Woho ho hoing all the way?

Working at the beach

The Deckchair Philosopher and the Thinkercafé Working Group have been doing some deep thinking on the subject of return to the office…after this period of Woho (working from home)….It is clear there will be challenges for you and your employer. It is not all jingle bells…. there will be winners and losers coming out from lockdown. Not all the people who have been Wohoing will necessarily get a job back in the office.

Offices with social distance….What’s the point?

The need for continued social distancing for up to 18 months to avoid a virus resurgence or an upsurge in those states with low community immunity will mean long-term changes to the workplace. It probably means that employees will be staggered in attendance on different days of the week and with different starting and finish times to avoid crowded elevators and public transport. Plus increased requirements for cleaning down between shifts whether you share a desk or not. E.g. Uber are planning to have 20% of workforce come to its San Francisco office per day (that’s one day a week onsite).

Many small businesses may not be able to afford renovations when the pandemic subsides, and so some employers will consider having workers forgo the office altogether.

If offices have people spread 2 metres apart and only room for 2 or 3 employees in a meeting or board room, and congregating round the coffee machine discouraged, will office attendance be of the same value, or of any great value? Many businesses are reporting up to 30% increase in productivity during this global working from home experiment.

Open plan offices have created a more distracted and less communicative workforce have been proven to be barriers to productivity. One 2018 study published by the Royal Society measured changes in employee habits when offices transitioned to open layouts. In each case, they found face-to-face communication declined by 70 percent, whilst electronic communication increased.

Meanwhile, online white boards and other collaboration tools are available right now. Teams can meet, interact and thrive in new ways without regular office attendance.

This will be one of the biggest shifts – to the distributed work force. It will also create a blurring between full time, part time and contract employment.

Woho not the same experience for all

We all know the world is made up of people with different personalities. One of the main personality traits is extrovertism versus introvertism. Whilst introverts are often quite happy in their own company, extroverts get their energy and do their best work whilst interacting with other people. Woho has been hard on the extroverts and will continue to wear on them if regular Woho becomes the new norm. Extroverts have been the biggest “benders” of lockdown rules, and will continue to struggle in a socially distant workscape.

One solution to this is a change in role for managers. Instead of worrying about remote worker productivity, your role will be more social networker, keeping their team connected and feeling valued,  reminding people they are not alone. Tap into peoples’ creativity e.g. develop new Zoom meeting opening and closing rituals. Ensure meetings have meaning and that voices are heard and equalised across groups. Encourage team members to also phone each other for one-on-one chats. Be together apart. Do not retreat, in times of crisis and isolation we need each other more than ever.

Authentically You

With online Zoom and web meetings from home becoming the norm, there will be only one version of you. People will no longer be able to bring a different persona to work than they have at home. People have seen inside your home… some have met your cat or dog online! From the virtual global concerts promoted on Youtube we all know what brand of coffee of machine Elton John has on his breakfast bar, and that he has a basketball net in his back yard in L.A. Do not pretend this is not strange and we are still adapting to a new normal, but spend some of your stuckhome time reflection on how you really are and rethinking how you wish to be perceived.

Antifragility

The opposite of fragile …antifragility is actually gaining from crisis and disruption…rather than simply resisting or adapting to it.  Antifragility is benefited by innovation.  People have had a lot of flexible thinking time during lockdown Woho and this already driving a wave of innovation, change and opportunity. Antifragility is a property of any system that has survived. Thriving post pandemic may require you to be more than resilient. Resilient is what got you through, antifragile is what will take you forward.

The Pandemic was not a Black Swan event

The risk of a global pandemic was actually top of the list of risks for governments, banks and businesses. Remember the SARS, MERS and Ebola outbreaks of the last few years? We just did too little to fully prepare for a new virus to actually get out. So, in terms of expected events, the pandemic is actually a predictable White Swan event. What other risks are we currently avoiding dealing with…how about climate change?  So, inside the White Swan there is perhaps a Green Swan, the unexpected opportunity to be more ecologically minded and take forward some of the gains we have from Woho…. E.g. a lot less time and energy burned commuting, and a much more ecologically sustainable workscape.

Leadership and change

The pandemic is going to accelerate many initiatives and technological changes, as well as shuttering others.  Many corporations building an economy that can be productive with reduced human input….. This will be an even starker challenge for economies that have shed so many jobs. In the time gaps between wohoing for the boss, perhaps it is time to spend some energy considering your entrepreneurial ideas. Working for yourself whether voluntary or forces, is a positive freedom. Going back to our first comment “What’s the point?”, if you are going to work from home why not work for yourself and set your own rules?