It’s usually not a simple choice – for companies or for individuals. Companies are making very different decisions. If you’re unsure who should go back to the office, how many days per week, and to do what type of work… here’s a bit of help.
Companies are making very different decisions.
Many people are thinking about being back in the office and what post-pandemic work life looks like. They’re asking questions like “why do I need to be in the office? When do I need to be back in the office? Why aren’t we all back in the office?”
The answers seem as varied as the people asking them. We are hearing weekly what different companies are doing, and the decisions are far from consistent.
- The largest 4-day work week pilot to date is underway in the UK. For six months, 3,300 people, in 70 companies, across a wide variety of industries are testing the feasibility of a 4-day work week. During the program, workers receive 100% of their pay for working only 80% of their usual week, in exchange for promising to maintain 100% of their productivity. Joe O’Connor, CEO of 4 Day Week Global says “More and more companies are recognizing that the new frontier for competition is quality of life, and that reduced-hour, productivity-focused working is the vehicle to give them that competitive edge,”
- Elon Musk made news because of a leaked internal memo to Tesla workersin which he says “Anyone who wishes to do remote work must be in the office for a minimum (and I mean *minimum*) of 40 hours per week or depart Tesla… not a remote branch office unrelated to the job duties.’ His reasoning seems to be that by not being in the office at least 40-hours per week, you are “phoning it in.”
- Akamai went in the opposite direction. Full disclosure – I’ve had the privilege of working with them several times. They announced that as of May 2022, 95% of their nearly 10,000 employees around the world have complete flexibility to decide whether they work at home, in the office, or both. In making this decision, they analyzed all roles in the company against the same criteria, regardless of location, and determined 95% could be done with complete flexibility. Flexibility has been part of their culture for years but never to this extent. The analysis bolstered their belief that employees should decide what is best for them.
- Nearly 20 percent of American office workers are back one day a week
- About 10 percent are back two days a week
- Just five percent are back three days a week
- Even fewer are back four or five days a week
- More than 50 percent do not use the office consistently every week.
The idea of everyone needing to be in the office or at the same site goes back to the industrial and pre-digital work environment. Materials were most efficiently used in a single location. Communication happened face-to-face or by phone. In my early consulting career, I worked for a firm where a large percentage of the consultants coded all day – onsite, in person. The technology was different then so there really wasn’t another option. However, these people spent 90% of their time in their cubes, working individually. With today’s digital environments, you could easily see that being in-person would probably be of little impact on their work.
Recent research finds that working collaboratively face-to-face (F2F) has an impact on creativity. A study of nearly 1,500 engineers in five different countries were randomly paired to create product ideas F2F or via video call. The study showed video conferencing had a negative impact on idea generation but did not make a difference in the ability to critically evaluate creative ideas. Since creativity begins with new or adaptive ideas, face-to-face could be critical to your innovation and problem-solving strategies.
What’s the right model for how we work? Different companies will have different needs, jobs will have different needs, people will have different needs. And, that’s a new way of thinking. Many roles are much more nuanced than the coder example I shared above, so the choice is not that simple. It will take months, probably years before we understand the benefits and drawbacks of any model. At the end of the day, the answer will probably be, it depends.
“It depends” is not a great response for people seeking answers. So, here’s a little help figuring things out. If you and your team are still deciding how to manage the Great Transition, you may want to start with looking at the nature of the work. Even if your organization is committed to a consistent hybrid model (i.e., everyone in the office 2 days per week), it may help you determine how to use those in-office days vs remote days.
You can start with a simple 2×3 matrix that allows you to map tasks to three task categories – creative, analytical, or transactional/process — and the degree of interactivity associated with the task – is it primarily individual or collaborative, and the amount of your time you spend on each task.
For example, if I am analyzing the data in a spreadsheet, it is primarily an individual task. If I am one of several people brainstorming a new solution, working collaboratively on this analysis will generate better results. Analyzing different solutions may work as well remotely as FTF depending on the nature of what’s being analyzed. Also, creative and analytical processes can be co-dependent and concurrent, so working collaboratively, FTF on this analysis might generate better results. Think of this as a continuum between Creative and Transactional.
