When, Where, & How Work is Done has Evolved, Have You?

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At the beginning of civilization, people work to survive. Everyone played a vital role in ensuring the basic human needs [food, shelter, safety] of all were met. As technology and people advanced, it changed how work was done. We've seen the evolution from the agricultural age to the industrial age to the information age. Now we are in the Adaptive Age. How, when, and why we work is more fluid.


The strict 40+ hours, five days a week work model is evolving because people demand more flexibility, autonomy, and control over their work/life. As leaders, if we don't at the very least recognize that these changes are happening and attempt to adapt our mindsets and offices, we're in jeopardy of not only losing productivity and profits but could lose very valuable employees too.   


The pandemic allowed people to experience what flex time truly feels like, and now, they are refusing to give it up to return to a more rigid structure and schedule. We've seen this play out in the past year as organizations navigated the Great Return. While some companies have embraced and adapted to remote and hybrid work models, there are still those refusing to acknowledge the change. The CEO of JP Morgan has widely criticized remote work saying it "creates a working environment that's less honest and more prone to procrastination." And the Chief Executive of Washingtonian Media said she is "worr[ied] about the erosion of office culture." 


A Practice in Innovation


When the pandemic began, people were forced to be creative and innovative as they embarked on a wild, remote work experiment. People who had spent 5, 10, or 15 years working behind a desk in a large office suddenly found themselves setting up shop in living rooms and around kitchen tables. Before the pandemic, only about 4% of the US workforce worked remotely, but in 2020, that number jumped to 43%. 


The data shows people were more productive working from home than in the office. 

  • Nearly six out of 10 workers reported being more productive working from home.
  • Productivity at home was 7 percent higher.
  • Forty percent of workers reported they were more productive at home.

These numbers are remarkable in normal times but are extraordinarily given that people felt more productive while experiencing the unknowns of the virus and social and political unrest, all while many were also navigating remote learning on top of their workload. In a time of so much uncertainty, fear, anxiety, and change, people were more productive-let that sink in for a moment. 


Got FONK? 


Concerns about remote work are that it negatively impacts innovation, productivity, and culture. But, in reality, many employers are experiencing FONK [fear of not knowing] whether their employees are really working or just scrolling through Instagram and watching Netflix. This is a fear based on a lack of control and a lack of trust. 


The foundation of any relationship is trust and communication. Without these two fundamental building blocks, no relationship can survive. When organizations say they believe remote work creates lazy, unproductive people, they are really saying that they don't trust their employees to work without a watchful eye. When they use digital productivity monitoring to track idle time, this raises some serious privacy concerns and underscores the lack of trust between employer and employee. The questions we should be asking are, "why are we hiring people we can't trust to get the work done no matter their location?" and "why are we working for people who don't trust us to do the job we were hired for?" 


The key to creating trust and communication goes back to the Golden Rule, treat others as we want to be treated. When companies treat their employees as an investment and an asset instead of just a cog in the machine of work, it sets the foundation for a more authentic, transparent workplace.  


Get Connected


When questioning the impact remote work has on culture, we can look to companies such as Affirm, Dropbox, and even DH, which all have exceptional close-knit cultures while working remotely. And still, connection is one of the driving factors for CEOs' desire for teams to return to the office. It is time that we adapt our mindsets on how connections are formed.


Being together in person is just one way we can feel connected. Long before the internet and social media, people connected over the phone and through letter writing. Anyone remember having a pen pal back in the 80s? Writing letters to strangers began in the 1930s as a way for students to connect with others across the globe to share and learn about different customs and cultures.


When AOL was introduced, we joined chat rooms to connect with people with similar interests. And now, social media allows us to connect by sharing our [sometimes filtered] lives, thoughts, and memes. During lockdowns, while everyone was physically isolated, we still connected through shared TicTok dances, sing-alongs, and heartbreaking moments of loss. 


In-person human contact is vastly important for our emotional and mental well-being, but we shouldn't discount that technology has given us other ways to connect meaningfully. To foster connections in your workplace, consider hosting activities that create opportunities for people to bond. Set aside a few minutes at the start of a meeting to check in with each other and see how everyone is feeling, what they are excited about, or what they are struggling with outside of work.


Our DH Global Partners meeting begins with a green, yellow, and red exercise in which each attendee says how they are feeling green [excited], yellow [hesitant], or red [blocked]. These feelings could be around work or what's happening at home. This exercise gives us an opportunity to be heard while also allowing others to provide support, praise, and encouragement. 


There is no one size fits all for work anymore. In this Adaptive Age, we should be open and flexible about how, when, and where we work to create workplaces that work for everyone. 

Are you ready to join the evolution? Our Adapt & Thrive for Remote & Hybrid Teams Workshop will provide you with tools & processes to thrive in this Adaptive Age. 

Adapt & Thrive Workshop


About the Author

Amanda Marksmeier

Amanda is the Growth Content Driver at DH. She has been writing and creating engaging content for nearly five years. She loves to use words to inspire and connect with people. Amanda thrives on helping and serving others through the power of the written word. She is always on the search for new and inventive ways to reach and educate others.


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