Transitioning from Pandemic to Endemic: Resetting Work Culture
Summary: As we transition from the COVID-19 pandemic to the endemic, we need to reset our work culture. The traditional Monday to Friday workdays may no longer be relevant as more of us work remotely. We often feel the need to reset our work culture. The question is: “How might we reset our work culture efficiently and effectively?”
One day in Jakarta, on the 29th of Sep 2019, was one of those horrible days. It was not because of the political demonstration nor something related to my never-ending work pile or my gruelling travel that required me to be away from my loved ones.
It is the fact that the traffic was terrible, the air quality was intolerable, and my mobility became limited. I haven’t checked the stats yet, but I relied on my trained nose to determine the air quality and my inner-city roaming time from one point to another.
What is the main reason? It is simply the payday period. From about 24th to 7th every month, most Jakartans unofficially spend most of their earnings on various things, from food, electronics, and luxury items. Many flooded shopping malls and other stores in the city to buy something that we may or sadly may not need. Unfortunately, and unconsciously (to my defence), I became a spender, and I was not proud of it.
In layman’s terms, Priming is a psychological technique to modify someone’s response towards a stimulus indirectly, using another intermediary stimulus.
The psychological technique of Priming has been used quite widely in many areas. I have personally used it successfully in my teaching, coaching, and mentoring.
For the last 20 years, I have also used it in product design. When being used ethically, being primed unconsciously may improve their learning experience and performance in using a product.
We face an ethical question when we use this technique in advertisements or behaviour modification. Is it ethical?
One of the success (or failure) stories in using this priming technique is GoPay.
My elderly dad, who is not versed in using technology, has never used electronic vouchers provided by GoFood because he does not know how to access and use them. From his experience, he only knows that he can get cashback if he uses GoPay without vouchers. Everything worked well for him until yesterday.
From his experience, he learned that if he split his bill with his friends and families with GoPay, both parties splitting a bill could get a cashback.
One day, he offered me to split a bill so both of us could get a cashback. He was shocked when the food seller told him that he could pay with GoPay, but no cashback. It was a good lesson from him to unlearn that spending with GoPay always equals cashback.
Resetting Work Culture
Borrowing the term of Priming, the COVID-19 pandemic that forces many to work remotely is an intermediary stimulus for many to experience hybrid or remote work.
The controversy surrounding Apple’s decision to enforce a policy that most employees work in the office at least three days a week, despite opposition, has recently become news. Employees primed to remote work for the last year demanded remote work to become a norm in Apple. Better diversity and inclusion, communication, work-life balance, belonging, and safety, were cited as the reasons for this plea. On the other hand, Dilbert may well illustrate one of the worries of Apple’s leadership, i.e., productivity, for leaving the choice of remote work in the hands of the employees.
In retrospect, we accepted the priming as a wake-up call as we are transitioning from pandemic to endemic at UX Indonesia. We are resetting our work culture.
- First, we measured and identified the employee productivity patterns weekly and monthly for the last year of remote work.
- Our data and observation concluded that Wednesday and the third week of the month are the least productive time for UX Indonesians.
- We then decided to use the second Wednesday of each month for a Professional Development Day, when everyone ceases to work and attend a compulsory professional development from July onward.
- Furthermore, we dedicate the third Wednesday of each month for a me-time. Since the Indonesian collectivist culture and customs have become a burden for many of our employees, we advised them to spend this day for themselves: Go shopping by themselves, travel leisurely by themselves, or eat lunch by themselves. Each employee has a right to a me-time and improves our mental health.
- We have also set a time frame of six months to evaluate these new work policies.
- In addition, we have been working continuously with our employees to better support them by providing an option to work from their home, serviced office, cafe, etc.
In honesty, our work culture reset is still a work-in-progress. This reset is an experiment that we undertake seriously to anticipate and alleviate burnouts. We have learned many lessons in the last year and will continue to learn more in the coming years.