At the Heart of Questioning Work
While an increasing number of people want flexibility in their work environment, companies are worried that if people no longer come into a physical office, it will impact their culture and ability to collaborate. The gap and divide between what people feel is healthy for them and what their employers believe is healthy for the organization is huge.
And yet, we are so stuck in a focus on structure and not purpose, which keeps depleting everyone’s energy and focus in the long run.
An article on this trend cites two recent studies that highlight these concerns. “Executives were nearly three times more likely than non-executives to say they want to return to the office full time, according to Slack’s Future Forum Pulse survey. The report found that while nearly 80 percent of knowledge workers want flexibility in where they work—citing benefits ranging from work-life balance to lower anxiety at work and a better sense of belonging—their employers think that the arrangement will lead to a variety of ills, diminishing the company’s collaboration, creativity, and culture.
These concerns track with another recent report from Northeastern University that found that more than half of C-suite executives were concerned about their workforce’s ability to be creative and innovative in a primarily remote work environment.”
And here is the rub. It’s the same old stories about how we structure work and the articles keep coming on hybrid and remote work when we no longer know what work means in a world of burnout, silos and resignations. What is most needed right now is communication and clarity of purpose. Reshuffling problems, and workloads, keeps us stuck and trapped.
When will We Stop Outsourcing Communication to A Function?
What we need is an infusion of communication across organizations about why they are here and how people can help achieve the vision and mission regardless of whether they are physically in an office or not. When we suck at collaboration and teamwork in the first place and don’t know how to support each other, the structures don’t really matter. The questions that we need to ask are the ones we fear most otherwise we would be having healthy conversations.
Simply do a search and find thousands of articles, videos and news clips on The Great Resignation and hybrid and remote work. This simply keeps us trapped in a dying machine. Worrying that people can’t be innovative and creative in a remote environment says more about a company’s lack of trust in their people and a need to lead with force than anything else.
Sure, we all need human connection to varying degrees but when will we start to survey and focus on providing value rather than focus on the wrapping of and entrapment of leading with structure?
Who is Questioning Work?
Somehow we have not learned much over the last 25 years when it comes to the shifts we need to make to truly transform work and suck less when it comes to true collaboration. Companies continue to layoff people while at the same time trying to recruit new people with total disregard to the fact that every person has responsibilities and obligations. We are also not spending as much energy looking at the root cause of burnout and why so many people are leaving what they call soul-crushing jobs.
Having been involved in strategic communications for years, not much has changed as there are very few holistic communicators that understand that it is the role of the leaders of the organizations to become excellent communicators. Research has found that 80% of leaders communication is walking their talking by doing what they say. That alignment is absolutely crucial and where most are continuing to fail as they outsource their communication responsibility to a function.
Fifteen years ago we saw the emergence of online communities with enterprise solutions and its unfortunate that they were turned into one-way communication platforms and also wildly failed due to a lack of understanding how to drive dialogue and two-way communication.
The focus on building trust was lost with a need to control tools and the brand. Imagine if these networks would have succeeded; we would be working and not talking about how we are structured. These technologies were created to unleash creativity, collaboration and communication. But if we don’t know how to communicate and collaborate at the core, no technology (structure) can help.
Had these communities and networks been implemented effectively, we would not be stuck and trapped talking about how we work. We would actually be working, collaborating, creating, imagining, and innovating regardless of structure.
The irony of it all is that as more and people choose to leave the workforce, where does their workload go? “What happens to those left behind who stay? Two-thirds of workers said their workload has increased “significantly” since they started working remote (read: since the start of the pandemic). More than half of those who stayed at their jobs reported taking on more responsibility when their coworkers left, with 30 percent struggling to get the necessary work done, according to a survey last summer by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM). People are putting in longer hours, sending and reading more email, and have less time to focus, according to data from Time is Ltd.”
Questioning Work is A Huge Opportunity
And maybe leaders are simply trying to solve this problem instead of being focused on the opportunity to create healthy ways of working?
The Great Questioning or the Great Reshuffling are here as much as burnout and conversations we are not having. The next five years are an opportunity to stop our obsession with broadcasting, branding, tools and structure and an opportunity to get to work (and actually. remember why we are in business).
Dialogue, trust, relationships and community are at the heart of everything. And it takes some of the most strategic work we will ever be asked to do, which is why so many are avoiding it.