This article distills key insights from Season 1, Episode 5 of True Understanding, a podcast that explores the strategies shaping workplaces of tomorrow.
In this episode of True Understanding, Corrine Murray from AGT about her passion for "Ways of Working." She shared insights on what ways of working are and how teams can utilize them to support a culture in the new era of flexible workplaces. As an expert in this area, Corrine provided valuable high-level perspectives on this topic.
The Pandemic And Haphazard Ways Of Working—Remote As A Product
Prior to the pandemic, the assumption was that work was something done in the office. However, the pandemic coupled with other studies (such as activity-based working) has shown that different environments support different activities for optimal productivity. Corinne stated, "So overall, it's the things that we've always done. It's meetings, it's collaboration, it's deep focus. It's the meeting people to just catch up and have a quick chat, and we need to be more deliberate and more concise about how we plan and create space for those things now that we're in more distributed and more dynamic environments coming out of the pandemic."
Her approach is about bringing more focus and thoughtfulness to the ways of working, making them more intentional and specific for learning, understanding, and optimization.
Companies should be intentional about supporting their culture through their ways of working. They need to create a framework that provides enough clarity for individuals to work effectively, but also allows for trust and autonomy.
She referenced a LinkedIn post by Darren Murphy at GitLab, highlighting that remote work is not just an experience but a product. Just like product teams that run agile and constantly iterate based on feedback, organizations need to continuously collect insight from their employees, who are their customers but in a different way.
"There's a lot of work that needs to be done, and I think that intentionality does convey to employees that they are more than just employees, that they are actual people, and we want to enable what is most pragmatic for as many people as possible and really sort of extend the bell curve of how things can work for the most number of people," she added.
Who Decides How To Steer The Ship?
Is it the managers? The workplace or employee experience team? Or is it a combination of various factors?
Well, the truth is, it's a bit of everything all at once according to Corinne. The way we work has evolved over time, long before our generation entered the workforce. There are ingrained practices that have become the norm, and the idea is not to start from scratch, but to evaluate and improve upon them.
Each organization has its own unique way of doing things. Companies like VergeSense, Purposeful Intent, LinkedIn, Genentech, and others may have different approaches. The key is to identify what activities are happening within the organization and evaluate if they are effective in helping achieve the company's goals.
It's not about throwing everything out and starting anew. It's about ensuring that our current practices align with our objectives, and if they don't, finding ways to enhance them. For instance, one area that has gained attention is the impact of back-to-back meetings on brain stress. She acknowledges that while meetings can be valuable, they are often overused and can lead to burnout.
Better Practices For Better Outcomes
Research, such as a study conducted by Microsoft, has shown that having four consecutive meetings without breaks can lead to increased stress levels. On the other hand, subjects who had breaks in between their meetings were found to be more balanced and less stressed. This data suggests that our ways of working can have a significant impact on our well-being and overall performance.
So it's important for organizations to reflect on their practices and make data-driven decisions. Back-to-back meetings may seem like a small issue, but it can have broader implications on factors such as productivity, innovation, stress levels.
Many workers in the US, and beyond, are experiencing a norm of working long hours, often well beyond the traditional 9-to-5 workday. This has led to increased stress, fatigue, and decreased work-life balance.
Creating a culture of experimentation and continuous improvement is also crucial in optimizing ways of working. She often starts her audits with the low-hanging fruit. What can be fixed now, easily. Corinne emphasized the importance of being open to trying new approaches, gathering feedback, and iterating on processes to find what works best for a particular team or organization.
It's essential to create a safe space where employees feel comfortable sharing their feedback and ideas for improvement without fear of reprisal. Encouraging a growth mindset and fostering a culture of learning and innovation can lead to more effective ways of working and better outcomes for the entire organization.
The Role of Leadership
Leadership plays a crucial role in shaping the ways of working within an organization. They need to set the tone and lead by example, demonstrating a commitment to intentional and effective work practices. Corinne emphasized that leaders need to model the behavior they want to see in their teams and be willing to adapt and iterate on their own ways of working.
They should also empower their teams to make decisions about their work practices and provide them with the necessary resources and support to optimize their workflows. This includes giving employees autonomy to manage their time and tasks, providing access to tools and technologies that enable effective remote work, and fostering a culture of trust and accountability.
As Corinne summed it up, "...ultimately we're trying to fix frictions...these frictions existed pre-pandemic—they've just become more glaringly obvious as we've gone through three years of very wildly tumultuous change that won't stop for the foreseeable future."
Being intentional about how we work can lead to better outcomes, improved well-being, and increased success for individuals and organizations alike.
It's time to evaluate our ways of working, make data-driven decisions, and create a work culture that fosters collaboration, innovation, and inclusivity. Are you ready to be intentional about how you work?
Listen to the full episode and other True Understanding episodes here: