From open office spaces to in-cubicle teeth cleaning, there are some workplace trends we should leave behind in exchange for giving employees what they really want: flexible work hours and quality tools, apps, software, and resources to do their job without the red tape.
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2020 has shifted how we work, both alone and together, how we define and measure work, and how we lead and are led. I know many of us, even introverts like me, are hoping and praying that we get back to the office at some point in 2021. It got me thinking that when we do arrive back, all hopeful and courageous like we’ve survived a zombie apocalypse, that we do things better. That in the midst of our Zoom calls, we’ve taken the opportunity to imagine a better workplace, and will harness the leadership to take action on what our imaginations have triggered.
Today, I’m addressing those trends I hope we don’t drag into 2021.
Management by Walking Around
I am a mind-mapper and my maps come to life in a colorful array of folders, sticky notes, and pens, representing a different phase in the project based on urgency, risk and other factors. My focus is razor sharp and the hum of the office is the white noise I need to block out future projects from creating their own map.
I’m staring at the wall, my computer screen, or dead space but I am working hard. I’m expending more energy than if I was hiking a wooded trail.
I’m shuffling priorities and creating talking points and ope I need to put a few things in a parking lot and color code them, and oh by the way, I need to call Susie…”
I am in hyper-productivity mode, processing vast amounts of information, leveraging facts pertinent to the moment and cataloguing the rest for later use when all of a sudden, I hear, “Great! Looks like I caught you taking a break. I wanted to stop by and see how you were doing. How was your weekend?”
Enter show stopping record scratch.
What the heck just happened? I’ve lost two hours of productivity, that’s what happened.
Who can relate?!
I think management by walking around was popularized with early, Americanized six sigma work. In an effort to create lean organizations, engineers, quality gurus and project managers would supplement their board room problem solving with a GEMBA walk. GEMBA means walk or go-to walk. The suits would take what they learned during problem solving exercises and go straight to the problem on the manufacturing floor. They would touch it, study it, see it in action, talk to the operators and see the process and pieces in real time. The concept is great but over the years it’s transitioned to office settings where leaders simply walk around to check in or see what’s up. It’s disruptive at best, and worse, can make employees feel like they’re being monitored.
And while there’s nothing wrong with the boss stopping by for a friendly hello, as a leader, I want you to be mindful of the purpose and intent of your walks. And if you’re meeting remotely, or exist only in an online space, I want you to take the same consideration with chats and calls.
If you don’t have time to answer the questions of the people you’re visiting or calling, you’re doing more damage than good. Nothing’s worse than catching up with an employee during one of the walks to ask “how’s it going,” when you’re on your way to a meeting and don’t really have time to stop and listen if the answer takes more than a few minutes. Your walks, or if leading online, your calls, should still be purposeful and mindful of the context.
Leave Behind Open Work Spaces
Honestly, I can’t believe this is still a thing. According to an article in The Muse, open office space pre-dated cubicle farms. The idea being if you took down physical walls, social walls came down organically. What quickly ensued and is not surprising is that more and more people were crammed in like sardines and productivity tanked.
The solution? Cubicles. Sometime in the 60’s the solution to one big sardine can was to create dozens of mini cans and the cube farm was born.
Then sometime in the 90’s tech companies “reinvented,” or so they like to think, the open office space in an effort to resolve problem solving, improve communication, create more engagement opportunities, and promote cross-functional creativity.
It’s not shocking that 54% of high performing employees describe their open office space as disastrous to their productivity.
In fact, A Harvard Business School study found workers were less productive and the quality of work suffered in an open office environment. Open office spaces have the opposite intended affect.
Let me paint a picture: in the online meeting world we live in today, the open office environment is the equivalent of working in your home office while having an 8-hour live zoom meeting with all of your colleagues. Ew.
,Say NO to The Eight-Hour Interview
There are only a few circumstances in which an eight hour interview is necessary.
Focusing our horizon on the interview process instead of the selection process, will have us nose diving into group think then overcompensating with the exclusiveness needs of individual leaders.
