In the study of human motivation, what motivates us, I love the self-determination theory, which emphasises our need for three things: autonomy, competence and relatedness. It means that relatedness and connection are really important to our motivation, but just shoving people together without changing what they’re doing is not going to work.
We need to think purposefully about the days that we have together and create unstructured spaces and unstructured connection time. And then the structured time, whether that’s breakfast or other things we do together, will actually deliver a lot more. It doesn’t have to be over-engineered, but we do have to think about it.
‘We need to think purposefully about the days that we have together and create unstructured spaces and unstructured connection time’
Symbolise Your Values
Carolyn Taylor has an amazing model for developing culture. She says that values are brought to life through symbols, behaviour, processes and systems. So how can your office be a place that symbolises the values of your culture? How can people experience those values inside the office? It might be through things like
- employee benefts
- environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals
The office is a tool, not just a place, and I fear right now the hybrid work debate has flipped. It’s become a symbol of control and coercion. People think, ‘I’m just coming in because they’ve said I have to come in three days a week, but I don’t really understand why.’
Organisations might reply that it’s because the team gets to collaborate, but that’s a hollow claim if the employee comes in and there’s no one to collaborate with, and they are sitting in the office alone. We need to ensure that the symbolism and the experience are coherent with what we’re trying to deliver.
Adopt a Co-Creation Model
The number one thing, for me, is that hybrid work should be developed through a process of co-creation. That’s when it comes to life.
Mandate a Conversation
Generally, I hate the word ‘mandate’, because it takes away a level of control and autonomy that people love. But I still recommend that organsiations mandate that each team have a conversation about how they will work together when they come together.
Allow a little bit of room for each team to decide how many days together is the right amount. This won’t be the same every week. For example, if the team has a big pitch, maybe they need to be together four days a week.
We always recommend organisations start by taking a look at how they currently collaborate. Marketing teams are going to be very different from engineering teams, who will be different from sales teams. Team should discuss
- How do we collaborate in the best possible way?
- When are the critical moments when we need to work together?
- When would it be better for us to separate to focus on deep solo work?
If teams are engaged in a co-creation process, they’re more likely to uphold the decisions because they know why they were made, they’ve been part of that process. We’ve seen that work really, really well.
We’re all adults, and none of us like following rules we don’t understand. Instead, get people to have a purposeful conversation, offer flexibility, and be very proactive about planning time together to allow for true engagement and collaboration.
Take a Leap of Faith
Karen: It becomes a leap of faith, from a business owner’s or leader’s perspective, doesn’t it? In the current economic climate, people are very focused on productivity. There’s a fear that if you go for coffee every Wednesday morning, they won’t be coming into the office until 10am. It gives leaders the jitters. So it does take a big mindset shift, and a leap of faith to believe that this will actually help us in the longer term.