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Redesigning How We Work in 2022

 Maya Angelou, the American poet and civil rights activist, famously said, “People won’t remember what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel.”

We have the chance now to make some changes in the way we design the workspace to be engaging, sustainable and blended into our lives while also supporting the wellbeing of workers. There’s no guarantee where the next year will take us, but we can control how we work together. 

Designing for success

A challenging part of redesigning how we work is to reimage what success looks like. The good news is that this is an opportunity to redesign through a new lens, to re-imagine work as a way of fostering wellbeing and with people-focused support, instead of a source of stress. Employee expectations are changing, and with them, working conditions must change too. This needs to be done with flexibility in how, where and when people work. 

What does a successful day look like now? Typically it was measured through the lens of revenue, customer success, productivity and strategic objectives. Whereas nowadays there is more emphasis on workspace safety, health, empathy, care and the wellbeing of employees. What might this look like? Not the technical aspects of success but the human elements. We can ask ourselves when we’re finished with our day, what will we feel and say about it? How do we feel most supported? And what measures of humanity, connection, meaning and care will matter? This past year blurred the spaces of work and home in many ways. People crave clarity and transparency.

Reconnecting people

As we think about recreating work environments that build trust, foster meaningful connections, and create long-term community, we have to make choices that acknowledge and honour the diversity of peoples experiences and needs. This starts with getting a deep understanding of where people are, not just geographically, but cognitively, physically, and emotionally.

Talk to your teams about their greatest challenges, and about what they may be looking forward to. Look for stories of pride, and stories that bring out concerns. Some questions might include, what new ways of working have you developed recently that you want to continue doing, or think others might benefit from? What are you most proud of? Look for specific details that could benefit how they work and implement them for other team members. 

When we empathetically listen to the stories of hardship and resilience of those around us, we deepen relationships and build psychological safety. You don’t have to have all the answers, but by asking questions in an open and caring way, you signal to your teams that you care and that you’re making their wellbeing a priority. In the process, you’re not only building insight into how to help people feel like their best selves at work, but you’re also building trust and resilience with your team.

Clarifying values and behaviours

We’ve each been changed by the experience of being away from each other and at home during the pandemic. But we haven’t just changed individually, we’ve changed collectively. Our company cultures have been disrupted and we shouldn’t expect that we’ll pick up where we were in early 2020. 

Don’t assume that your company culture will just snap back into place when your teams return to the office this year. There’s also a strong chance that new people have been hired remotely and boarded without ever meeting their colleagues face-to-face. How we welcome and honour our colleagues who have gone through these experiences requires thoughtful and intentional care during our workplace return. 

Look for the new unwritten rules and relationships that have emerged over the past year or so. Ask yourself, what do managers and employees expect of each other now? Have working hours changed? Have the number of meetings changed? Has the dress code changed? 

Design for connection 

As you think about creating pathways back to work, how are you going to foster connection and care? How will you support regular interactions that are more personal? What are the new rules you might create to ensure commitment and consistency around supporting connection? Like a chief connection officer or a chief care officer. 

When people find personal purpose in their work, they’re more engaged, more likely to stay longer, and are more resilient and perform better. Clarifying purpose is a start, but it must be supported by a foundation of trust. Trust is the belief that people and organisations will do what they say they will do. This isn’t just about saying the right words, it’s about backing them up with action. Putting out statements of care is not enough. Programs don’t create trust, people do. This calls for us to take responsibility for designing inclusive environments, collaborative ways of working and human-based incentive systems that bring out the best in ourselves and others. What new practices do we want to create? By coming together we can reinvent a more humane, caring, compassionate, sustainable way of working and being.

At A1 Office, we believe in creating collaborative and productive spaces for employees, so if you’re interested in more cultural content – sign up for our newsletter here.

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