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Thought Leadership 17 June 2021

Rebuilding a resilient workplace: 6 key things to stop, start, continue

As we reimagine the world of work, what should we do differently this time around? 

After months of lockdowns, the world of work is slowly opening back up. And as we consider how that’s going to look post-pandemic, there may be conversations around what to stop, what to start, and what to continue. Because if we really want to be resilient we can’t just go back to before, right? 

The focus now must be on rebuilding. What out of date practices has working from home shone a spotlight on? How can we embed and influence positive cultural change? And how can organisations get the best out of their people and ensure they’re equipped to be as resilient as possible? 

Here are just a few things that it’s worth thinking about over the coming year… 

1) Stop… hustle culture  

There’s been a big push back on hustle culture over the past few months. We probably all saw the headlines around Goldman Sachs recently and the 120-plus-hour work weeks that their banking recruits were expected to do. One quote really stood out, and that was this: “I didn’t come into this job expecting 9am-5pm’s, but I also didn’t expect consistent 9am-5am’s either.”  

Of course, we shouldn’t ignore the fact that these junior bankers are being paid huge amounts of money for the work they do. However, this kind of work-until-you drop culture isn’t confined to this industry alone. According to one survey by Indeed conducted in the US, 52% of respondents are experiencing burnout in 2021 – up 43% in a similar survey from pre-Covid times.   

And while we move into the summer months, it’s worth looking at the newest buzzword in town – ‘workcations’ – which recently popped up on our LinkedIn feed. A workcation is essentially going on holiday – but still being expected to take work calls when you’re there. The question is, is that flexibility, or is it feeling pressured to not have a proper break? As businesses, it’s critical that we create proper opportunities for people to recharge and prioritise their wellbeing. 

2) Start… having fewer meetings   

The last few months have given us ample opportunity to really interrogate how we work and ask ourselves some important questions. One of those should definitely be: should I attend that meeting? This question becomes particularly pointed if you look at one recent study which found that, out of the senior managers questioned, 71% said meetings were unproductive. 

Google announced late last year that it was introducing no meeting weeks to enable employees to be more productive. In a time when many organisations are trying out different ways of working – four-day weeks, five-hour days, blended working – now seems the perfect time to reflect on what’s no longer serving us. What fits, and what doesn’t? What helps, and what hinders? 

If fewer meetings can contribute to the workforce feeling more able to focus on output – rather than presenteeism – that feels like a positive and productive place to start. In fact, Insights are even doing it ourselves and running a series of no meeting days to equip our people with the gift of time. 

3) Continue… being authentic  

When we first moved to working from home we probably worried about how we could connect on a human level while we all worked from home. This is where technology platforms stepped up and kept us communicating. However, they did a lot more than that. They actually enabled us to be human, authentic, and vulnerable – using methods such as emojis, memes, and gifs! 

You may be reading this thinking, huh?! However, how we show up in human ways shifted over the past year; being prepared to join in the group chat and drop in a gif is actually about dropping the presenteeism, codes around formality, and putting yourself out there. In fact, LinkedIn recently reported on an article by Microsoft Design VP Jon Friedman where he talked about how the willingness to use these “expressive” communication tools actually speaks to authenticity. 

In his own words: “If a picture is worth a thousand words, then why not the same for a GIF, a reaction, or an emoji? On the surface, maybe you don’t think there’s anything emotionally nuanced about using a GIF to respond to a comment in a meeting chat, but it shows a willingness to be vulnerable, introduce levity, and connect through humour.” So there you have it!  

4) Stop… toxic leadership  

Which leaders have really shown up for us in the past twelve months? Our take? As traditional and authoritarian leadership loses ground, compassionate and empathetic leadership is gaining it. It still has its critics, sure, but political leaders such as New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern are putting compassionate leadership on the map. As she says herself, it takes strength to be compassionate. 

Let’s not forget, there are numerous reports – including this article – which discuss how working in cut-throat, take-no-prisoners environments is damaging. And not just damaging to productivity and employee engagement either, but incredibly damaging to our health. In times like these, when conversations around mental health are becoming much more front and centre and employee wellbeing is an absolute essential rather than a ‘nice to have’, we ignore this at our peril.   

We might not believe that compassion is our natural leadership style, but all of us have the power to dial it up. Compassionate leaders are caring, encouraging, and are prepared to make unpopular decisions to put their people first – why should any of those qualities be seen as a weakness? As we move towards the future, it’s crucial to ensure our leaders play their part in enabling resilience.   

4) Start… being mindful of preferences   

The conversations around going back to work have brought some big questions about preferences right to the fore. The New York Times has reported on a growing anxiety about returning to the office. Another report said a similar thing, with 40% of people believing that returning to the office full-time will have a negative impact on their mental health. For so long we’ve just done it: we worked in offices because that was the socially acceptable framework that we were allowed to operate in – but now those goalposts have moved. And they’ve moved significantly. 

This is interesting when we start to think about people’s different communication preferences, personal circumstances, and even their home office working environment. For some, they may relish the opportunity to have a defined workspace away from home again. For others, perhaps those with a more introverted communication style, the thought of having to sit in open-plan offices for eight hours a day may feel overwhelming after being away from it for so long. 

It’s up to businesses, leaders, and decision-makers to really think hard about how they can be mindful of these differences – and pay close attention to what their people really want. 

6) Continue… flexing into change  

The world changed forever last year. However, in amongst all that external change, it’s likely we changed too. You may have had to step up into a new role. Your entire job spec may have changed overnight. Or you may have had to show up in a different way to support your wider team. 

As a result, you may have become more task-focused or more collaborative, more compassionate or more structured in your approach, and that’s just for starters. Two important questions to ask ourselves would therefore be: 1) how did you change and 2) why did you change?   

Let’s dig into that with some examples. We recently spoke to Senior Insights Consultant, Lars de Fries, who talked about how he’s dialled up his Fiery Red energy over the past few months – because of the current need for more action and ‘doing’. That’s probably something we can all relate to. 

At the moment, one thing we want to support customers with is understanding that we’re all changing all the time, and that there’s never been a better time to rediscover yourself. 71% of learners who retook their Insights Discovery evaluator in 2020 had changed wheel position, and that’s likely to be only the tip of the iceberg. We’ve all flexed, pivoted, and embraced change over the past few months and that’s because real resilience is about adaptability.   

If you want to learn more about resilience in the workplace then head over to our Building Resilience page. We unwrap the three steps of resilience and offer helpful resources from our resilience toolkit. 

The world has changed – and you may have too. Real resilience is about adaptability, and you may be one of the 71% of learners who have switched wheel position over the past 12 months.  

Find out more and rediscover yourself today! #InsightsRediscovery  

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