The global pandemic has ushered in a new normal at work. A new work setup comes with new work rules because some of the old rules no longer work. This video discusses the new rules to help you and your team find balance in the new normal: what to stop doing, what to keep doing, and what to start doing at work.
As small businesses navigate the new normal at work, what can business owners do to help team members find balance at work? Many experts agree that old practices may no longer be relevant and may even harm morale with the new normal. Experts are saying what leaders and managers should stop doing, should keep doing, and should start doing in the workplace.
What should we stop doing?
There is a consensus that the biggest lesson learned during this pandemic is that we should all stop equating a warm seat as a measure of productivity or dedication to work. During the pandemic, many businesses have thrived despite sending their team members home to work. While there is value in face-to-face interactions, the pandemic experience has shown that this is unnecessary for all work situations.
In fact, according to an academic study on productivity, the following are the top factors that improve productivity:
- Positive working attitude
- Proactive team members
- Good working conditions, and
- Having the right tools and equipment to raise productivity
The study shows that businesses should focus on these four factors instead of focusing on how many warm seats they have in the office. This study provides us with context on what experts say we should keep doing in the office.
What should we keep doing?
If the focus is on ensuring that everyone develops a positive working attitude, proactive team members, good working conditions, and having the right tools, businesses should keep on:
- Enforcing discipline and upholding quality in tasks from everyone
- Enforcing policies and providing benefits that tap into your team’s intrinsic motivation, and
- Keeping communication lines open
Enforcing discipline and policies tap into the team’s intrinsic motivation of wanting to perform well at work. It raises team morale, particularly when their good work brings about great results. They are keeping communication lines open to ensure that team members get the tools, training, equipment, and the desirable working conditions they need to perform, which again taps into the employee’s intrinsic motivation.
What should we start doing?
We should start doing two things: one, give your team more autonomy, and two, encourage your team to upskill. Let’s begin our discussion with the first point:
- Give your team autonomy
In a previous video, I discussed what business owners could do to foster intrinsic motivation. One way to do so is by providing employees with work autonomy.
Here are two examples of flexible work policies that will help you understand how autonomy in the workplace may look like:
PricewaterhouseCoopers launched a hybrid work policy called the Deal, which was created through staff consultation. This policy’s origins by itself already provide the key to autonomy: stakeholder participation in the decision-making process. This is a clear example of how companies can give freedom to employees: provide opportunities to decide how they want to perform the duties and responsibilities of their roles.
There are three critical elements in PwC’s Deal:
- First is what they call the empowered day, where everyone is given the freedom to decide when they work—specifically, when they start work, when they end work, and when they take breaks.
- Second is a blended working policy. This means that everyone is expected to spend 40-60% of their time co-located with colleagues either in a PwC office or at client sites. They are free to decide where they work the rest of their time.
- Lastly, PwC has mandated reduced work hours on summer Fridays, acknowledging the employees’ need to rest, relax, and spend time with family.
Atlassian, a software company, based in Sydney, released their flexible work policy called “Team Anywhere”. The most talked-about element in this new work policy is that team members are only expected to come to work four days a year and fulfil the requirements of their roles.
Team Anywhere is also considered an experiment, a policy that is a work in progress. While Atlassian’s leadership is committed to building a flexible work environment, they also understand that they will likely stumble as they navigate this new work policy. And that’s OK because they are committed to making it work and learning from their mistakes. They also commit to measuring productivity and the impact of this new work policy on everyone’s performance. More importantly, they are open to tweaking the policy if they find that some things do not work.
- Encourage your team to upskill and update themselves about their field of expertise
We see changes in working environments—where, when, and how people work. We see a changing business landscape, which results from changing consumer lifestyles. What we’re also seeing is demand for new skillsets.
There’s a massive demand for upskilling in the new normal. Data from Coursera and edX, two of the largest massive open online courses platforms, show that enrollment in their online courses has significantly increased in 2020. For example, Coursera’s new user registration jumped from 8 million in 2019 to 31 million in 2020—a rise equivalent to 387 per cent. Coursera has an estimated user base of 76 million to date.
If your business isn’t keeping up with the changing times, your competitors might be. To survive and thrive in a changing world, companies need to fill skills gaps in responding to changes. This means encouraging team members to upskill and to innovate.
Experts say that the most important workplace lesson we should have learned during the pandemic is that we need to stop thinking that the office is the only place where work happens. Business leaders need to continue enforcing workplace discipline, upholding work quality, providing benefits that tap into their intrinsic motivation, and keeping communication lines open. Finally, managers need to start giving autonomy and encouraging team members to upskill.