The search for solutions to our post Covid work and workplace dilemmas continue at pace, as we close the final chapter of 2022. Reflecting on the plethora of press articles and the conveyor belt of opinion expressed in the congested channels of Linkedin; I cannot help but think it is only part of the story. There is little doubt that there is a huge appetite for a ready made solution or some best practice to embrace. It is a practice which has a lot of merit and one I have used many times but that was in a different era, one where we could say go to the West Coast of the USA and see what the Tech Companies were doing. We are now in a completely new ballgame one where we are redefining the rules as we go. As we face into 2023 and another year where the fog of uncertainty prevails the calls for where is the secret sauce are growing in volume.
The Heat is on
As the memory of lockdown fades into the past we have had to forgo the hopes of many that the pendulum would swing back. The long anticipated return to the office has failed to materialise. What for many traditionalists is really worrying is it seems that there has been profound change in both worker preferences and work practices. This has happened right across the globe all at the same time. To compound these challenging times the relative backwaters of HR and Facilities have been catapulted up the C-Suite priority list. As business leaders battle with energy costs, inflation, interest rates and geopolitical uncertainty; they are demanding solutions for how best to convene a mainly dispersed workforce. In simple terms the heat has been turned up.
The Double Dilemmas
Our collective desire to come up with solutions fast has been further complicated by the realisation that one size fits all thinking is over when it comes to labour and real estate management. Covid provided the last nail in the coffin for the industrial age model of office work. What suits one enterprise may not suit another and were going to see the equivalent of a patchwork quilt of permutations. Something which is best described as Omni working. What has not been fully articulated is that it also called into question the model for how we consume and provide the buildings that house these activities - the office. The two dilemmas are in fact twins or two sides of the one coin. It is interesting to note that only a few people have recognised this relationship and this lack of appreciation impedes the search for new solutions that will meet the demands of the C-Suite.
Our fixation on the physical
If one accepts the premise of a multiplicity of permutations for how we can work post Covid; one must see that the current discourse about the merits of work from home versus remote working or embracing hybrid is too narrow in nature. The choice of a binary either/or basis restricts our thinking to a narrow frame of reference. Consequently, we are missing out on opportunity. One Can understand why this discourse is so popular - it is easy to visualise. The option to work is anchored in one physical location or another. Our propensity to fixate on just one physical option constrains our ability to think differently. Plus, to add further complexity to the situation we will also need to consider the implications of the growth of interest in the Metaverse and what this cyber dimension of work will bring about.
Looking ahead maybe the search needs to be refocused. Because it seems that this desire to find a secret source is a bit like hurling a lot of mud at a wall and none of it is sticking. Could this be due to the fact that the wall itself needs to be adjusted or changed altogether? Do we need a new or adjusted framework for enabling work anywhere, across multiple dimensions and timeframes. In trying to navigate through all this uncertainty we need to be much bolder in our ambitions we need to break out from conventional thinking and have the courage of our convictions to experiment. In doing so we will uncover fresh perspectives which enable us to craft scenarios to innovate. In doing so we will truly discover our own tailor-made secret sauce.