By Georgie Chennells & Terry Stratis
Bringing your work home has never been more ‘real’ than in 2020, and looks set to continue into 2021. As WFH has become the norm, the boundaries between home life and work life have blurred. Workplace culture has become home culture, and vice versa.
Covid has forced us to deal with tough challenges and an urgent need to adapt.
Despite the changes, there are some timeless truths about being at the office:
- The office is where business gets done. We’ve heard it time and time again by business leaders like Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan, that remote work is no substitute for organic interaction. Deals are made with people, in person, in a space where people can connect.
- It’s a social incubator. It’s where familiarity between people opens the door to conversations, friendships, communities and networks.
- It’s a place of learning and growth. Younger generations, especially Gen Z’s, learn from observing those around them, whether consciously or not. In our world of 4IR and exponential change, it’s important for older generations to be exposed to new thinking and learning as well.
- Its where we are exposed to diverse cultures and social norms. The office is one of the few places where a diverse group of people can come together with a common purpose, see beyond prejudices and achieve something together. Apart from the benefits for wellbeing of those involved, this also plays an important role in breaking down societal segregation on a larger scale.
But is that all now lost?
With the health and safety risks of being together at the office, and the benefits of working from home now widely experienced, the office is going to have to work harder than ever to attract people back to it.
Key to a successful transition back to this place of togetherness is a positive experience. The need to make the employee workplace experience something we look forward to, and something we feel safe within, has never been more important.
A helpful approach to successfully managing this transition is to take a strategic approach, with a focus on employees. We have found Design Thinking (DT) to be an excellent tool for navigating this new challenge.
By placing employees at the centre of the design thinking process, a multi-dimensional understanding of the employee experience can be explored. The resulting solutions could include anything from policy changes and facility amendments, to the organisational adoption of new work styles, such as hybrid working or activity based working.
By drawing on agile methodologies, implementation can be kept simple and uncomplicated.
The DT process is an explorative one that combines employee and organisational needs in new and innovative ways. Having an experienced DT facilitation team on board can make for an empowering and enriching process.
The ripple effect of a workplace strategy with employee wellbeing at the centre means more than growth; it builds social cohesion and could ultimately contribute to a happier, more prosperous society.
Terry Stratis is a Behavioural Scientist and founder of the Decision-Sense lab at Aristotle Consultancy. He has worked with some of South Africa’s most well-known financial institutions and retailers, in designing, behaviourally informed organisational strategies. He has implemented numerous behavioural interventions in employee experience as well as employee reward and recognition programmes.