It’s REBOOT – and time to dream again

October 19 2021
Michael Caton: “tell ‘im he’s dreaming”

Key points:

  • WFH is now a real option, at least part-time, for many organisations.
  • While away, many staff have been plotting a career shift, some, a drastic one.
  • Many businesses may now have to factor in “The Great Resignation”.
  • This will all impact on workplace design, workforce planning, and recruiting.
  • Managers: it’s time for some new thinking.

Back in 2019, a request….

Remember this scene in pre-2019? A typical employee in a typical workplace lodges a request to work from home.

“Tell ‘em they’re dreaming” was not an uncommon response (seriously, even many progressive workplaces only paid lip-service to WFH as a serious option). There were rationales:

  • For control-oriented workplaces, the WFH option challenged the basic belief that staff couldn’t or wouldn’t motivate themselves to perform without constant supervision.
  • For team-oriented workplaces it was seen to be impossible for groups to work well together if the members were not all in the same place.
  • For many workplaces there was a feeling that WFH wasn’t practical, since staff had to be surrounded by the tools, systems and tech that were only provided onsite at work.

How much and how quickly things changed with Covid. We pivoted in weeks, established new systems in months … and now it’s all changing again. For businesses that have been in lockdown, and particularly those with many staff WFH, looking at rebooting throws up new challenges.

While WFH has come to represent a new, accepted, way of working for many (with exceptions, much manufacturing and hospitality are examples of where it’s largely impractical), now is the time to plan for what comes next.

The Great Resignation

The so-called “great resignation” might be one thing for many workplaces to factor in.

  • While some staff do just want to get back to the workplace, others are hungry for change after the pandemic-driven arrangements that have transformed working life.
  • Some employers that expect staff back at their desks as if nothing has changed since 2019 are in for a shock. This could be a time of significant staff losses…
    • In the US for example, a record 4 million people quit their jobs in April.
    • Microsoft research suggests that 40% of the global workforce is ready to resign.
    • Almost 40% of UK and Irish workers say they’ll do the same.
  • If there are significant resignations, this will put pressure on staffing, recruitment, and management.

There are two important angles here.

For many employees, this is potentially a real driver for change in life and work – if that’s you, yes, maybe now’s the time, and if that’s your staff …. same!

I think of Maslow and the hierarchy of needs (or other similar models) – people are really reviewing what matters in life, and some are changing direction as a result. For an employer or manager, think about this from a perspective of understanding the drivers, and responding rather than reacting.

Don’t tell them that!

“Tell ‘em they’re dreaming” is not going to cut it now, if you want an engaged and high-performing workforce.

Options include:

  • Consider a way for staff to refresh in the short term with some real time out. Not working, relaxing! Encourage staff to take some leave, maybe even support this if you’re cashed up enough to do so (surprisingly, many workplaces are right now).
  • If you do have many imminent departures, revamp your recruiting systems, as well as the ‘employer of choice’ thinking about work and workplace design.
  • Introduce flexible hybrid systems as you re-open. Do this anyway. This will be an ongoing way of working from now going forward. It could mean, say, 3-4 days in the workplace with 1 or 2 at home, or it could be far more extreme. Telstra, for example, has said that no staff will be forced back to the office in their workplaces.
  • The old reasons for not allowing some WFH arrangements don’t really cut it:
    • Productivity can be just as high or higher with WFH, especially as part of the mix.
    • Tech can be adequate for many roles with WFH without too much extra expense, and for some people of course, the home setup is better.
    • Manager skill is stretched by WFH, particularly re managing underperformance, but it’s not insurmountable – new manager skillset areas include managing a remote workforce, running remote meetings effectively, supporting staff performance remotely, and so on.
  • Review workplace layouts. There’s far too much to cover here, but workplaces will need:
    • More open spaces, a mix of focus work areas, collaboration areas, and getaway
    • Cleaner, contact-free entrance points, restrooms, kitchens and public areas.
    • Better air circulation systems, with fresh, clean air.
    • Light, bright, clean surfaces.

For managers, another new start

And what if you’re a manager?

  • Many managers who’ve survived through this time have done so by working creatively and supportively with their teams. Personally, some are exhausted, and the first point above is relevant – time out to rejuvenate.
  • Don’t expect things will be all ‘back to normal’. This new phase will be very different to ‘old normal’. Be a part of designing new workplace systems.
  • Look at your management skillset, and if there are new skills required by a hybrid workplace, follow up and develop these.

Yep, it’s definitely time to dream – in other words, to get creative about the future of work.



Need help … get in touch. We’re supporting clients with arrangements for the new world of work