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.
Three things you can do now to make accountability work:
- Align performance with client needs. It’s a lot easier to talk with someone about their performance if you explain how it matters to clients, including internal clients. “Lisa, let’s talk about ABC Pros. They’re one of our most important clients, so we need to bump up our performance for them. What do you think are the top three ways we can do that?” Add your views and expectations to the discussion. Making clients the focus of the conversation reduces the likelihood that they’ll take it personally. It’s not about what you want, it’s about what the client expects. The same is true about aligning expectations with business strategy. It reminds the individual how they make an important contribution. Connecting to their personal goals can make it even more powerful.
- Map accountability to your team members’ professional development goals. This is one of those areas where the art of conversation matters a great deal. Accountability can – and should – be framed up as an exercise in helping your employee meet both their business and development goals. “Mike, we talked last month about your interest in learning how to do more complex data analysis. Let’s look at what you’ve done on this project to see what you’re doing well, and where you can make adjustments that would aid in your development.” This can lead to a constructive discussion about the project goals and parameters you discussed with him earlier.
- Make accountability a two-way street. Good leaders know that trust and a sense of fairness are critical to developing a productive working relationship with others, regardless of their role. One of the most effective ways to do that is for you to be accountable to your team members as well. This could mean making time to meet with them on a regular basis, helping them overcome resource issues or other organizational barriers, or following up on your development commitments. When you’re trying to establish their accountability include what commitments you are making to support them. “Alisha, what can I do to make this easier for you to accomplish?” Or “What have I done that’s helped you on this project? What’s not been helpful? What else can I do?”
The Power of Conversation
Powerfully effective leadership requires a great deal of skill – or should I say skills. What do change agility, delegation, performance management, and motivation all have in common? Conversation. Not just talking to or at someone or some group, but talking WITH them.
At the root of almost all leadership successes and failures are conversations that did or did not go well. Leadership conversations can run the gamut from basic to complicated and they are ubiquitous. A rather basic conversation can change a performance issue. A conversation can create the win-win of an effectively delegated task or project. Conversations do the heavy lifting of leading change. Conversations are used to explain a strategy and enlist an executive team to execute it. Conversations articulate the vision in a meaningful, real way and provide those irresistible invitations to come along over a period of time.
As business becomes ever more complex and changing, there is less room for misunderstanding, mistrust, and disengagement. And yet, we increasingly rely on email and texting to communicate – tools that often contribute to more misunderstanding and can create mistrust.
We all know that some conversations are great and others are not. What are the characteristics of a powerful leadership conversation? Here are our top 5:
As a leader, do you spend more time crafting emails and presentations than working on the conversations you have every day? What opportunities are you missing?
Mastering the art and science of conversation will improve or help you better leverage virtually every skill you need if you want to excel as a leader in our rapidly changing world.
At NextBridge, we place a premium on great conversations as we help our clients navigate organizational change and leadership development.
What conversation would you like to have? Call me at 978-475-8424. I’d love to hear what you have to say.
As we move toward Thanksgiving, my thoughts are turning to gratitude. I question whether we show enough of it in the workplace. We often think that because someone is ‘doing his job’ he doesn’t need or want to know that we appreciate the value he is providing, the results achieved, or the extra effort given. That’s not to say that we should be showing appreciation or praise for everything someone does. Work is not an 8 year old’s soccer team where “everyone is a winner.” However, a simple thank you can garner immense returns.
Think about the last time someone gave you a genuine thank you or compliment on your work when you were not expecting or asking for it. How did you feel? What did it do to your relationship with that person? If you had two competing demands from the person who said “thank you” and someone else, who were you more likely to move to the top of you list (assuming that all things are equal, like the other person is not your boss or the CEO or someone else who trumps everyone else)?
Effective leaders recognize the contributions others make. They recognize that others achieve the results for which the leader may receive credit. They know that without others they are unable to achieve many goals.
Let me publicly thank a few people who have supported my success this year:
* Thank you to my assistant Diane who has helped me make order out of chaos, helped me put process in place and given me the time to focus on those areas where I add value to my clients.
*Thank you to my husband and family who, even when I doubt myself, have no doubt in the value of the work that I do.
* Thank you to my clients who put the trust in me to help them achieve their goals and to move performance forward in their organizations.
* Thank you to all of you who have so generously let me know that you find value in the words I put on this page every week and that you appreciate finding it in your email.
Two recent HBR articles provide two different views on what it means to be authentic. In “The Authenticity Paradox” Herminia Ibarra notes that too simplistic an interpretation of authenticity is a hindrance to effective leadership. In order to grow and develop as a leader, one has to try on behaviors and attitudes that may not come naturally and, therefore, feel less than authentic. “Discovering Your Authentic Leader” looks at the role of your life story, self-awareness, acting on your values and principles and balancing your internal and external motivators in authentic leadership.
