellbeing) and distorting others (such as the rise of the gig economy). Meanwhile, pandemic crisis response distracted business leaders and clouded views of emerging trends.

The research found employers already asserting new methods of control with their remote, dispersed workforces on a scale without precedent, in some cases taking steps that risk severe repercussions from increasingly assertive and mobile workers. The implications were pulled together with Five steps to success

Herbert Smith Freehills took a digital-first approach to the campaign with an online edition created in Ceros, using the five core themes from the report as the main navigation. A gated PDF download was available for capturing new leads.

There was also a full range of campaign activation tools, including infographics, social media posts, videos, podcasts, webinars and speaking engagements. There was an audiobook version and a data tool, allowing clients to dive deeper into the data and discover how their peers answered a selection of survey questions.




The programme is really helping Herbert Smith Freehills to take a leadership position in the evolving workplace of the 2020s.

Media coverage was a huge success, with 30+ prominent pieces of international coverage within the first month after launch in September 2021. Notable exclusives included the Financial Times, L'Agefi Hebdo, Australian Financial Review, along with TV (CNBC, ENCA, eTV, EWN) and radio (SAfm, ABC Radio) interviews. 

The marketing team have also produced spin-off articles and press engagement that links back and promotes the report on an on-going basis. The most recent piece of coverage was in May 2022: Employee monitoring software became the new normal during Covid-19
The average time spent on the Future of Work landing page was over four times usual dwell times. Meanwhile email open rates and click-through rates equalled or exceeded benchmarks for global thought leadership. 

Client testimonials were numerous and enthusiastic, supported by high engagement via meetings, discussion forums and direct mandates to advise clients on related issues.

“The pandemic shook up working conditions overnight but many of these shifts have profound long-term implications for the employer-worker relationship; legally, ethically and morally. Identifying the triggers for employee activism and how these are changing over time is enabling us to have an authoritative voice on the evolving workplace.”
Laura Klysz, Head of Marketing UK/US/EMEA, Herbert Smith Freehills 

“We set out to add a distinctive perspective on the future of work. Building a long-run study on activism has allowed us to contribute relevant and meaningful insights, generating significant media profile and opportunities for productive conversations with corporate clients, major financial institutions and government bodies around the world.”
Jules Campbell, Global Head of Business Development & Practice Management, EPI & CRT, Herbert Smith Freehills