For the past three years, businesses have been battling the question of remote vs office-based workplaces. Are we on-site only? Office-first? Remote-first? Or fully remote? Business leaders have been pressured into deciding which side of the “fence” they sit on and have implemented new, often costly, workplace strategies to reflect these decisions, without considering all sides of the argument.
The pandemic changed everything. Physically, it changed where and how people interacted with one another, reducing the average person’s social contact by 75%. Mentally, it shifted the focus from the business to the employee. Businesses adopted a people-first mindset and employees focussed on the health of their loved ones (and themselves). This power shift is still in play with the likes of hybrid work, but many are wondering which way the pendulum will swing next… if it has to swing at all?
But the story doesn’t stop there. The world has since experienced change at an alarming rate, the details of which are well-understood and documented. So, the question now becomes; how can businesses thrive in an ever-changing, ever-challenging world, with a people-first agenda?
Business leaders, journalists and everyone in between are still in search of the holy grail, the answer to all their problems. Many have even resorted to experimenting in ways other than hybrid work, for example, with a 4-day work week to solve their productivity challenges and any number of cost-saving exercises to improve profit margins. Can all these challenges be solved with the “right” office (or lack of) strategy, or is the answer simpler than that?
All organisations are unique, from their market conditions to leadership experiences and individual personalities. Every area of a business has its own unique qualities and demands too, and will therefore require its own identity, skillsets and behaviours. For these reasons, there cannot be a “one-size-fits-all” solution to the workplace question. Leaders must consider their strategy, people and external forces, and be willing to change when change is required.
So, if the answer is not in where people work, it must be in how work gets done, how people interact with one another and experience each and every day through behaviours, the culture. The challenge is no longer “where should we work,” but “how we do work in the place that makes sense for our business.”
If culture is;
Culture = Intentionality x Number of Interactions,
Then it is vital to consider two elements of your business in the “new normal.” First, be intentional about your culture, creating trust and alignment across every level of the business, regardless of your workplace strategy. Engagement is no longer sufficient, culture management requires deep change. Secondly, due to most companies’ current hybrid workplace strategies, the number of daily human interactions is low and must be considered. In the absence of human interactions, our behaviours cannot be observed and become increasingly hard to manage, and therefore change. This is the single biggest determinant of culture that most businesses did not consider when moving to remote or hybrid work.
Coming back to the equation then, if the number of interactions decreases, intentionality must multiply, to achieve your people-first agenda in the ever-changing, ever-challenging world we live in. Wherever you choose to work, if you manage a business (or part of one) and are dependent on engaged, productive employees, adopting a deeper level of intentionality around your organisation’s culture is the key to your success.
Culture15 is your complete toolkit for tracking culture change. CEOs and Exec Teams at world-leading organisations use Culture15 analytics to ensure success by aligning their culture with what they need to execute their strategy. If you’d like to find out how to define the culture and values you need, diagnose the culture you have and close the gap, talk to our team.