The "new normal" is one of the most repeated phrases we've heard when talking to our clients and colleagues about the Future of Work and our "post-pandemic" workplaces. Many business leaders know that employees appreciate the flexibility that a hybrid or virtual-first way of work offers, but does that offset the challenges to productivity? Data from the last couple of years points to this being, at best, a simplistic approach to a post-pandemic workplace strategy. As experienced workplace strategists, we have seen over the last year (in the data and also with our own eyes) how companies are still struggling to move past the "hybrid" work policies that mandate X or Y days in the office, built in response (or reaction) to the pandemic.
We are seeing how some fundamental perspectives allow companies to ideate and implement effective, future-proof workplace strategies, embrace choice and autonomy, and build meaningful rhythms and rituals in their organisations - all towards improving connection, communication, and productivity - while others continue to struggle without a clear vision for the future of their workplace strategy.
Below are two of the fundamental perspectives we will continue to explore and discuss with you in the coming months. We invite you to reflect on them as a way to kick off your own exploration of the Future of Work this year.
Perspective 1: 2023 is the year of meaningful Bold Experiments
Organisations have been talking about a “New Way of Working”, or the “Future of Work” for the last 2+ years, but in many cases what we are seeing are iterative changes to most organisations' reactionary pandemic response.
We do not recommend organisations make radical changes, however, the challenge with only incremental changes is that they often do not create a catalyst for change, and employees often struggle to identify what is actually changing, and what new behaviours or practices need to be adopted.
We are approaching this with our clients by helping them create “Bold Experiments”, however, bold does not necessarily mean big! Small bold steps to test and learn - using 2023 to understand better what the "new normal" is and how these changes can be scaled. Often these might take the form of pilots or prototypes in which we ask specific teams or groups to try things that are significantly different to one aspect of their current way of working.
We are ensuring those Bold Experiments are meaningful by investing upfront in robust and integrated measurement frameworks, and clarifying what are inputs or indicators, and what are the actual KPIs we are trying to drive.
Perspective 2: The story behind hybrid working data is all in the details
There is increased data telling us that hybrid work is bad for productivity. While there may be some truth to this sentiment, it is also critical to consider the global trends that may be behind this, and to recognize what other measures might be changing - wellbeing, inclusion, and talent attraction or retention just as a start.
We do not want to sacrifice the progress hybrid made in making the work experience more equitable for many, yet we need to recognize that hybrid work is a different mindset and ask for new practices and agreements from our leaders and employees. Hybrid work has shone a spotlight on good and not-so-good leadership capabilities across organisations. Good leaders have shown to be effective throughout the last few years, while others have struggled as proximity or visibility has been reduced.
We are working with organisations to use a lens of activities to understand how teams and individuals are working, and using this lens to help us build more understanding and consciousness about how teams work effectively together. A polarising mandate to have employees come to the office, only for them to spend a significant amount of time working individually, is not the answer.
We are using the lens of activities to help leaders and teams build practices and competencies that enable them to be more effective with how they work. This is not just about “meeting etiquettes”, or smartboards, but rather about intentional team agreements, and norms that foster effectiveness, productivity, and inclusion. For many organisations, building their leaders' capabilities is something they are re-prioritising to ensure their organisation is ready to respond to today, tomorrow, and the future.
What to expect for the Future of Work in 2023
We are not keen on making predictions about the latest technologies shaping the world of work, although we do enjoy observing and discussing how these innovations are impacting the ways we engage with each other. Each innovation will present unique opportunities for some organisations, while others may not be ready to embrace them yet - and that is also part of our journey towards a better world of work.
In 2023 we will be highlighting and discussing Future of Work perspectives to help you explore ways to turn the tide on employee engagement and retention, and build a clear path for your organisation's vision of the future - a vision that makes sense for your organisations goals and challenges, not based on the latest buzzwords and trends. We'll endeavour to find innovative and exciting ways to share those insights with you throughout the year. Stay tuned as we explore these themes across all our brand channels and discover together how they impact your corner of the globe and your company.
Curious how your team or organisation is being impacted or how you can get ahead of the curve? We'd love to explore your questions with you. Talk to us!