Here’s an example, below:
Joy and happiness are two different things. Both impact things like creativity, individual productivity, and the company’s bottom line (yes, it’s true). But joy is more sustainable. Here’s a 5-minute per day, one-week plan for kickstarting your path to getting more joy out of work.
Are you missing joy at work? Or maybe, you’ve never even put the two words joy and work together in the same sentence. May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Joy is important to mental health. Finding it at work is very challenging for many of us. However, finding it may be more important than ever.
Isn’t joy just another word for happiness? Not really. According to Merriam Webster dictionary joy is the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune. Joy comes from being connected to our uniqueness, authenticity, to others and to something meaningful. Joy is something we create and more intrinsic. Happiness is sparked by an external event or situation. Research shows both joy and happiness impact our creativity, energy, productivity, health, ability to handle stress, and the company’s bottom line. Joy is more sustainable.
Interested in (re)gaining joy at work? After all, we do spend most of our days working. Creating joy needs to be an active pursuit made up of small steps we take every day. I challenge you to take the 5-minute, 5-day challenge to (re)gain joy at work. It works best when you implement it over 5 consecutive days and jot your answers down somewhere so you can look back on them.
Day One: 5 minutes: Reconnect to your North Star. What is your big why? Why do you do the work you do? How is it helping you live your values? How does your work connect with other important things in your life? What about it is driving you right now?
Day Two: 5 minutes: What is one thing you can influence or change at work that will allow you to align with your North Star more completely – even if it’s a small thing. What is one task you could do? Or stop doing? What is one opportunity you could take to give yourself a few minutes to focus on something more meaningful? Or to laugh? Or to take a deep breath?
Day Three: 5 minutes: What colleague could you help? Maybe you’re thinking you don’t have time to help a colleague because you have so much on your plate. What if you grabbed them a cup of coffee when you go to grab one yourself? Could you have a walk and talk to help them think through a challenge while you both go to pick up lunch (that you may be eating at your desk so you can keep working!)
Day Four: 5 minutes: What are your strengths? What energizes you? What is one way, in the next week, you could more fully use that strength? How could you craft your job so that you are able to do this more consistently and frequently?
Day Five: 5 minutes. Reflect and reward yourself. What accomplishment are you proud of this week? How did you live your big why? What one thing did you influence or change? Who did you lend a hand to? How did you use your strengths more fully? Do you feel more joy today than you did 5 days ago?
Integrate this challenge into your daily routine every week. Assess the impact at the end of 3-weeks and 3 months. Let me know what happens.
Let’s face it – the world of work is unlikely to ever be the same again. Most companies that have been remote over the last two years are unlikely to ever require 100% office attendance of all their employees. And that’s a good thing.
No two employees are exactly alike. They have differing capabilities for working productively at home, and different work-life balance needs. Companies are recognizing that one size doesn’t fit all. The best companies will find ways to accommodate the best talent. And every company will make decisions about how flexible they want to be. Likewise, every person will make decisions about which organization is the best fit for them.
Even with this increased flexibility, there are benefits to going into the office … at least a couple of days per week:
- Your career – good companies will work to create a culture where your work location doesn’t dictate opportunities. All other things being equal, there will still be an unspoken bias that favors those who come to the workplace more often than their peers. For most executives and managers, this won’t be consciously planned. It’s just human nature. People give opportunity to those they trust the most. And trust is built through relationships. Relationships that include face-to-face time are typically built more quickly and deeply. Grabbing lunch, a chance meeting walking down the hall, or popping into their office for a quick chat. That VP who just hired you? You’re sitting in her office and notice that picture off to the side with her golfing friends and begin a discussion about your favorite courses in the area. Those are meaningful ways that people develop closer personal ties. And they happen more effortlessly and more deeply face-to-face.
