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What do you want to keep?

Date: Sep 17 2020
What do you want to keep?

What do you want to keep in our future world of work? Great communication can help you find the answer.

We’re at a point where there’s a real push for many to get back into the office to do their work. Meanwhile some businesses are operating remotely and have decided to continue to do so, at least until next spring. In the middle are the employees. Some are struggling with working from home, others are loving it and keen to keep it that way. Many more people are looking for a mix of both, a more nuanced approach to work and life.

Add to the office workers, the sectors where people can’t work from home. Some of whom are now facing with possible local lock-downs, school bubbles being sent home and other shifts in restrictions. We are all picking our way through the relative risks we face. Now more than ever, businesses and leaders need to be the constant, the voice of reason with a clear vision and approach to get through the coming months.

Work in progress themes

When I planned to revisit my post from late July about work in progress, I anticipated I’d cover each of these aspect methodically and come up with some suggestions and ideas for each.

My themes were and still are:

  • Workplace culture, the social interaction, sense of community
  • Professional, learning and development
  • Collaboration and getting the work done
  • People, talent, recruitment, retention and organisational design and management
  • Work, life boundaries and security
  • Health and wellbeing
  • Space, at home or in the office
  • Serendipity, relationships and opportunities
  • Environment, our commute or not, our large office buildings or additional costs at home offices
  • Economics, a balance to the economy we create by leaving home, the operational costs we create by running office buildings, the individual costs of home-working versus office working

But the conversation is moving fast. There are so many different examples and different opinions. Every piece I read in the media has a different angle or agenda driving it. Meanwhile coronavirus cases are increasing and local restrictions are changing as we head into the autumn. Quite frankly, underlying all of this change is something I feel is more important.  Us, unique individuals finding our way through it all and trying to work.

A global social experiment

You could never have created a social experiment that does what we’re all living through. Every country, city and town has been affected by coronavirus. Every country has taken different measures to manage it. Each family, workplace and individual has had a different response to and experience of the presence of the virus and to the responses of their governments. There will be so much analysis on this event we’re all living through now, will it ever be done?

Inevitably we’re all making mistakes too as we work through how we get work done, where we work and what works for us. It’s been a real test of what’s most important to us during this time. We’ve had to initiate change at rates never experienced before. What previously took us six months to plan, approve and deliver, is done in a week. Nothing is perfect.

What do we want to keep from this experiment?

We need to find out what we want to keep. What from this experiment have we learned and what do we want to take with us into our future of work? The themes are useful guides to consider.

Leaders and line managers should be having conversations with employees to be able to piece the moving parts of balancing sustainable, productive and effective business together. Listening to employees, asking the right questions to find out what works and what behaviours you and they you want to keep, taking in their views and experiences are as critical as other factors in your decision making. Take time to find out what matters most to them.

Using communication to solve the workplace puzzle

Great communication is key to helping solve this sliding workplace puzzle. It doesn’t need to be complex, and these principles can guide you whether you’re a line manager or comms specialist as you discuss what you want to keep with the people at your work:

1. Be clear and intentional in your communication

Teams are dispersed and the natural ‘osmosis’ that we used to ‘rely’ on when we got together in person is no longer there. Leaders need to take the lead and actively communicate with people, being purposeful and human in their approach. From formal meetings to the more informal coffee call, it all needs to be planned but not contrived.

2. Know your sh!t

Get into the detail of how things are working, what the current restrictions and impacts are in your business locations and understand the impact on your teams and people

3. Actively listen

Your teams will know more than you and will have very different experiences Accept that knowledge and use it to guide your conversations and decisions. Depending upon your culture and communication style, it may be necessary to pre-empt the conversation to ensure that everyone knows that they can and should be open, honest and that it’s a safe space to do so

4. Put yourself in others’ shoes

Having empathy is more than listening and different to sympathy. Empathy is having the ability to put yourself into the shoes of the people who you are working with, understand their feelings and then using that knowledge to guide you. As everyone’s experience of lockdown, restrictions and working has been unique, this is vital to help you understand and find a way forward

5. Do what you say you will do, and say what you will do

Once you’ve spent time talking and actively listening to your people, you need to keep communicating. Explain how decisions have been made and why, and how you will be supporting teams going forward. Keep listening. Keep the informal and serendipitous conversations going and keep people connected to your business and your work, whether they are working remotely or back in their regular workspace.

Future of work

I really believe that where possible businesses need to grasp the opportunity of working flexibility that’s been thrust upon us. Many of us have worked from home for years successfully, others have hated it through lockdown. A nuanced approach, one that adapts as the situation changes and individual needs shift and opportunities arise is sensible. It doesn’t need to be all or nothing, home or office. We all need to be more nimble and agile in our approach to work, where and how we do it, the tools we need and the way we communicate.

Meanwhile, as the coronavirus goes on to test our limits, our systems and how our governments respond, organisations and employers need to draw on themselves. We need to provide consistency and assurance to employees, to be a trusted source of information and support.

So, be human and get communicating. Find out what you all want to keep from this huge social experiment.


Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.

I’ve created two short courses to help organisations through these communication challenges

1) Impact Lab – Helping your organisation make sustainable change with impactful communication

2) Being Bold Lab – Helping your organisation be bold and communicate in a world of uncertainty

Read more here and book your place here.

I work with businesses of all shapes and sizes to help them communicate clearly, reveal the human connections that matter and get meaningful results. Read more in my solutions page. If you would like to find out what people think and feel about your business, and communicate with them better, get in touch.


Image credit: Photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash