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Have we ‘broken’ the way we work?
And can we fix it?

When was the last time you experienced a fun, messy, chaotic and ideas-packed brainstorming session? Virtual working can limit these kinds of interactions; what can we do about it?

In place of loud rooms full of oversized pieces of paper and ideas flying all over the place, we are seeing hyper-polite, super-structured online meetings, where you have to wait for your turn to speak – and wait a lot longer for inspiration to hit.

We are losing our ability to freely bounce ideas off of one another, leaving our working days feeling much more formulaic and uninspiring.

This shift has much larger connotations for our working lives, and calls for us to consciously consider the options in front of us. We spoke to culture expert Despina Katsikakis, who had some amazing insights into how we can act – and work – with intention, in the increasingly virtual world.

Firstly, it is worth noticing how our working style has become primarily task-focused. We measure our productivity based on how many emails we have responded to, or how many small tasks we can check off of our to-do list. It feels good to get to the end of the day and be able to point to a number of ‘jobs’ that you have completed. The problem with this though, is that it tends to neglect more big-picture thinking, innovation and creativity. It is easy to lose track of our desired overall outcomes when we are consumed with day-to-day tasks. But what is the alternative? The alternative is to resist the temptation of a task-focused work life, and instead move towards becoming outcome-driven.

So, how do you become ‘outcome-driven’ in your work?

  • First, you should identify the behavioural outcomes that you are aiming for as a company, as a team, and as a worker yourself. For example, these could be ‘we want to be an innovative, forward-thinking team’, or ‘I want to be open to all of the inspiration around me, in order to feed my creativity’.
  • Next, identify the behaviours you could choose, that would support these outcomes. For most people, sitting at a desk all day with email notifications popping up every few minutes, will not be congruent with the outcomes you have set for yourself.
  • Think how, as a team, you can curate experiences together that support the outcomes you have set. Perhaps consider afternoons spent away from the computer screen, where ideas can flow freely (bring back the brainstorm!)
  • Once you begin to understand the behaviours that will support your desired outcomes, it is time to create space for these in your working week. Understand that, while administrative tasks will still be present in your working day, the space that you create for outcome-driven behaviour should be prioritised to the same level that you prioritise task-driven time.

By taking the time to consider these things in your organisation, you may discover some areas that are in obvious need of change. Here’s the thing – the world, the way we work, and the equipment we have available to us have changed massively in recent years. But the thing that will have the biggest impact on creativity, inspiration and free-thinking is the environments in which we bring people together.

What changes would you make if you weren’t  afraid of doing things ‘too differently’, and instead were just genuinely focused on creating a space where your people could achieve their outcomes?

One amazing example is Salesforce, who faced the dilemma: how do we make sure our remote workers can stay connected to their colleagues and to the company? Their solution was to build ‘ranches’, which act like creative, relaxing places for their employees to visit, and reconnect with one another, and their joint mission. While this may sound quite out-there, it absolutely supports their vision for connected working.

Research done in 2022 shows that employees are 3 times more likely to believe there are no benefits whatsoever to coming into the office. Most people have easy, comfortable home set-ups, where they are a short walk from their own fridge and don’t have to spend time or money on commuting. But what they don’t get at home is the ability to socialise, connect, or freely and creatively collaborate. Reconsidering the ways in which we use our real estate – by focusing on these elements, rather than the traditional, functional version of an ‘office’ we are used to – could allow for more productive and enthusiastic employees.

There is so much more to discuss around this topic, so we ran an event to talk about the future of hybrid working, and looking at ways to keep your employees connected and supported in a meaningful way.

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