New ways of working (or not).

In July I wrote a blog ‘A world of pure re-imagination’ capturing the evolving nature of the Workplace. 5 months on and I see organisations on a continuum of: the wishful thinkers, the short termers, the seekers and the brave and rebellious.

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Where Organisations are on this continuum is changing daily (even hourly), across the leadership, across departments, across the people. Organisations have been left wondering what exactly is the next right thing to do? What do their people want? How are they most productive? What technology do they need? What processes need revising?

Pre-pandemic many terms to define ways of working were used interchangeably leading to confusion in organisations among both employees and employers. During the pandemic, wow, the lingo bingo is on steroids and being captured under headlines like ‘new normal’ ‘new ways of working’ and ‘reimagining the office’.

Just what do all of these terms mean? – here’s my quick (no BS) summary:

  • Agile – People work where, when, how they choose but ensure business needs are met. Technology is key to optimise performance through empowering people.
  • Office Based – The clue is in the title.
  • Remote – No people aren’t on an island and with the exponential adoption of technology they should feel far from ‘remote’. How about we stop using this term now?
  • Home worker – The clue is in the title.
  • Flexible – The hours people work.
  • Activity Based Working (ABW) – People choose where to sit (or stand, or even balanced on a yoga ball) where best suits the task they are doing with the people they need to do it with. Office design and technology are crucial to ensure mobility.
  • Hot Desking – This comes hand in hand with ABW. Where an ABW culture exists, hot desking is often the most efficient way to ensure space utilisation across all settings. Hot desking gets a bad wrap when it is implemented in a poor office design which leaves people fighting over a desk or implemented poorly and leaves people ‘beach towelling’ their favourite seat.
  • New ways of working (NWoW) – This is very much around organisational design and ensuring the organisational culture is brought into the current world across the whole multigenerational workforce. i.e. Digital immigrants are upskilled in line with digital natives and office based workers shift to a new way of working like agile or ABW.
  • Smart Working – The approach is very much underpinned by the models of Agile and ABW and focuses on technology to improve job satisfaction and productivity.
  • Hybrid – The last 8 months has ensured the genie escapes the bottle, this is about ensuring we don’t try and shove it wholly back in again. This is about having some structure and social aspects but still independence and flexibility. The mix of office and home and everything in-between.

So, I’m glad that’s clear then! Here’s some key points to consider to ensure the chosen model is right for your business:

  • Listen: What are your people saying? What’s working, what’s not?
  • Support Services: FM / HR / IT / the Exec all need to talk to each other. How can they work together to enable the people to achieve their potential?
  • Knowledge/Task workers: Ensure clarity about each of the job roles involved to help people decide which tasks are best suited to which environment.
  • Culture: There needs to be a culture of trust for any of the above models, but especially those which mean people can’t be seen. Empowering autonomy is crucial.
  • Collaboration: Get your collaboration platform(s) right (and make sure they are secure!).
  • The Physical Space: The office(s) will need some changes. You may need more collaboration space, streamlined ways to book a desk/meeting room, day storage lockers, improved AV, a way of managing visitors or improved catering facilities. In a dispersed working world, the meeting rooms need to be good enough that everybody feels seen and heard no matter if they’re in the room, or working outside of the office. A sparsely populated office maybe great for social distancing, but it will reinforce isolation, not increase those coffee machine conversations and leave teams feeling disparate. The physical space needs to be a destination people want and enjoy going to.
  • Mobility: Make sure the technology enables, not hinders. Nobody wants to work from home if it means lumping a 10kg laptop round with you that you’d love to throw out of the window.
  • Digitisation: Processes need to be slick and documents accessible from anywhere. No more ring binders and dull grey filing cabinets.
  • Change Management: Invest resources heavily in bringing hearts and minds along the journey.
  • Values: Not the ones just written on the wall; the ones which your people truly live and breath. Do the values of the organisation need revisiting? How do you ensure your people are engaged and connected to the purpose of the organisation?
  • Evolution: Measure, refine, deliver, repeat. Focus on continuous improvement and the marginal gains.

In the spirit of no BS, flexible working policies with agile mindsets and activity based working utilising smart technology covers the all important: People, Process, Space and Technology to ensure your people can achieve their potential. Engage your people, enable them through ways of working and technology and evolve through data.

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Are you a wishful thinker, a short termer, a seeker or part of the brave and rebellious club?

Take Care,



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