The Future of Work is broken!
Going back to the office is a symbolic way for us to step into the future. Two highly contradictory narratives exist around this change. They reveal the severe damage in the relationship between leadership and teams.
Narrative one identifies itself as ‘going back to normal’, narrative two declares that we are now in ‘the future of work’. People are confused, leaders cannot create a vision, and this confusion will impact the economy. This chaos will result in a decrease in productivity and success, which in turn will negatively affect everyone involved.
This volatile and unpredictable context does not need to exist, but the context is not recognised for some reason. Solutionising without understanding the context is habitual for most organisations.
This means organisations are too eager to treat symptoms instead of understanding an ancient problem, even though we have a unique opportunity to change. After a global epidemic that ground many economies to a halt, everyone understands one thing: Change is needed!
We live in a new world with a new map now, so why don’t we collaboratively explore that map?
Not knowing the map is too risky. Evidence for that danger exists. In the UK, a company sent an email to everyone that the office is back on, and overnight 50% of their workforce threatened to quit.
Leaders have been oblivious or lazy before. Middle management might be amazingly unprepared for playing a role in the future of organisations and needs a new role. Workers have understood that working from home has benefits and makes them more productive. Leadership has been hoping for more productivity and tried a lot. People had change fatigue even before COVID. Over 20 years, I never understood why working from home or remotely or flexibly is such a weird concept for companies.
Everyone has a year of experience now in working from home and making it work. What do companies do instead of listening?
- They try to pay people less because working from home is somehow less valuable or more expensive for companies? (*cough BS *cough)
- They try to force people back to work despite their preferences because they don’t trust their workforce.
A survey by Deloitte has shown that over 50% of people would like to work from home at least two days a week, another 20% two days; this alone makes 70% of the workforce hybrid. People have seen the light; people have been amazingly productive, often more than in the office. In addition to that, we are facing a mental health crisis. Bringing people back into the office to burn them out further might just be breaking the camel’s back.
So this time, why don’t we listen to each other. The world just got turned upside down. COVID delta is infecting people that are double-vaccinated.
In over 20 years in change and transformation, communication and knowledge exchange have shown to be the most significant success factors.
Compare it to a marriage. Most of them break when trust and communication are not right. This is a people problem and an ever-evolving wicked problem. We should start recognising that we need some work, some retro, an AAR on the last year.
For anyone who thinks we can go ahead, I have to say:
You think we are now in the future of work because we use a bit of zoom? I have been using remote video for the last 20 years. Whatever you think is innovative does not impress my eight-year-old daughter, who calls me on three devices and through five different apps. There is a lot to explore and try.
Before you consider where your organisation will go after all of this, please do an AAR, an After Action Report.
It is a sharing session where rank doesn’t matter. The good and the bad will come out. Do that and define their actions out of it. I promise you, leaders and workers will manage to feel safer, heard and more energised. And we all need this right now.
Cross the gap between leaders and teams.
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