Future of Work Lessons – Part Two

I’m back with more lessons learned during my Future of Work podcast season. Part One highlighted five people lessons. In this installment, I describe the team and culture insights that my guests shared with me. 

TEAM AND ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE LESSONS

Lesson #1 Hybrid Meetings Are Tough

Meetings are hard enough to run efficiently and effectively when everyone is in person. They are even more difficult when everyone is remote. And when there’s a mix of in-person and remote attendees, they can get really messy. Team leaders will need to figure out how to create an environment of inclusion during hybrid meetings, creating space for everyone to have a voice and preventing in-person team members from overriding remote attendees. 

Lesson #2: Use Space Differently

The way we think about office space (in most organizations) needs to change. The era of a traditional nine to five workday where everyone has a desk and everyone is present has passed. And employees rotating in and out of the office, working independently behind closed doors is the opposite of a healthy, collaborative culture. We have to start thinking about some hard questions:

  • What work can be done better in person? 
  • What work can be done better virtually? 
  • How will meetings work best? 
  • How can influence and experience be balanced between those who work on site and those who don’t? 
  • How can you avoid the inevitable rift where people working in the office are valued and rewarded more than are those working more from home? 
  • How can we prevent the chasm that can occur between site-required people and those with more flexibility to work remotely? 

It is time to think differently about our space. We need to create a physical environment so that when people are together the space will foster connection and encourage collaboration.

Lesson #3: Boundaries Need to Be Redefined

For many of us the separation between our work and personal lives has been nonexistent during the pandemic. And it continues. My eight-year-old son’s second grade class was just quarantined for the next 10 days. That means a return to online school while my wife and I are working from home. For many people, their commute was a welcomed transition between the work day and home life. Working from home has eliminated boundaries with employees often expected to be available from early morning to late at night. The downtime, or recovery period, of the commute is now being invested into extra work hours. Even with the benefit of increased flexibility to take care of family members and personal wellness, there are no constraints on when the day begins and ends. It’s an unsustainable situation. It is time to redefine our work boundaries and to make agreements with our team members on what is expected and what is unacceptable about when and how people work in this more ambiguous work environment. 

Lesson #4: Culture Building Takes Intention

With the efficiency gains advancing an extension of our remote and hybrid environments, more executives are becoming worried about the longer-term impact on organizational culture. Culture is often guided by artifacts in a physical work space and impromptu human interactions. In the remote and hybrid environment, culture building will need to take an even more focused intentionality. Defining what’s important to an organization, clarifying what behaviors will be rewarded and criticized, and finding ways to build culture when not in the office environment is are important culture-development challenges.

I am constantly reminded that no one knows how all of this will play out. The only thing we can do now is notice the change, identify the lessons learned, pivot, and then be ready for more change. 

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