- Your sanity – some people don’t miss going to work one bit. Maybe it’s the commute. Or you’re a complete introvert and don’t need or want social connection as much as the next guy. It could be you’ve just gotten used to the convenience of crawling out of bed, pouring yourself a cup of coffee, and firing up the laptop. Most people, however, need social interaction to maintain their mental health. Covid has been difficult for all of us for numerous reasons and social isolation is a big part of it. Even if you have a bunch of friends that you’ve been able to stay close to for the last two years, being at work provides a greater variety and number of interactions – both of which are healthier for most people. And sometimes we just need to get away from our home because there are distractions that we need a break from. For some people, there are times when “quiet time” to reflect and get things done is more doable at the office than at home.
- Your options– being at work at least part-time opens up options that aren’t as easily available if you work from home full-time. Here is a partial list of things that are often done more easily, effectively, or enjoyably from the office:
- Collaborating on the fly
- Improving your health as you get up and move around. (It takes many more steps to go grab a coffee or lunch at the office than going to your kitchen.)
- Work / life balance: the kind where work ends when you walk out the door, not when you finally eat dinner or go to bed
- Networking before, during or after work
- Developing a new set of daytime acquaintances that aren’t tied to family and “weekend friends,” which promotes mental health
- Shopping for the perfect gift at that cool store around the corner
- Celebrating team and individual successes, holidays and birthdays, and important milestones like promotions and retirements
There is no question that returning to work will also be difficult for many people, and that’s to be expected. It was a big change when you abruptly started staying home and it will be a big change if and when you go back to the office, even if only for a day or two per week. There are steps you can take to help yourself prepare and adjust once you’re back. And make no mistake, your attitude toward going back will impact how hard it is for you to return.
No one is better at gauging how to best meet your personal and professional needs than you are. And that’s why taking a second look at what you’ve gained… and lost… over the last two Covid years might lead you to a more nuanced view of the benefits of going back to the office at least part time. Even if it’s not your choice, appreciating the silver lining is good for your mental health and probably your career.
Boost Your Team’s Engagement
Employee engagement is a challenge even in the best of times. This year, Gallup shows only 36% of US employees are engaged. Why does this matter? Companies with high levels of engagement are 21% more profitable and 22% more productive.
One of the complicating factors this year is the unprecedented change in the economy and how work is getting done. So, what does employee engagement mean in a virtual world? How do I, as a leader, meet the challenge of engaging my team at a time when stress and distractions are so high?
In this interview, Edith talks with Bob Kelleher, a leading expert in employee engagement, and founder of The Employee Engagement Group.
Here’s our conversation!
To learn more about Bob Kelleher, click here.
Most managers have a hard enough time communicating with their team members. And doing so virtually is even harder. But there’s still good news for delivering that performance review virtually. A few basic techniques will go a long way to easing the difficulty.
Just like in-person reviews, the key to successful virtual reviews is to focus on the conversation. It should be a dialogue between you and your team member that is focused on helping this individual perform at the highest level possible, to build on their strengths and support their development. Here are 7 tips to make your virtual reviews effective.
1. Provide the review ahead of time. Give the person at least an hour or two to look at it prior to your conversation. That provides enough time for them to process the information and get beyond any initial reactions. They can “walk into” the meeting more composed, with thoughts and questions more fully formed.
2. Set the stage. Put aside your Zoom fatigue and use video (not the phone) so that the conversation feels as much like in-person as possible. If you usually rely on others to manage video calls, do a dry run so you’re able to focus on the discussion, not the technology. Know what you’re doing to do if there are connection issues. Reschedule as a video call, not a phone call.
3. Start with empathy. Begin the conversation by recognizing 2020 has been challenging and talk about specific challenges the individual has faced. Ask how they are doing (yes, even if you asked them that last week – you want to build empathy as part of the virtual conversation). 96% of employees believe showing empathy is an important way to advance employee retention. 92% believe it remains undervalued. Empathy will make a virtual conversation go more smoothly.
