As a wise woman, Sandra Panara, said recently, if we’re not providing workplaces for humans, what are we doing?. I’m with Sandra on this but it’s simple; we’re getting it wrong, and I am on a mission to drive awareness, conversations and change.
‘The Human Workplace’ is a given for so many, but when we consider the challenges surrounding: gender and pay inequality, wellbeing, trust, productivity, engagement, change management and the climate to name a few, ‘The Human Workplace’ is far from being a given and needs more focus and effort to achieve and evolve. The events of 2020 have reminded us what is important and that there’s always a better way.
What do I mean by ‘The Human Workplace’?
‘The Human Workplace’ is about creating a culture of consciousness, an environment (physical or virtual) that takes takes an active consideration for the people so they can achieve their potential; for the good of the organisation and wider society; without having a detrimental impact upon our planet. This is about integrity, values and quite simply, not being a d*ck. We can do better and we must do better.
Being Human at Work:
We’ve all had or heard of those experiences where soft skills being seen as the fluffy stuff, where emotions are greeted by eye rolls, where assertiveness is good for men but the women are seen as bossy. During 2019 a campaign started #biascorrect which was pushing back against some of the labels being used for women in business such as: bossy, aggressive, pushy, cold, calculated, emotional, quiet and shrill. This lose-lose dichotomy between too forceful and too timid echoes so much of the research (and my own experiences!).
The same thinking, experiences and examples apply to other discriminations such as: disability, race, religion, age, sexual orientation, colour and then into lifestyle choices such as: tattoos, hair colour, piercings and vegetarianism / veganism.
Whilst there are examples of such bias and discrimination people are being prevented from bringing their whole-self to work. Being a human at work is enables and empowers equality, opportunity and being comfortable to express yourself when and how you choose; warts and all.
The good news is, the pandemic has started to highlight the importance of soft skills (1). A survey by City & Guilds found that 73% of people felt their organisation’s leadership had been lacking during the pandemic, 36% stating their leader failed to empower them and 31% said a lack of empathy impacted their motivation and performance.
In a world of technology and automation, it’s not more robots we need, it’s more human behaviour like: empathy, trust, compassion, listening, authenticity and connection. Where there are people there will be:
Pre-Covid, for many organisations, commuting and working within an office was very much the norm. Not often because people genuinely wanted to be in the office and felt they worked better there but because of poor culture, mistrust and not having the technology and processes to enable people to work in a more agile way.
“…the coronavirus crisis could trigger the largest ever annual fall in CO2 emissions in 2020, more than during any previous economic crisis or period of war” (2).
When we work in a different way, the canals in Venice run clear and have fish, dolphins are seen in cruise ports and a badger was even spotted outside Sheffield train station.
In the UK and the US, the transport sector is responsible for emitting more greenhouse gases than any other and globally, transport accounts for around a quarter of CO2 emissions, with three quarters of the emissions being road vehicles (3).
Research by Loop (4) suggests that reducing your commute by just one day per week could save 379.2kg of CO2 emissions. This amount of carbon is equivalent to 2,433km on a short-haul flight or a passenger trip from London to Istanbul; yet business travel continued to grow globally at a rate of 3-5% each year leading up to the coronavirus pandemic (4).
The latest United Nations climate action report calls for a green coronavirus economic recovery to fight global warming (5). As a result of reduced travel, lower industrial activity and lower electricity generation this year due to the pandemic, emissions are predicted to fall up to 7% in 2020. However, this dip only translates to a 0.01°C reduction of global warming by 2050. A green pandemic recovery, however, can cut up to 25 per cent off the emissions we would expect to see in 2030 based on policies in place before COVID-19. (5).
From commuting, to food waste and general consumption through business activity ‘The Human Workplace’ has the potential to drive big change for our planet. If you haven’t watched it already, please do watch David Attenborough: A life on our planet (6).
Organisational culture directly impacts how people perform and therefore the finances of the business:
- Open, positive workplace cultures that welcome big ideas will spark the creativity, knowledge sharing, and collaboration essential for innovation and improvement.
- Employee engagement increases where people are connected to their purpose; engaged employees are motivated to succeed.
- A positive culture increases morale; people put in their best work.
- Happy employees strive to ensure customers return.
- Psychological safety leads to increased confidence, creativity, trust and productivity.
- A happy workforce is a healthy workforce.
Across Europe, the average working week tops at 48 hours (Turkey) and the lowest being Netherlands (29 hours). The UK sit in the middle at 37 hours, that’s a whooping 90,000 hours if you work 18-65 and are in the UK.
- In the UK alone, 2 in 5 employees have reported experiencing poor mental health symptoms related to work in the last year (7).
- 24% cited bullying and harassment from their manager as a cause (7).
- 62% of managers admit that they have had to put the interests of their organisation above staff wellbeing (7).
- 33% of those who experienced mental health challenges as a result of work cited organisational change being handled poorly (7).
It’s time for change. People driven organisational cultures with shared values, beliefs, assumptions, symbols, rituals, attitudes, and behaviours possessed by a group of employees, lived and breathed by leadership and underpinned across space, technology and process.
Making anybody feel like sh*t for your own pleasure, insecurities, lack of emotional intelligence, or to feed power trips, or any others behaviours which dehumanise, do not belong in the workplace; they don’t belong anywhere.
There are many positives as to why people change jobs: a new challenge, progression, change, relocation or a change of career. The latest figures show that people are likely to remain in their current roles for 2-5 years and this very much changes across generations. Team members moving on can be positive, for both themselves and the business, under the right circumstances. However, more often than not, people leave an organisation for negative reasons, such expensive mistakes include:
- Misaligned vision and leadership.
- Compromised values and beliefs causing increased toxicity.
- A lack of connection, appreciation, belonging, and empathy.
- A lack of trust and autonomy.
- Uncertainty during hard times and massive change.
- Organisational structures and processes that create stagnation and frustration.
- Poor management.
- A lack of opportunities / a poor customer base.
Business is built upon customer relationships and with the culture of an organisation reverberating across all aspects of the business, it represents the way you do business. It’s your identity, your image and it will determine how your people and customers perceive the organisation. With so much market competition, so much adoption of social media, there is nowhere to hide and being anything but ‘Human’ is not an option if you want to keep your customers.
- ‘The Human Workplace’ is about integrity, values and quite simply, not being a d*ck.
- Soft skills are not ‘soft’, they are critical and underpin the success of your people and the business.
- Making anybody feel like sh*t for your own pleasure, insecurities, lack of emotional intelligence, or to feed power trips, or any others behaviours which dehumanise, do not belong in the workplace; they don’t belong anywhere.
- Our workstyles and behaviours have a wider impact, stop forcing people to commute for an hour to sit in an office everyday. Enable change.
- There are eyes and ears everywhere, consciousness and integrity are key.
- We can do better and we must do better, for the sake of our people, our organisations and our planet.
Be a better human,
1- People Management, 2020 – https://www.peoplemanagement.co.uk/news/articles/pandemic-highlights-lack-of-soft-skills-among-business-leaders
2 – The Carbon Brief, 2020 – https://www.carbonbrief.org/analysis-coronavirus-set-to-cause-largest-ever-annual-fall-in-co2-emissions
5 – United Nations, 2020 – https://www.unep.org/emissions-gap-report-2020
6- David Attenborough, 2020 – https://attenboroughfilm.com/