Workstyle transformation is no longer only for aspirational and forward-thinking organisations; it is essential for every organisation. Entire industries question whether their old way of working serves them post-Covid-19 and into the New Future of Work. But what of that future is already now? And where to start?
Things we know still to be true
The essence of Veldhoen + Company’s passion has always been to co-create new, activity-based ways of working that encourage teams to connect, individuals to flourish and organisations to thrive. Please read some universal ways of engaging with people during the tough times that have stood the test of time.
Create a plan to empower people for working time- and place independent
Every organisation will need a plan that encompasses policy, physical space, and technology. It starts with answering critical questions: How are people doing and what do they need? Who will be able to work remotely, and for what activities do they have to come in? How often? Use the answers to these questions to formulate a plan to empower people for flexibility, then provide guidance to employees as you experiment and learn.
Your people are the experts
There is no manual for working… at least not from an individual perspective. People are experts in their own unique way of working. Involve them in shaping the future of work and invite them to learn from the conversations and provide them with tools to lead their own way of working.
We are noticing the ambivalence that some leaders feel about user engagement. Saying they want to listen to their people but are in fact fearful of what will be uncovered, what people might demand from it. It makes leaders vulnerable as you cede some control
Take our work activities as starting point
The importance of understanding how people work, their preferences (and the underlying drivers) of where, when, how and with whom they perform their work activities.
See here what Activity Based Working is
Find here the biggest global research project on Activity Based Working with measurable outcomes and key differentiators
Using workplace analytics data
Use data to further diagnose people’s current working patterns: using additional data insight (e.g. online meetings, calendars, communication via email and IM) to help organisations drive workplace change. Some interesting insights from Microsoft:
- High productivity is masking an exhausted workforce
- Digital overload is real and climbing
- The shift to remote work increased meeting time and IM loads, while stretching workdays
- Teams are more siloed in a digital work world
Helping people to make conscious and deliberate choices
While contributing to the purpose and goals of an organisation to make conscious choice in what you do at what time and where, always taking into account people’s private situation and what is best for their health, privacy and well-being
Coach people on work-life integration
Already 20 years ago one of our clients realised, after having introduced working-from-home, that people needed more guidance on managing the boundaries of their workday. They introduced WFH coaches. We currently see that leaders think (or hope) that people have figured it all out for themselves and their teams. Our data unfortunately is showing this is not the case for most people, they feel overwhelmed, working even more ours then pre-pandemic and struggling to know when work is done.
Enabling people to focus during hyper-connectivity
Focus (deep) work has almost become a human right. Balancing it with the trend of hyper-connectivity. Our brain can’t switch between tasks and information input constantly. For more, listen to this great interview with Cal Newport (thought leader on ‘deep work’) about how digital tools in organisations create a faux sense of productivity, and instead create a “hive mind” among people.
Leaders setting the vision AND ‘holding’
To set a clear vision on the future of work (the old adagio: a clear vision makes a good leader). When a leader’s appeal rests on a vision alone, leadership is not whole. What we need is a type of holding, so that we can move purposefully. Leaders who think clearly, offer reassurance, orient people and help them stick together. That work is as important as inspiring others. In fact, it is a precondition for reimagining the future of work. For further read see The Psychology Behind Effective Crisis Leadership by Gianpiero Petriglieri.
Managing potential dissonance from the communicated vision for the future of work
Leadership / management style (behaviours) differences could create dissonance and derail the transformation to a new way of working. In that perspective I like to quote Vince Hawksworth, former CEO of Trustpower (NZ): “I think the challenge for anyone going into new ways of working, is to firstly suspend judgement for long enough to truly understand what it is, and secondly to have, at a leadership level, a great deal of intent to try and live the model.” (see here the case study of Trustpower)
An activity-based approach enables organisational adaptability
We have seen that organisations who had already adopted an activity-based way of working experienced the least disruption throughout this pandemic
Read our article about workplace innovation in the post-pandemic era to learn how your organization can be more responsive to the anticipated ongoing disruption and better equipped to survive and thrive
Put “working” back into activity-based working
Future of work transformation is primarily a culture project. Activity-based working doesn’t emerge automatically after an office redesign. Space and technology are fundamentally involved, but the challenges and opportunities in moving to new ways of working are related to cultural norms and behaviors. Read about these four simple steps that let your organisation perform better by adopting activity-based behaviours.
By far I’m not believing this article has been comprehensive enough for all the great stuff happening out there. Hopefully it will have sparked some ideas for your next steps in shaping your organization’s new way of working. The future is ours. It’s our obligation to be intentional about it.