Time to rethink

The world has changed … yes, we know we are stating the blatantly obvious. How many times have we heard the term ‘the new normal’ in the past 12 months. The media, the business world, everyone around us (albeit virtually) has been throwing this term around and in many cases congratulating themselves on how well we have all adapted to the changes thrust upon us by the COVID pandemic.

But have we?

One thing that the pandemic has re-taught us is that people are adaptable and given no choice can respond quickly and without too much resistance. Whether they want to adapt, and if they had been asked before anyone had even heard the word ‘COVID’ if they would like their working practices to be thrown upside down, finding themselves at home morning, noon and night, in their own environments, effectively managing their own output – well, then they may have faltered in answering. It might have sounded an attractive alternative to the endless hours spent commuting or being stuck in a workplace from 9am to 6pm (or longer) every day, with colleagues who also would much rather be somewhere else like at home with their families or on holiday – these now seem like gripes of the past.

Many businesses, big and small are welcoming the enforced changes in working practices as a gift from the gods. They see the massive savings on commercial office costs, business rates and in some cases inflated salaries that are demanded upon geographical location. But are they looking at the big picture. Most are aware of the functional and technological changes as these were the first to be rolled out and even before the pandemic happened the digitisation of the workplace had been a key driver to future business planning. Digital transformation programmes were everywhere, central to business plans and major investment.

So, has the last year really propelled us five to ten years ahead of our initial business projections? Maybe, in some cases this has made business even more tech centric but have businesses understood that to truly embrace the full functionality of the tech now available to them they must first look internally at where business value originates. Can you really become innovators who lead change across a whole business without understanding, respecting and evolving the five core drivers of the business – people, service, innovation, experience and customers.

Some larger businesses are leading the way in embracing this change and racing towards reinvention of their workspace and cultures. Spotify have recently announced that they are now going to allow their entire workforce to ‘Work from Anywhere’. Their simple plan includes: total working flexibility for all 6550 staff globally, a pledge to pay their staff salaries that are set against higher New York wage levels and a redesign of their offices to accommodate new working preferences.

This sounds perfect for the new world we face post pandemic but do we have a thorough understanding of what these new working preferences include?

Lifestyle experience v’s employee experience – after 12 months of managing our own time, in our own environments with our families in close proximity, people have re-evaluated what is important to them. A work-life balance that they feel in charge of is imperative to ensuring that lifestyle has become central to working preferences.

New freedoms and behaviours must be taken into account – people have discovered that they can flourish if given the freedom to work remotely, manage their own time and workflow, not having to be constantly micro-managed. This changes behaviours and creates a shift change in opinions towards not only day-to-day work but career progression and evolution.

Another interesting change is that of the value of time. Whilst developing new working preferences and creating a remote working culture the management of time or more specifically the flexibility of time is central to any new business model.

Health & well-being is also now pivotal to business practice and evolved working eco-systems. Although we are extoling the positives of more free, flexible working preferences we must not ignore that not everyone wants to have these freedoms and being stuck working from home alone has had many negative effects creating alienation, disconnection and de-moralisation. The health and well-being of people is central to their development and performance.

Finally, collaboration, connectivity and communication are key to rebuilding and reinventing working preferences. It is essential that effective collaborations are created between businesses in order to evolve and grow.

Over the next few weeks C2…Thinks will be digging deeper to examine these new working preferences in more detail in order to navigate what needs to be addressed to achieve simple, smart and practical change.

So, as we all now rejoice in the plans for the journey out of the global pandemic and what awaits’ us on the other side, we must first and foremost rethink how people matter to our businesses with the reinvention of business models, eco-systems, spaces and experiences. It is imperative that we capture this unique moment in time and grab this opportunity to rethink and reshape a commercially tangible and positive future.