Tips for shaping your future of work


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1. Consult with colleagues

Different demographics have different preferences and expectations regarding their place of work. The preference of the CEO may be different from many of the workforce. Equally, the type of work done by people in the grassroots of the organization may best lend itself to home or office working or to a hybrid of the two. It’s critical to understand what blend of the work location will enable maximum productivity, wellbeing, and performance. 

In doing so, be mindful that people can only guess what their preferences will be in three, six, or nine months’ time. As schools and nurseries establish a more reliable routine, Zoom fatigue continues, the novelty of working remotely may wear off and preferences may change. 

If a vaccine is developed there may be a far bigger surge back to the office than expected. So make decisions, especially those regarding office space, with this in mind. 

2. Understand different personas

Hybrid working patterns don’t suit everyone. In general, there’s enormous socioeconomic and racial inequality between who is able to work from home and who is not. Take care to understand the implications of your future of work choices on diverse groups of colleagues, not just age and ethnicity but also those with physical or mental health needs, carers, those early in their careers, and new starters to the organization (at any level).

If you have a head office, there will be shifting in the power dynamic that needs to be understood and proactively managed if you want to create a truly empowered, customer-centric culture. 

3. Principles, not rules

Moving to a fully remote or hybrid future of work relies on a culture of trust and empowerment. A set of principles, co-created with colleagues, can guide behavior consistently across the organization without being overly prescriptive. Here are three examples:
Managing performance focuses on achieving outcomes, not the presence
Place of work is chosen based on maximizing individual wellbeing and productivity and the organization’s requirements of the role, not line manager preference
Activity location is determined by providing customers with the best possible experience

Your principles should be sufficient to challenge behavior that is not in the spirit of your chosen future of work model. 

Leaders and line managers are critical in role-modeling your future of work. Help them work out the specific, visible actions they will take to show they are committed to the principles.

4. Test and learn

Since lockdown began we have been thrown into a state of experimentation and this will continue for the foreseeable future – so treat this in the same way. Test out the principles in practice, monitor the impact on productivity and wellbeing, look out for unintended impacts on diversity and inclusion. Involve colleagues in reflection and learning to improve ways of working further in the next phase. 

Share existing good practices across teams. We have heard multiple examples of teams adapting brilliantly to hybrid working, for example:
Virtual office days: everyone logs onto MS Teams, Zoom or equivalent and is in each other’s company, therefor spontaneous help, without the need for formal meetings
Cook-a-thons: to welcome new starters to a team and get to know each other socially
Mural, Slack and other collaboration tools: to problem solve and innovate

Use this test and learn phase to establish rituals and symbols that signpost what good looks like in the new world. For example, keep board meetings virtual, everyone joining on their own device either from home or the office. 

Plan in team engagement days, where the whole team commits to getting together physically, re-connecting, and enjoying each other’s company. A sense of belonging to something bigger than ourselves, doing meaningful work for a higher purpose is a powerful motivator. It’s hard to maintain this purely through virtual connections. 

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