4. Focus on strengths. Recognize their hard work. A great deal of research shows that managers and organizations should focus the majority of their feedback on a person’s strengths. The 80/20 rule on the ratio of positive to “corrective” feedback might look more like 90/10 this year. Of course, poor performers will require a higher ratio of “corrective” feedback. But if you go a bit easier on most people’s performance than you might normally, it will pay off in 2021.
5. Listen carefully. Active listening is harder on a zoom call. But it builds trust and shows respect. Employees who feel their voice is heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work. Don’t interrupt. Allow the other person time to respond. Remember there can be video delay.
6. Don’t shortchange the review. We’re all tired of endless video calls. For many, they’re more taxing than face-to-face meetings. It will be tempting to create a shorter than normal agenda or rush through the meeting. Resist that temptation. Especially in a year that requires a little more managerial TLC.
Performance management is a source of some frustration for most managers, especially having the “dreaded” review discussion. There are ways to make that conversation both easier and more effective.
It’s that time of the year again. No, not the holidays. Performance review and annual goal setting time. Many people dread performance reviews. That dread is exacerbated this year by the exceptional circumstances we’ve all been living through. It’s too bad this sense of dread is so prevalent. Performance reviews and feedback could be easier and more effective, if we reframe our thinking. Here are 7 tips to make performance reviews easier and more effective:
1. Change the label. The term “performance review” or “performance management” conjures up images of passing judgement on a person’s performance, on their worth. A “performance and development conversation” is a two-way dialogue. We are sharing perspectives, insights and ideas. It’s a partnership. How we talk with our team members can put people more at ease.
2. Change the focus. Make the review all about developing your team member. The focus of performance conversations should not be primarily about the rating we are giving someone or justifying a salary increase. It’s an opportunity to help this individual perform at the highest level possible, to build on their strengths and support their development. According to McKinsey, superior talent is up to eight times more productive than average employees. The more time and sincere effort you invest in your employee’s development, the higher the return.
3. Start with empathy. Ask about the challenges and realities the person is experiencing – balancing work and child-care, caring for an elderly parent, managing remote or hybrid learning or just the loneliness of being remote. Ask at the beginning of the review. Even if you asked last week. You want to establish empathy as part of the review. Why? Besides being a good thing to do? Among employees who said they feel cared for by their employer, 94% say they feel personally engaged in their work compared to 43% of those who don’t. Furthermore, according to IBM research, organizations that score in the top 25% of employee experience report nearly 3x the return on assets and double the return on sales when compared to organizations in the bottom 25%.
4. Simplify. Start with a high-level narrative that summarizes past performance, development needs and goals. Then launch into the review. But don’t just read it together. Instead, think about using these five questions to drive conversation:
- What accomplishments are you most proud of?
- How well are you achieving your current goals?
- How do goals need to change to meet new business strategy or goals?
- How are your actions aligning with our values and culture?
- What do you need to continue doing because you are doing it well? What do you need to stop doing because it’s not effective? What do you need to start doing instead?
6. Talk about expectations and reality. Discuss how those expectations can be managed against the realities mentioned above. Ask for the individual’s thoughts on it.
7. Focus not just on what was achieved but how it was achieved. For example, in remote environments, collaboration is more important but can be more difficult. Make sure people are clear on what is important for success.
COVID has taught us that we can and must be able to change rapidly, to transform on the fly if need be. We’ve had no choice but to go more completely digital, transforming our customer, employee, student and supplier experiences. Truly listening with empathy, and being agile became key not just for leaders, but for everyone. Change can’t just be a priority for a few people at the top. It needs to be a priority for everyone. And, honestly, that’s kind of exciting.
Now as WFH is becoming ‘normal’ and some of us begin to go back to the office, we hear that people are reverting to older ways of thinking and behaving. Employees are waiting before they invent or experiment. People are holding back new ideas. There’s a return to more rigid hierarchy. Leaders are beginning to do more telling and less listening. And that’s not good.
As we’ve talked with clients and colleagues, we’ve heard that building the capability for continuous change is more crucial now than ever. But old habits are hard to break.
