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Working the Future blog: our latest insights and future of work sensemaking

WHY INCLUSION IS KEY TO HYBRID WORKING SUCCESS

2021-06-09 10:55

Cathryn Barnard

Blog, HYBRID WORK, FUTURE OF THE OFFICE, HYBRID WORKING, FUTURE OF WORK CONSULTING, DIVERSITY & INCLUSION, INCLUSION,

WHY INCLUSION IS KEY TO HYBRID WORKING SUCCESS

Four reasons why we think deciding upon the post-lockdown ‘where’ of work should NOT be a boardroom-only discussion...

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As vaccination programmes gather pace, attention turns to the reopening of economies and a return to ‘normal’. Whatever that means, of course...

 

The race is on to find the optimal hybrid-work mix. Many firms are adopting a ‘wait and see’ approach, preferring to hear what others are doing before making decisions about their future ‘where’ of work.

 

It’s understandable. With no pre-existing blueprint, this is uncharted territory. And with most of our current operating models designed for outdated notions of stability, routine and efficiency, creativity has been largely stifled by frameworks of uniformity.

 

To get some idea of how organisations are approaching post-lockdown work, we can look to Australia and the US, where both countries are now attempting to revert to pre-pandemic life.

 

Already the digital grapevine is full of what not to do.

 

In April, workplace commentator Bruce Daisley reported that Australian firms with male-dominated boards were insisting on a full return to the office. This immediately raised eyebrows, triggering accusations of patriarchy and suggesting a lack of lateral thinking on the part of leaders.

 

Elsewhere, last week an open letter from Apple staff was published. Written in response to Apple’s freshly announced hybrid-work policy, it clearly highlights the limitations of enforcing a top-down directive on an issue that affects everyone. In the digitally transparent 2020s, it remains to be seen how much reputational damage the publication of this letter will cause Apple in the long term.

 

There are several reasons why we think deciding upon the post-lockdown ‘where’ of work should NOT be a boardroom-only discussion.

 

1)     The pandemic has changed us

We’ve explored this previously. COVID-19 has exposed the fragility of life, causing us to consider meaning and purpose more deeply than ever before. It’s made us want and appreciate different things. We’ve recognised the value of family and friendship, and we no longer want to lead lives that are only half-engaged, because so much of it is spent in places that leave us feeling only semi-fulfilled.

 

Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve gone all out to help our employers minimise disruption to ‘business as usual’.

 

We want our leaders to both recognise the psychological toll of the pandemic and to acknowledge just how committed we were to keeping the organisation’s lights on, when it mattered most.

 

Now – when there’s an opportunity to have an open and inclusive conversation about the ‘where’ of post-pandemic work – our thoughts and opinions should matter. It’s a basic human instinct to want to feel seen and heard. We’re all adults – treat us like it.

 

2)     Collective intelligence is the only way to navigate uncharted markets

Thoughtful dialogue about hybrid-working allows organisations to gain valuable insights. Today’s operating environments are too complex for small teams of leaders to make decisions in isolation, not least when those decisions impact wider groups of people.

 

Ambitious organisations harness the intelligence of the crowd to make better decisions.

 

Collective intelligence naturally garners wider perspectives, for enhanced sense-making. By inviting broader dialogue about the future ‘where’ of work, organisations not only capture better insights, but also gain the opportunity to proactively build inclusion and loyalty, while cementing commitment to organisational purpose.

 

Working in active participation with those delivering the work is the only way for business leaders to successfully arrive at a hybrid work-mix that meets the needs of both the business, the end customer, and the workers themselves.

 

3)     Inclusion signals trust

When we exclude people from decision-making that affects all of us, we send a signal that we don’t value alternative thoughts and opinions. Trust and psychological safety are hot topics right now, and the lack thereof is proven to negatively influence productivity. When we don’t feel we can trust those in charge to do the right thing by us, we disengage psychologically, only doing the bare minimum to survive.

 

All organisations urgently need to get back to optimal productivity – trying to do so with disengaged teams is like driving a car with the handbrake on.

 

4)     Rubber meets the road for leadership

It’s time. Leadership is under the microscope like never before, and what we expect from our leaders has changed. A recent report from Brunswick revealed we want leaders who are accessible, transparent and connected. In short, we want leaders to engage with us like the human beings they are.

 

Don’t get me wrong – we still need credible, and responsible decision-making and action-taking at the top; but we also want leaders who are grounded in a sense of connection and community.

 

Those leaders who approach the thorny issue of optimal hybrid working having participated in thoughtful, inclusive dialogue with the entire team will make progress far faster than those who don’t.

 

The knack, of course, will be structuring the right kind of conversations for optimal productivity outcomes.

 

Want to get to optimal hybrid-working faster? Check out our leading-edge resources here or contact us today to see how we can help.

 

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Looking to dive deeper into some of the areas covered in this blog post? You should also check out our Navigating Talent RiskRecruitment and Retention and Foresight Focus reports and products.

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