Work Untethered #20 #cong20


As work becomes untethered from time and place, what impact does that have on employees.

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Key Takeaways:

  1. The potential for growth in this challenge
  2. The paradigm shift from bum in seat to output
  3. Fitting work to the human, not the other way round
  4. Changing from time to energy management

About Rose Barrett

A Galway woman now residing in Mayo (and loving it). Co-Founder & Community Manager, Grow Remote. Own a kayak and don’t use it enough.

Contacting Rose Barrett:

You can connect with Rose via email and Twitter.

By Rose Barrett.

In so many ways 2020 has been a year of bringing society to a slow down, reducing our lives to the barest essentials and stripping away so much of what we thought we needed. While much of what we have missed are things that are truly key for us to thrive in life, the challenging of what many of us had taken for granted gives us a chance to really think about what we want from life and from our societies.

A particular area that has come up for attention is work. So many people went from assuming that the basic 9-5, in-office structure, where you are judged by whether you are there or not, was how work “should be”. While 2020 has challenged us in so many ways, it’s rare that challenge doesn’t give the opportunity for growth.

From early on we heard from employers who wanted to prepare for their teams going suddenly remote. But their main concern was how they would now track their staff (this was a relatively small number of the employers we spoke to). It was obvious that a serious refocus was required.

Remote working advocate, Laurel Farrer, has a great analogy for helping leaders and managers understand how they should approach their remote reports; “I don’t need to watch you wash my car to know my car is clean”. Of course, there is more nuance (when isn’t there) to using output only tracking of productivity at work, but for many businesses, and employees, this is a positive paradigm shift. A bum in a seat shouldn’t equal a job being done. How, when, and where we work has been given a serious reset and businesses that told us it wasn’t possible for them had it proven that it is (this isn’t to take from all the issues, health, and safety, social life of teams etc that need to be solved for in remote working).

So as more companies and people learn you don’t need to only sit at a desk for a set number of hours, and that work, done well, can be measured in new and different ways, we started to see more teams build greater flexibility into their week. More people are embracing no meeting Tuesday and managing their energy rather than their time. We are deferring more to asynchronous communication (i.e. not in real-time, e.g. email, Slack etc) allowing people more time for deep work, time to think and respond, and giving introverts and neurodiverse team members greater time and space to communicate their ideas.

As work becomes more untethered from place (the great migration back to regional Ireland continues) it’s also becoming unhitched from time and traditional processes. How we collaborate is adjusting. The use of voice memos, shared documents, and online whiteboards increases. I can’t wait until Zoom fatigue becomes a thing of the past, as we move beyond trying to replicate our in-office pasts with back to back video calls. While it’s taking time, we are learning to fit work to the human, instead of the other way around. There is a great focus on the importance of culture in companies and teams, on discussing how we communicate to fit the styles of team members and learning to map your energy to the types of work you do, so you can design a workweek that is more productive, feeds more energy and leaves you with more time to spend with family and in the hills (or whatever your nature of choice is).

The conversation around things like the four-day week is progressing and is being taken more seriously, by a wider section of society than ever before. Being forced to see that remote working isn’t only for a select few has helped us to question more of what was taken for granted in our work lives. As we become better able to find companies with cultures that fit our values, or a team and workweek that fits our energy and personality, we feel the change from living to work to working to live.