We’re committed to helping you break those habits. Over the next several weeks, we’ll be sharing 7 tips to help you build a team with the continuous capability – and energy – for change.
Lesson #1: Change Your Mindset – and Your Team’s
Most leaders and teams approach the balance between executing on today’s priorities and continuous change as a problem to be solved. However, it’s not just a problem. There is no single or easy answer. If we focus too much on executing today, we will lag behind where the market is moving. If we focus too much on change and innovation, we will not meet today’s priorities. What we are facing is a dilemma
In a dilemma, you have two, interdependent poles (or forces) that create a natural and ongoing tension. Choosing to pursue too much of one and too little of another doesn’t provide a long term solution and leads to additional problems. Instead, we need to find new ways to manage the challenge; one that leverages the advantages and mitigates the disadvantages of both. Rather than either/or, we need to think both/and. And unless we’re prepared to lead entirely on our own, we know we need everyone to be thinking the same way.
One way to operationalize both/and thinking with your team is to use a dilemma mapping tool. This tool provides a format to discuss and capture the advantages and disadvantages, allowing you to determine an approach that maximizes the positive aspects of BOTH while avoiding the disadvantages.
COVID has provided us with many dilemmas. I was recently speaking with a leader of a large learning and development organization about one of hers. When COVID moved people to work primarily from home, they needed to adapt quickly. Her organization created a solution that maintained client relationships and drastically changed their delivery model to meet the new reality. They involved clients in the assessment and design of a new delivery model. They quickly triaged their development services, focusing on the most critical ones. That allowed them to transition to an all-remote-delivery process and speed up their program design cycle time. They also amped up the development and use of tool kits and tip sheets to fill in learning gaps that the COVID crisis had presented.
Harming their client relationships was not an option. Just delivering as they had been, but doing it remotely, also wasn’t an option because it was ineffective. They created a solution that maintained client relationships and drastically changed their delivery model to meet the new reality. Their approach modeled both/and thinking.
I’m sure that over the past few months, you’ve also had situations where you’ve needed to apply both/and. As complexity grows, so will dilemmas. Organizations that continue to apply both/and effectively will succeed not only during a crisis, but on an ongoing basis in our fast-paced world.
In this podcast, Change Management Review Editor-In-Chief Theresa Moulton interviews Edith Onderick-Harvey, Managing Partner of NextBridge Consulting, LLC.
As change leaders and change professionals, you naturally embrace, engage in, and affect change. Personal leadership and engagement, however, is not enough. You need to help leaders engage their teams in new thinking, creativity, and innovation. Innovation only happens when people are able to work in the gray space — where ambiguity is okay, risk is essential, and business principles, rather than hard and fast rules, apply. How can you help create a culture of change makers?
Based on her Harvard Business Review online article 5 Ways to Help Your Team Be Open to Change, Edith Onderick- Harvey will discuss 5 daily practices you can put in place to inspire, enable and accelerate a culture of change makers.
“We, as humans, are built for positive disruption.”
That’s how a speaker at a recent virtual conference described change.
Is that how you think about change and disruption?
At about the same time, I read an article in Talent Quarterly by Joe Folkman about research into the push and pull approaches to leading change. When leaders use the push approach, they set a target, and create stretch goals. They then initiate new processes and procedures, and hold people accountable with incentives and discipline. In the pull approach, leaders articulate a north star – a vivid picture of the future. They engage people to adopt it as their goal and lift their aspirations to achieve it. Positive reinforcement helps the organization to accomplish the goal. Until now, I think we’ve relied too heavily on push and too little on pull.
Together, these two thought leaders confirmed something I’ve thought about for a while now. We need to change the change paradigm.
- We currently define how we think about change into a few common phrases. Change is hard. People resist change. Change is overwhelming. Change is scary, even when it’s good for us.
- For decades, we’ve talked about the change acceptance curve – awareness, questioning, despair, acceptance and, finally, commitment. The curve reinforces those ideas of change being hard and representing loss rather than representing growth and opportunity.
