People have had many months to think about how they want their lives to be, or not be. They know which aspects of old they miss, and what they’d prefer to change about the new situation.
With telecommuting working so well, many organizations are questioning the role of the office per se. While it may be tempting to radically cut costs by downsizing permanently, organizational leaders and people functions are starting to acknowledge that the real question is not whether they need premises, but how they use them. To ensure the continued organizational success and effectiveness, organizations should be looking to do this at the micro and individual level, reaching out to their people and asking them what they need, to develop the physical shared workplace of the future. Just as each individual’s life situation is unique, so too are their demands of the workplace. Some will crave a place for quiet reflection and concentration. Others will want a hub for conversation and collaboration. And few now relish a long daily commute. Bringing these different aspects together into a cohesive concept will require companies to embrace different working and workplace models. The physical infrastructure of shared space for connecting, collaborating or concentrating could take the form of hub-and-spoke models at central and other locations, complemented by flexible working week options that empower people to make work work for them.
Benefits and experience will remain important in attracting and retaining talent (in)to an organization. As we move toward a hybrid work force, it will be interesting to see how organizations tackle the potential for inequality in terms of benefits and experience. What counts as a benefit and how – or where – do you provide it? Leading organizations are putting people in the driving seat and enabling them to choose the benefits and approaches that work for them. Customer experience concepts are now being reflected in the employee experience, with naturally some degree of segmentation, but with individuals ultimately choosing the options that suit their lifestyle and needs best. The significance of corporate purpose has grown as the act of work has shifted from something most people go out to do, to an activity that starts and ends seamlessly in the home or other locations. Giving people a sense of purpose, empowering them to fit work seamlessly into life, giving them freedom and flexibility to choose their benefits: this is true equity.
Listen, then act – an agile approach
Responding to people’s changing needs and expectations means listening first – and then putting insights into action. Truly agile and transformative organizations are regularly checking in with their people, through the use of both active and passive listening activities. Then they’re adopting approaches – rather than procedures – that can be adapted as situations and sentiments shift. Real agility comes from flexible approaches that consistently and constantly align people’s needs and behaviors with business needs.
An agile approach has the added advantage of enabling leaders to change course rapidly. As the onus shifted from duty of care in the (external) workplace to duty of care for a throng of remote workers, organizations and leaders needed to adjust to a new role. If anything, the pandemic has shown employees that leadership cannot and do not always have all the answers all of the time. Despite this, the workforce has shown that they will always respond positively to leaders who are clear on principles, make decisions based on data, communicate regularly, seek dialogue and show empathy.
In today’s new world of work, strong leaders are those that show humanity and courage and focus on well-being. They share their own experience to build trust, empathy and a culture of bottom-up dialogue.