The Freezing and Unfreezing of Work
If you have been following HSM Advisory CEO and founder Lynda Gratton’s work over the past year and a half, the likelihood is you will have heard about the freezing and unfreezing of work.
Before we all packed up our desks in March 2020, the way that most companies operated was consistent – or “frozen”. Thanks to Covid-19, they are now “unfrozen”, giving us a unique opportunity to reassess our most basic assumptions about work. But things will not stay this way forever – soon enough, new practices will solidify and we will “refreeze” again. So how can we ensure we make the most of the current opportunity – and maintain a degree of fluidity for the future?
While navigating the “slush” of unfreeze, it is important to expect iteration, and to confront the fact that what works now may not work this time next year. To help you make sound decisions, you will need to create some basic principles, clearly defining what is important to your organisation, what will build value, and what will support your employees – and making tweaks to align with these goals along the way. In 2020, that might have meant home schooling support for parents; in 2021, it might mean support returning to the office.
It is also important to remember that time is just as important as place. Should hybrid working really be about telling people they can come into the office whenever they want? Or is it about encouraging clear scheduling of core hours, office time and remote working time within teams? The answer certainly will not be the same for every organisation, or for every employee. The nature of different job roles means that not everyone can expect the same flexibility at work: some must be present in person to fulfil their role. To avoid resentment, it is important to investigate other types of flexibility – perhaps around time – to ensure everyone has fair access to choices about how they work.
Establishing fairness may also involve taking a good, hard look at any “unwritten rules” in your organisation. Are part time workers, or those with flexible hours overlooked when opportunities are being handed out? Do any of your managers play the ‘I’ve got to see you to promote you’ game? You cannot create a culture of fairness without eliminating these issues.
To make the most of your unfreezing, you also need to avoid common pitfalls. Avoid making haste decisions about the long-term – you may end up depriving your organisation of the opportunities afforded by trial and error. Finally, maintain your flexibility of scope by being as imaginative as you can about what could be possible in future. Learn about as many ways of working as possible, consider which combinations will suit your business and your people, and let your principles guide you.
Interested in learning more about this topic? Then read Lynda Gratton’s interview with Kevin Delaney of Reset Work.