- I recommend we take the change curve and, literally, flip it on its head, changing the language we use to talk about change.
This re-envisioned change curve looks at change as growth. When we are learning – experiencing that positive disruption I talked about – we are motivated to master the new rather than pine for the past. For example, when we start walking we don’t look back and miss when we were only able to crawl. When we learn to drive a car we don’t fondly think, “Oh I wish I could go back to only knowing how to ride a bike.” We see change as additive instead of the loss of what we had before.
We start at a place of inexperience. Because we are inexperienced, we need information, support and encouragement. We need the opportunity to “try things on” and have some ownership of how we integrate the new way into our work and our lives. We see that the end is a worthwhile place to be and we pursue it.
In this paradigm, change is something we embrace and seek. Even when we make mistakes, when the change doesn’t work as anticipated, or we hit roadblocks, it doesn’t mean the change is bad. It doesn’t cause us to stop changing. Go back to the bike analogy. When we are riding our bike too close to a curb, hit the curb and fall off, we don’t decide to never ride a bike again. We pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, get back on the bike and ride… knowing that next time we’ll avoid that obstacle.
When we think about change this way, we become engaged. We are achieving successes – sometimes small, sometimes large – which are motivating us to pursue more success. We actively seek out additional opportunities to gain more experience, experiment, and learn. We see value in this new way.
In mastery, what was the change is now completely the normal. And, when we stay at mastery too long, we get bored and it’s time to pursue something that brings us back to that feeling of growth and learning.
And that’s the new paradigm – that we see change first and foremost as growth and opportunity and that when we, as leaders, engage people in that way, change is interesting, exciting and something to be pursued.
Why Is It So Hard To Get My Organization To Change?
You know that change is hard. You’ve experienced it. Often, leaders feel that, with all the day-to-day demands on them, they just don’t have the time to be working on how to get to the future. It could be that the team is faced with a challenge so complex that it seems un-manageable, so they don’t face it head-on. Or it can simply be that assumption that people really don’t want to change.
Recently, I had the pleasure of spending 30-minutes with Jim Masters on the difficulty of change and related topics. We also talked about what leaders and organizations need to do to thrive through continual change, why we call our firm NextBridge and how I came to this place in my career.
What Role Does Purpose Play In Being Agile?
Being agile means asking people to step out of their comfort zone and into uncertainty. That can be a scary proposition. Purpose is the north star of an agile organization. Purpose creates the guardrails for action.
Trends, Bends and Opportunities
Dr. Loren Murfield, Pat Lynch and I discuss this topic and how to create agility in your organization. This daily Facebook Live podcast is a learning opportunity that helps you navigate your business in a rapidly changing environment. We discussed practical information everyone can use today to build agility and stay ahead of the competition.
NextBridge partners with you to create and execute pragmatic, sustainable business solutions focused on building your organization and culture, developing talent and navigating change.
- Does Your Business Discourage Dissent?September 22, 2022 - 2:19 pm
- Who’s Going Back to the Office? Who *Should* Be Going Back?July 12, 2022 - 7:22 pm
- 5 Minutes. 5 Days. (Re)gaining Joy at WorkMay 24, 2022 - 6:45 pm
- Worried About Accountability During the “Great Resignation?”April 7, 2022 - 5:42 pm
- Why Going Back to The Office Might Not Be Such a Bad Idea After AllMarch 23, 2022 - 5:22 pm
- Global Company Grows Rapidly, Responds with New Career Development StrategiesJanuary 9, 2017 - 7:18 pm
- Financial Services Firm Responds to Market Pressures with Quick, Seamless ChangeJanuary 9, 2017 - 7:03 pm
- Renowned Business School Bolsters for Strategic Growth, Redefines Key FunctionJanuary 9, 2017 - 6:56 pm
- Life Sciences Company Shifts Strategy, Transforms Organization and Talent ApproachJanuary 8, 2016 - 7:06 pm