8 minute read 14 Mar 2022
Picture of How will changing workplace behaviors define the future of work?

How will changing workplace behaviors define the future of work?

By Mareike Bönninger

Manager, People Advisory Services, EY Sweden

Passionate about people and organizations creating a sustainable environment for people to perform and be their very best. German that came to Sweden for studies, but still here after 10+ years.

Contributors
8 minute read 14 Mar 2022

The hybrid work setting requires organizations to redefine behavioral models and find a new balance between a wide range of perspectives.

In brief:
  • Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, companies have had to adapt to the hybrid setting which demands new sets of behavioral patterns.
  • The new behavioral patterns require balancing of various perspectives – employee demands, team needs and organizational needs – in the absence of a one-size-fits-all blueprint.
  • An explorative mindset of designing, experimenting and revisiting will enable organizations to own their behavioral model and not leave it to chance.

The disruption in work practices brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing companies to rethink how they enable and encourage desired behaviors in many ways. By listening to changing employee needs, many are trying to build a hybrid working rhythm that fits individuals, teams and leaders.

Behaviors are the foundation of organizational culture. How companies enable and encourage a set of behaviors their employees and leaders should exhibit in a hybrid setting can either lift them to success or drag them down, inhibiting them from achieving their strategic goals.

Due to this reason, companies cannot afford to leave it to chance in this rapidly evolving scenario. Nor can they hope to simply copy a legacy approach to achieve their goals.

Behaviors is the third and most important element of the three B’s - Bricks, Bytes and Behaviors – required for reimagining work. Bricks refers to the physical workspace that supports activities performed by employees at work, while Bytes refers to the user-centric digital workspace of the future.

Behaviors is also the foundation of the three B’s. Once you decide what Behaviors to encourage and strengthen, you can design the right  solutions within Bricks and Bytes.

EY Work Reimagines Employee Survey 2021

54%

of employees are likely to quit if they aren’t offered the flexibility they want.

There are three major aspects of behavioral change in the workspace that companies must analyze carefully to deliver on their organizational objectives:

1) Leadership: many leaders are unsure of how to navigate the new normal and be approachable, available and supportive of building teamwork in the hybrid setting. Leaders also need to pick up new skills in terms of using technology as a vehicle to facilitate communication and collaboration.

Another challenge is that leaders are often swamped with meetings. Even if they are in the office, they are not able to set aside time for casual conversations with their teams. It is therefore up to the leader to make sure that team-building conversations are prioritized and given a room in their calendars.

There are many interesting ways to do this. For instance, a leader could dedicate certain hours in a day for teaming and knowledge sharing. This can be a powerful way to foster a team culture. Further, there need to be new and creative ways for leaders to stay connected with the rest of the organization.

2) Individual: from an individual perspective, employees and leaders need to be more conscious about the different types of time they need to fit into their workday. They need to plan their week to make room for activity types such as individual focus work, teaming, socializing, collaborating and learning. 

Planning the week is the first step that is often missed by most people. Often, calendars get filled up with meetings that exhaust 25-30 hours a week. This leaves hardly any time for focused work, learning or informal knowledge sharing.

It is crucial that employees analyze how their time is being spent on meetings and how best to optimize their calendar on a daily basis. By defining clear activity types and distributing them throughout the week, employees can ensure that their calendar is tuned for better impact and improved well-being.

Employees need to own their calendar and their time versus letting their calendar own them.
Mareike Bönninger
Manager, People Advisory Services, EY Sweden

3) Team: almost everything that applies to individual behaviors also links to team behaviors. How do teams ensure that they have time for collaboration, knowledge sharing and socializing? How do they do this without compromising on individual team members’ needs?
The only way to address these questions is to have conversations on these lines and verbalize them in the form of acceptable social norms.

Teams must set aside time for having conversations about individual and team needs, preferences and ways of working. This is especially important in the hybrid setup to ensure proper collaborative work where necessary - leaving enough time and space for focused individual activities. It will also help in creating an environment where each employee can connect their individual purpose with the company’s purpose.

The way forward

Balancing different perspectives, employee demands, expectations, team needs and organizational needs is crucial. This is the most important and challenging part because there is no one blueprint answer that fits all.

The key is to have an explorative mindset and involve the organization in designing, experimenting and revising the Behavior model. There’s no clear-cut answer to this, so everyone must explore and try things out until they find a solution that fits. It is also important to remember that this is a continuous process that co-exists with reimagining work in the lines of the physical workplace (Bricks) and the digital workplace (Bytes).

Summary

Traditional organizational cultures do not reflect the needs of working in the hybrid setup. With changes involving Bricks and Bytes, Behavior models will also need to evolve. Organizations need to take charge of this evolution and consciously redesign and enable new behaviors to achieve their goals.

About this article

By Mareike Bönninger

Manager, People Advisory Services, EY Sweden

Passionate about people and organizations creating a sustainable environment for people to perform and be their very best. German that came to Sweden for studies, but still here after 10+ years.

Contributors