Are you summoning people back into the office? Or do you prefer them to continue working from home? Either way, you’re dealing with resistance.
What should the work experience of the future look like?
This question has opened divides within organisations. What’s happening? Two years of working from home has given everyone a profound experience of its pros and cons. People know exactly if and why they prefer working from home to going back to the office, or vice versa. Everyone knows how productive they are. Everyone knows whether they work more or less hours at home. Everyone knows how much time they’ve got left for private matters.
To be sure, you’ve drawn your own conclusions about where you most enjoy working. You’ve gained more clarity about how you live your best life. And your colleague has drawn different conclusions from a different experience.
So leaders who are trying hard to make “the right” decision, struggle.
There’s no one size fits all.
How to organise workplaces to ensure cohesion and collaboration requires creative solutions. And to develop those shouldn’t be left to your board or to a lone leader. It’s a complex question, and it requires involving the employees who will live the change. A diverse group of employees can figure out how to ensure collaboration and cohesion whilst meeting the needs and desires of all. In other words, the system has the answers. You just need to let the system see itself, to let employees see the whole and not just their own part.
Here are a few considerations that we want to share this week.
First of all, you already know that work can be done as productively from home as in an office, if not more. Productivity is therefore not an important factor in the decision making. This really is about the people, and what they want or need. And people can meet most of their needs when working remotely. That is, if they have the necessary space to focus and the work equipment they need.
There are only two things that not all people can get from a remote office experience.
First, people need people. Everyone needs physical human contact, no matter if they are introvert or extrovert.
Second, people need nature. Again, it doesn’t matter if you’re a nature lover or an indoors person. Nature is the best healer of stress symptoms.
People need contact to others and nature for thriving, indeed, for surviving.
To be sure, you can meet these fundamental needs outside of the office. And many people do.
However, especially if you live on your own, but also if you’ve had your partner or family around, you have suffered from a lack of human contact in the last two years.
You may also have enjoyed a morning or evening walk in nature instead of commuting to the office. Yet not everyone has easy access to nature.
So now we know what people need, and what a good workplace helps them get.
And what does your organisation need?
Community. Work is where people come together to work towards the same goal. But a lot of people don’t feel like they belong anymore. Either they don’t see the goal, or they don’t perceive the goal (and thus their work) as valuable and meaningful. Secondly, they feel neither seen nor heard at the office. “Do you have a friend at work?” is one of 12 questions that determine whether someone stays or leaves their organisation.
People need to be seen and acknowledged for who they are. They also need to feel appreciated for what they contribute. And those two are not the same. What’s more, whether you’re aware of that need or not, doesn’t change the fact that you have it.
The blind spot of virtual work
Hence, we listen up when we hear leaders tell us that they don’t know how their people are doing. “Some people drift off the radar.” We listen up when we hear that two people who used to not get along with one another now easily avoid one another. As their manager, you might be relieved, but you shouldn’t be. They drift apart to the detriment of community. Their inability to align and to openly speak about their differences erodes the team. Which erodes productivity.
The work of a leader
If there’s one transition we would hope for teams and organisations to make, it is this: to conduct meetings which bring people together on a relationship level. Hence, an important part of our work over the past 24 months was to help teams build and maintain relationships. Online and offline, from small teams to groups up to 100 people.
Our clients have realised that meetings can be much more than information exchanges. Here’s how you can ensure that they are with one simple habit: Engage and include everyone right at the beginning of your small team or large town hall meeting.
Break up participants into random groups of 2. Give them a good conversation starter and a few minutes to connect to one other person.
It’s simple, but crucial.
Did you know that a person has only arrived at a meeting after s/he has spoken?
With this check-in ritual you get everyone to say something in mere minutes.
By doing so, you immediately ensure that everyone is present and engaged. It’s a great jumping board into the content of your meeting. Over time this practice helps you create community. Community is vital wherever people come together. It is equally important at a physical location and in the virtual space. And it is overlooked in both spaces.
If you are wondering how to support your people to connect in a hybrid world, reach out to us today. We can help you create and keep the best of both worlds.