My view of authenticity tends to be more aligned with the second article. Being authentic isn’t about saying and doing whatever you feel like because it feels right to you, which the first article suggests is the simple view of authenticity. It’s about bringing the uniqueness of yourself to situations, acknowledging the others in the situation and their uniqueness, and appropriately using your individual perspective, values, knowledge, abilities and skills in the moment. As I say in Getting Real, it means knowing who you are as a leader then taking actions and having the interactions that allow you to make a real impact. I see many people who leave their authentic self at the door because they believe they need to be someone else to be successful at work.
As you go through your day today, think about your most authentic moment. When were you bringing your particular uniqueness to a situation and what happened? How did it feel? Did you respect others’ uniqueness? What was the result? How can you make that happen more often?
If you’re serious about improving performance and driving growth, focus on how happy and engaged your people are. That may seem mamby pamby, but there is growing evidence that it’s not such soft stuff.
Here are a couple of Gallup statistics to consider:
- Actively disengaged employees erode an organization’s bottom line. Within the U.S. workforce, Gallup estimates this cost to be more than $300 billion in lost productivity alone.
- Engaged work groups show higher productivity, fewer safety incidents, lower absenteeism and are more profitable than disengaged work groups. Their research shows that engaged organizations have 3.9 times the earnings per share (EPS) growth rate compared to organizations with lower engagement in the same industry. (Gallop statistics)
Now the question is. “What really drives engagement?” Teresa Amabile, a Harvard Business School professor, and Steven Kramer researched that question. What they determined is that of all the events that engage people at work, the single most important is simply making progress doing meaningful work. In a September 4, 2011, New York Times article, Amabile and Kramer note, “As long as workers experience their labor as meaningful, progress is often followed by joy and excitement about work.” Interestingly, this positive “’inner work life“ (as the researchers call it) has a profound impact on creativity, productivity, commitment, and collegiality.
The leader’s role, then, is to help people make progress — remove obstacles, provide support, recognize progress, and provide feedback on what’s not working. Unfortunately, almost all managers don’t see making progress as a compelling motivator. When Amabile and Kramer asked 669 managers from around the world to rank five employee motivators, they ranked “supporting progress” dead last. Ninety-five percent of these leaders failed to recognize that progress in meaningful work is a far more important motivator than raises and bonuses.
When was the last time you talked about any of this with your people? Probably not recently. Conversations with our teams are usually about financial results, how many deals are about to close, or where someone is in a project.
Next time you are trying to create motivating environment, don’t automatically think about traditional rewards. Think about whether your people feel like they are moving up the trail or if they feel like their pushing a boulder up a mountain only to have it roll back down on them.
Then ask yourself how you can bring more of of a sense of progress to the work and the workplace.
Do your values make sense? Many of you will look and say, “Of course they do.” However, if your actions and the way you run the business are saying one thing and the words are saying another, then the answer is no, they don’t. These questions can help you decide if your reality is meeting the aspirations of your values.
- How well have they been integrated into your business strategy? Can your stakeholders see how the values are playing out in your business strategy. When someone looks at TOMS or Life Is Good’s business strategies, their is no doubt what their values are.
- Do you look for them in who and how you hire? It’s one thing to say that you have certain corporate values. It’s another to overtly make them part of your hiring and onboarding process.
- Can I see them in the way you manage talent? Nothing kills the credibility of a value statement more quickly than saying, for example, that we value collaboration, innovative thinking, and the power of great ideas only to then promote and recognize the people who get results while completely disregarding your stated values.
- Are they part of our decision making? When tough decisions need to get made, are the values one of the key factors considered?
I don’t know about you but the first half of the year has flown by for me. Time has a way of doing that, moving quickly. So, it’s important that we use our time well. Here are three tips for making the best use of your time:
1) Weigh urgency and importance. We all have things in life that need our immediate attention. We also have things that are important for us to achieve the outcomes we desire. They are not always the same thing. If something is urgent and important, it usually gets our time. However, if it’s important and not urgent it is very easy to not give it the time it needs. Take a look at how you’re using your time. Are the things taking up your time urgent? important? urgent and important? or urgent and unimportant. If too many are in the last category, you probably feel frustrated. Recalibrate and determine how to move those things off your plate and make more room for the important and not urgent.
2) Build mental breaks into your day. If you don’t build in mental breaks, you become less effective. And more prone to get distracted by Facebook, fantasy football or your text alerts. However, if you know you will be taking break to get your electronic fix, you can spend time truly focusing on what needs to be done rather telling yourself ‘I’ll only take a minute to check…’ Research shows it takes 25 minutes for us to completely refocus after an interruption. So that ‘minute’ becomes more like 30.
NextBridge partners with you to create and execute pragmatic, sustainable business solutions focused on building your organization and culture, developing talent and navigating change.
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