As life attempts to return to normal -even if the “normal” contains some big existential questions with loads of cleaning up to do for our friends in the US :(- a lot of the chatter caters around a “new normal" for work. The idea is, that the pandemic has acted as a major reset button for many things from individual ones, to economical ones and all the way to environmental ones and that returning to a pre-pandemic status quo without doing as much as questioning it, is simply a wasted opportunity.
Some of the biggest signals are from the big tech giants who have announced they intend a serious shift with the way workers are now allowed or even encouraged to work from what is de facto new premises - their newly set-up home offices. Obviously remote work is but a part of it and I think we ought to take a lot more care of when and how they “show up” instead of where they do.
This is a chance for a much bigger shakeup than merely discussing location. It’s time we examined the WHY and the HOW of work and it’s time we redesigned around strong values we all believe in and that we reduced the “human debt” we got ourselves into in the workplace by truly taking the time to do away with some of the biggest ailments of workplace
Forget the desks and the protocol on sanitising the office loos or even the tally of zoom meetings presentism and focus on what matters. I would urge any leader of any company and in particular HR leaders to go to battle for the bigger topics. The ones who always slipped by the cracks or were mired in being classed as non-priority. All the human topics.
A culture reset sprint. Some of the companies we work with did this. A whole-company team re-launch if you wish. In the new reality. They whipped out a canvas across the enterprise and got everyone involved in re-designing what they stand for and what they want to see happening. These are the topics most had on their backlogs:
Respect and Decency - “Re-affirm basic human values we can all get behind such as - “We are all humans and we will not be horrible a-holes to each other no matter what”. This includes anything from bullying to discrimination and lack of empathy and compassion. This makes us be diverse and inclusive and lets us look at each other open-heartedly to see our value.”
No More Command and Control - “Find quick ways to help managers become servant leaders with truly autonomous teams - Micromanagement never helped anyone, in this day and age to run fast we need to count on every player and empower them to be their best selves”
Explore Trust in Intrinsic Value - “Point out our value as a group and as individuals, remind everyone why we believe in each other and how awesome we are and work on keeping that pride as part of the WHY”
Do Away With Presentism - “We won’t monitor things or measure anyone on acts of presence but acts of value. We must find ways to reward true emotional investment and discourage just being around with no real participation.”
Work On The Permission To Be Human - “Our people don’t trust they have our permission to be their authentic human selves with emotions and thoughts in the workplace and our leaders are not modelling courage, passion and openness either - we must change both and do away with the “5th Impression Management” type - the fear of looking unprofessional.”
Un-ban Emotions - “Ask everyone to understand we now place EQ as one of the most important attributes anyone can bring to this work and help them grow it while helping team leaders transition from thinking of their “people practice” as afterthought to realising it’s their main job if they manage teams.”
Get Serious About The Permission To Fail - “We need to elevate the basics of experimentation from an implicit nod to an explicit and desirable outcome. We have to start celebrating failure as an act of courage and innovation before we can demand the latter. Also, if we realign around flexibility we’ll be more resilient should anything like this happen again.”
Open an Honest New Dialogue - “We will replace the annual surveys no one cared about and took seriously anyhow with some mechanism to keep our eyes on the pulse and ask questions all the time. We need to show we value most completely open and frequent feedback and there should be no fear of repercussion.”
Take Wellbeing Seriously - “Not only mental wellbeing and organisational wellbeing (which we should spend a lot more time on), but re-focus their own wellbeing and growth as individuals - we need to show we truly care as a company and are hell-bent to get them to the best version of themselves”
And of course, the most important of them all:
Focus on Team Magic - “We must obsess about the team and their Psychological Safety from becoming religious about speaking up to eliminating impression management to keeping an eye on each of the components of Psychological Safety and affecting the ones that slip with people-centric interventions by ever more EQed team leaders”
Yes, but what about the policies that will stop people working from home from slacking? Yes, but where do we see what they do every minute of every day? Yes, but how do we know they do the right things if we aren’t there over their shoulders to check? Yes, but is all this even necessary - didn’t we do just fine ignoring this and getting on with every day before?
Yes, but …
None of those “Yes, but…”s do matter and we know that deep down, don’t we? Hanker down on the big team - the whole company and see if there’s enough Psychological Safety there to come together and create a future that blows winds of winning into your sails. The post-pandemic world will never be the same and for many who don’t care about the above, it could quickly prove itself to be much worse, but for anyone prepared to do the work it can also be better and with a little heart, it will be.
Stay sane, Psychologically Safe, emotionally connected and ready to sprint to the new normal.