Reimagine Work

‘People are responsible adults at home. Why do we suddenly transform them into adolescents with no freedom when we reach the workplace?’ Ricardo Semler, Corporate Rebels.

It’s Sunday night, how are you feeling? Are you energised and excited for the work week ahead or is it more a feeling of dread in anticipation of Monday morning?

While catching up (virtually) with some friends earlier in the year I was struck by both their attitudes towards work. Sentiments such as I can’t believe I have to do this until I retire pervaded the conversation. While starting and running a business is no walk in the park and I have many days where I think I will give up I no longer have the dreaded Sunday night feeling anticipating the week ahead. For the most part I really enjoy my work, get great satisfaction from it and am rewarded by its growth trajectory for which I am truly grateful.

What would it look like to reimagine work so everyone could shake off the Sunday night feeling? In the book Corporate Rebels, authors Joost Minnaar and Pim De Morree describe their journey of traveling around the world to visit some of the most progressive organisations who have managed to make work more fun. Some are pretty radical and need to be changed from the top down but others can be done at any level of the organisation and you can try them within your own team.

  1. Embrace a culture of experimentation. Let go of the idea that anything is predictable or planned – never more true than right now. Throw out the annual plans which are archaic and take advantage of opportunities and experience available to you. Give your colleagues autonomy to try new things and ensure that mistakes are welcomed as learning opportunities. From this you will build yourself an empowered workforce.
  2. The higher you go in an organisation the less is known about what goes on the frontline. What impact would it have if team leaders and management viewed themselves there as service to employees? Their only role was to support their team. Traditional organisations often experience the HiPPO effect (highest paid persons opinion) or as the Peter Principle describes ‘in a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to their level of incompetence’.
  3. Throw out the job descriptions. Hire for personality and train for skills is well recognised but I would suggest rarely implemented, take a look at the ads on any job board and you will see the lengthy list of skills and experience required. In progressive organisations roles are developed around the talents of its workforce. The Dutch home care organisation Buurtzorg got rid of job titles, employees are encouraged to explore their talents in order to reach their full potential. ‘Studies show that employees are 15% less likely to quit if they can use their strengths and 8% more productive when they use their talents.’
  4. Distribute authority. Speed up decision making and promote autonomy by giving pre-authorisation. Employees can make decisions within certain pre-determined boundaries such as within Netflix to ‘make wise decisions despite ambiguity’. Their research found that when employees can make important decisions, ‘they have a greater sense of entrepreneurship and pride’. David Marquet, American Navy submarine commander managed this despite working in a highly traditional and hierarchical organisation such as the navy.

From democratically electing leaders to salary transparency (which btw has a positive effect on gender equality), there are lots of seemingly radical changes that can be implemented. But if your organisation does not start to change it risks stagnation and we know the world of work is changing. The 4 day a week movement is starting to gain momentum. Just this week Spain announced it would facilitate almost 200 companies to offer this to its employees at a 100% pay for 80% work. Countries are measuring their wellbeing rather than GDP. Mental health statistics are frightening.

What is progressive today will be the norm of tomorrow. Do you want to set your organisation apart as a great place to work and start integrating these approaches now? If so, I would love to work with you on gently exploring these changes at work.

Aoife Lenox is a Coach, Trainer and Consultant and works with organisations who wish to experiment with new ways of working to create better workplaces promoting engagement, wellbeing and ultimately resulting in performance. Would you like to take the first step in adapting your work environment? Reach out for a free consultation.

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