Is there a future for work?

Of course, there is a future for work, what else would we do with our time? Joking aside, the pandemic has shown us that there are all sorts of things we could be doing with our time, most of them not related to work as we knew it. It led many of us to think about what we want from work.



So, what?

There is much talk about #the future for work as if it is something way in the stratosphere and the stuff of science fiction. Think again the future of work is already here. Remote or hybrid working has been in existence for centuries, the pandemic opened our eyes and forced even the doubters to acknowledge that it can work in more circumstances than we ever thought. According to the CMI, 48% of employees work in a hybrid fashion today. One of the positives of the pandemic is the recognition of the importance of technology in facilitating remote working, suddenly, budgets were diverted, bandwidth, more reliable network access and apps were provided.


The perfect storm

Leaders must focus on more than pay and rations. World events have sought to accelerate change and bring to the fore the need for further change. People want to work in the place that creates the best environment for their best work to happen and that varies depending on what you do and for whom you do it. Diversity Inclusion, Equality and well-being are high on the agenda and how they are addressed makes the difference between whether companies are seen as good places to work or not. Employees still want connection, if that is to happen in the “office”, workplaces need to be places that support community and wellbeing as well as facilitate learning, collaboration and problem solving.


To be or not to be in the office

The so-called Great Resignation is happening not because people do not want to work [in the office] but because they do not want to work in the same conditions and in some cases with their old employers. Only 9% of employees surveyed wanted to return to the office full time. It is not that the Office was bad necessarily it is just that working from home opened people’s eyes to what is possible. Employees want flexibility. In a recent HBR survey 59% of respondents reported that flexibility is more important than salary and other benefits. Employees have choices and those in a position to pivot are doing so.


And what does Future for Work mean for Leaders?

Leadership is not a back-office activity, it needs to be seen and felt. Leading a hybrid working environment does require a different mindset. It is constantly evolving, and human skills are becoming paramount. Companies lacking empathetic leadership will find this challenging. Coaching can help organisations ask the right questions and enhance capabilities across their leadership teams. My stance is that not all the requisite skills are new, (hint, they all involve better communication) the question is whether as a leader you have chosen to ignore these skills or develop them. Learning and Development Strategist, Keith Keating talks about the need for leaders to “learn, unlearn and relearn”. I am on board with that.


The Great Opportunity!

Hybrid working is here to stay. The world of work needs to be inclusive whether you are in the office or not.There are still many challenges to overcome. This is a fantastic opportunity for organisations to look at their culture now and what they want it to be and to make changes cognisant of what their teams and society needs. It is an opportunity to come back stronger and with purpose. It is an opportunity to build a coaching culture which helps to facilitate these and future environmental changes.


What should leaders do?

  • Stop talking about working from home – this topic is much more complex than that term implies

  • Build trust – in my view it is essential to hybrid working

  • Seek open feedback at an individual level, team level and business wide, listen to it and digest it

  • Make changes with the future in mind, culture change is a constant thing

  • Be seen to be working flexibly – walk the talk

  • Provide your leaders with the right skills and empower them to drive change – it will feel uncomfortable for some, but is essential to improving employee experience

In summary, the challenge for leaders is to provide an environment with the right tools and resources to enable all employees to thrive wherever they decide to work from. And that is not new, is it?

Sandra Francis has been a Senior Leader within the technology sector for more than 25 years. Her success comes from aligning technical and business expertise with People centric leadership. Her passion is Executive and Leadership Coaching where her focus is in helping technical leaders, step out of their comfort zone, and develop their skills to become confident and inspiring leaders, enabling them to accelerate their careers.

References

CMI Management Transformed.

HBR Forget flexibility. Hoger Reisinger and Dane Fetterer

Institute of Leadership and Management – International Leadership Week 2021

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