Is how we do our job more important than where? Re-designing the way we work: 8 insights to help you emerge stronger
Apr 17th, 2021
“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” Peter Drucker
After a year of social distancing, family bubbles and online meetings, working at the office may seem like a distant memory. But as Britain eases out of lockdown, many of us are preparing to return to that workplace, leaving behind the daily remote team management and the challenges of juggling childcare. And many organisations and business leaders are recognising that we cannot simply turn back the clock and are looking afresh at the future of work and the traditional working week.
Some are promoting a hybrid version that gives ownership of achieving productivity to their employees. PWC has told its people they can work from home 2 to 3 days a week and choose their hours to suit them, while Nationwide says its “work anywhere” plan gives employees more control of their lives, allowing them to work from home, at head office or even in a local high street branch if it is nearer to where they live. Others, like JP Morgan, are encouraging a different approach, allowing its 19,000 UK staff back to the office and asking heads of business divisions to decide if they wish to inform their team that they can return.
There have been so many changes to the way we live and work over the past year that, for some, it has shifted their professional and personal priorities. A client who runs a commercial property agency is determined it will emerge stronger, with a committed happy workforce that will become more productive by working smart. Decisions on in-person presence are now driven by roles and key meetings. One non-client-facing team member has been able to move to the country, coming into the office for team and key meetings two days a week. My client herself has recognised that this flexible new approach is allowing her to accelerate her own family’s plan to buy a livestock farm from a mid-term ambition to a reality in 2021.
Another client has succeeded in taking his business from strength to strength despite many of his people working remotely this year. As some of them return to the office, others who are continuing to work from home are expressing a “fear of missing out” on the team culture. This underlines the importance of making remote work as inclusive as possible, so that all feel equal wherever they are working, as we enter a hybrid future.
Today is an opportunity for all companies to reset and address the new realities that have been amplified by the pandemic so they can emerge stronger.
Here are 8 insights for you to consider when planning for what your new way of working will look like:
1. Take your time
With so many variables still at play, leaders should avoid feeling pressured to make big decisions too quickly. The pandemic is not yet over, so it is important to keep your options open. The decisions taken over the coming months will help shape the future of the way people work, the way they connect with each other and with the company. It is essential to take them carefully.
I liked the drivers that Jane Fraser, CEO of CitiBank, provided to support their return-to-work initiative: Belonging, Collaboration, Apprenticeship & Learning and Competitiveness & Performance. What are your priorities and what are the key activities that will enable you, your team and your business to flourish?
2. Dynamic working
There is no such thing as “one size fits all”. Working from home can be highly productive and contribute to a more harmonious work-life balance, but projects, team presentations and important client meetings benefit from the spontaneity and creativity of sharing ideas. The spontaneity of leaning over and asking “what do you think of this?” cannot be underestimated. Together, the pandemic and technological innovation have helped companies’ technology plans leap forward so that teams can practice dynamic working –working where it makes sense and where they can be productive and use their time well.
3. Protect your culture
A company’s culture has never been more exposed than now. Management teams often say that ‘People are our most important asset’ and the way they have supported people during this time may have created a deeper loyalty or a wider divide. A client feels that the leadership shown by the global company she works for has been ‘world class’. She feels huge pride in working for them and acknowledges that their constant communication and compassion will not be forgotten. What are people saying about your leadership and culture?
4. Develop your younger talent
Many leaders have shared how much their younger workers have missed being with their teams and cannot wait to get back. Not only do they miss socialising and collaborating, but their development has been impacted. For some, their entire work experience has been virtual. Watching a skilled colleague negotiate a complex transaction or experiencing their manager’s palpable presence and influence at a physical pitch cannot be replicated on Zoom, so development plans will be key.
5. Respect different reactions
Many people have not been in their office for a year and it is natural for people to respond differently on their experiences of the pandemic. Many have suffered loss and will feel differently about what ‘safety’ looks like so it is important to listen and explore how your teams feel so you can give them the assurances they need.
6. Reflect on your personal growth
A leader in the finance industry recognised that the pandemic has brought out the best in her. During the first lockdown when everything was new, she recognised how much she trusted her team and knew that they would work hard from home. She also realised that showing how much she cared about their wellbeing – keeping morale high through a light touch and humour as she broke down the bad news everyone was absorbing – has made her a better leader. She is utterly exhausted as are all the managers I speak with, but she has valued this crisis to grow.
7. Value new insights
During the pandemic we have all been invited into our colleagues’ and sometimes our clients’ lives, getting a glimpse of their homes and their families and getting to know them better. One client asked his team for their personal goals at the start of each week and whether they had achieved them at the end. He discovered how sporty his team were setting regular goals to improve their health and fitness. These insights forge links and help understand what fires people up or triggers them. They may also reveal vulnerabilities. They are significant, human conversations that most of us were too busy to have at the office, so try to hold onto them when you go back.
8. Reset, pause and learn
Once people return to the office, it will be natural to dive into work and the changes that unfold, whatever they may be. But it is important and timely to reset, pause and acknowledge what you and your team have learned from this period. What did we value? What will we miss? How has it made us better? What will we retain or change? Slow down to move forward and don’t miss this opportunity.
Are you keen to get the best from today’s new ways of working? Are you looking for guidance on supporting your teams as they return to the office?. Begin the conversation by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would like to know more about what our clients have gained from our coaching we have lots of testimonials that you might find interesting.
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