What is a “slow-cooked workplace strategy”, and how does it open space for deeper, more nuanced, and flavoursome conversations on the different rhythms and rituals that are required for UTS College to achieve its new workplace aspirations? Eoin Higgins, Senior Consultant, explains:
As I stepped onto the stage at WORKTECH Sydney at the wonderful New South Wales Art Gallery, the moderator introduced my talk as a case of a "slow-cooked workplace strategy." I found this phrase quite fittingly describes how Veldhoen + Company approaches workplace strategy with our clients in Australia and New Zealand.
Together with my co-presenter, Alex Murphy, the General Manager of UTS College, we shared their transformational journey towards an activity-based way of working that was developed from the ground up with hybrid working in mind.
Our talk aimed to demonstrate that a workplace strategy can be an enabler of organisational development, rather than just a means to make office space more effective and efficient. With the right mix of leadership focus and staff participation, it's possible to draw a clear line of sight between the competitive landscape in which an organisation finds itself and the specific aspirations of a workplace transformation project. This alignment can lead to a virtuous cycle where the way of working is tailored to achieve the goals of the organisation, which in turn benefits everyone working there.
UTS College's aspirations were to enable better forms of collaboration, creativity, connection, and a sense of community (now known as The 4Cs!). This required the executives to slow down and invest time in thinking beyond office design, to imagine how a new way of working could best serve the goals of UTS College. Hence, the ‘slow-cooked’ nature of the project.
Once the aspirations were set and articulated, the program could speed up. Why? Because the 4Cs became a decision-making framework. There are so many decisions to make when developing a new way of working. Especially now that hybrid working is another factor to be considered. Like any transformational project, it is sometimes difficult to know which way is up when you are in the belly of it. A clear set of aspirations representing more than words on a page will aid the decision-making process. For example, in the case of UTS College, there were rich discussions about where to place individual lockers. The discussions did not centre on which type of lockers or their functionality. Rather, how best to leverage the lockers in a way that would promote connection and community. In other discussions, hybrid meeting rituals were developed into ensure creativity and collaboration were not impeded.
After the talk, I reflected on this newly coined phrase ‘slow-cooked workplace strategy’. Did it capture the essence of the Veldhoen + Company approach? This notion that in the long run, it’s better to slow down to be able to speed up? The more I think about it, the more I think it does. Slow cooking requires a lot of upfront preparation but uses less energy than other forms of cooking and tends to bring out the maximum flavour. In the context of workplace strategy, slowing down in the early stages can mean less energy is expended later in the process because the decision-making has less friction. This opens space for deeper, more nuanced, and flavoursome conversations on the required rhythms and rituals so that the new way of working can help achieve the workplace aspirations that ultimately make it a better workplace and a more successful organisation.
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