When we focus primarily on the interview process, our energy is aimed at getting everyone’s input. Businesses have created such an inclusive, collaborative environment that the energy is spent on making sure no one is left out, so we schedule several panel interviews and stuff the conference room with people.
And while, collaboration and inclusiveness are extremely important, they are not token contributions to our daily work. Inclusiveness is a value vs. a priority and requires much more strategy than simply taking an “everybody” approach to your objectives.
When we use collaboration and inclusiveness in a token way, we create group think and clear a path for exclusiveness because individuals want to be heard. Now instead of two to three key decision makers or thought leaders, you’ve got panel and singular interviews scheduled for the entire day.
This is exhausting for the candidate and you’re not much closer to actually making a selection than at the beginning of the day. I encourage you instead to focus on your selection process. Want to know how?
,The Fourth Trend to Leave in 2020 is Gamification of the Workplace
Gamification in the workplace is a series of contests (these are games, after all) where performance metrics are set and employees compete against one another, or themselves, or against the metrics and when they get close they get points or stars or tickets and when they perform more poorly, they receive nothing. Employers want them to help make the workplace a fun and engaging way for employees to pursue performance metrics while management measures it.
But one of the many, many issues with gamification is they are set up to ensure the average worker wins. The emotional and psychological side effects of ‘not winning’ at work are very real and gamification only feeds into that anxiety. When the intention is to increase productivity and improve overall results why would employers implement a program that celebrates mediocrity?
Another downside to gamification is that it may unintentionally have adverse effects on certain employees. Single professionals with no family responsibilities can work longer hours and earn more points than parents who have to swing by day care by six. Introverts who prefer to keep their productivity, well, productive, may be left out of earned rewards simply because they opted out of something so social.
Gamification typically relies on expensive wearables that track and monitor progress. It’s difficult to provide a real ROI on them so employees end up entering their information into an online tracker. And while gamification can lead to temporary improved results, after 6 months or so, employees are saying, “gee, thanks for the chore.” Even for the most gung-ho, extroverted employee, the gamification ends up feeling more like a carnival game prize than a tangible employee perk or benefit or monetary reward. Who wants to put in a hundred extra hours to win company sweatshirt, parking spot for a day, or lunch with an executive?
Gamification can be a fun way to track the progress of a short-term, highly structured project, but for use as a total performance reward system, they miss the mark. Performance rewards going into 2021 must be more robust, more personal, and frankly more professional than gamification rewards can provide.
And Finally, Trendy Perks
From game rooms to free smoothie bars, these daytime perks have been called modern-day welfare capitalism, industrial relations, or industrial paternalism.
In the industrial age, perks like drinking fountains and company-sponsored sports teams were intended to keep up the ‘morale and welfare’ of its employees.
However, if these boutique style office perks aren’t designed with a specific purpose than the perks start to feel more like a manipulation of employee work hours.
Rock walls and Foosball tables probably meant for a bit of fun, may actually guilt the employee into working more hours. Bottom line is employees would exchange more flexible work hours for a ping pong table any day of the week.
And now, especially in the Zoom Age, when we return to work, employees will feel compelled to return home, and open their computers once again, greying those lines between work and home. The future of offices will help employees with their worklife balances by providing smarter ways to work, not ways to have fun, so their employees can get back home to what’s most important.
Those work-life balance lines were thinning before 2020, and if working from home has taught us anything, it is that we need a psychological separation of work from home. We must do better going into 2021.
,,Here’s a bonus one: The Annual Performance Review
If you didn’t catch my latest episode, head on back to episode 9 where I discuss ways to transition away from an annual performance review and move toward more meaningful and productive conversations.
2020 broke all the rules. This is a great time to reinvent your workspace and get rid of the broken, invite and invent new ideas, or refine the existing.
It’s also a great time to define or refine your Mission, Vision, and Values and I have a FANTASTIC COURSE coming that walks you through step by step exactly what you need to do to build a game-changing foundation. If you want to get on the list and receive a supremely cool discount, visit vimandvigor.biz/waitlist.