The team

When is Workplace Strategy a strategy rather than a change programme?

Friday 24 April, 2020

A colleague had asked: When is Workplace Strategy a strategy rather than a change programme? My response is that it’s a change programme from the very outset - if you have any intention of delivering it.

And right now (in the world of workplace) we have the opportunity for a very sizeable change programme indeed, should we wish to grasp it.

What were sometimes called ‘alternative workplace strategies’ were really all about permission and ability. The permission (aka trust) from middle and senior management in the organisation to their team members to be able to work from different locations within and without the ‘office’ (i.e. to be no longer ‘present’ and in sight); and the ability of the team member to do so in terms of technology and behaviour.

The last few weeks have proved that we do now have the permission to work without the office – albeit perhaps more tacit than explicit as it came as a mandate and instruction rather than an informal line manager chat at one of your regular catch ups that are scheduled in the calendar that yes, they are happy to support you in a work style change that will benefit you both and let’s see how it develops.

The ability with regard to the tech is that largely it seems OK and we’re now getting more used to the video chats in different apps (and video not just audio!) and how to mute and have a conversation without too many awkward interrupting moments and talking over others.

And behaviour in that we’re now getting more comfortable with the autonomy of working slightly different hours perhaps that enable us to work more neatly with other personal commitments. Perhaps we’ve realised that we are a bit better earlier on in the day, or that later afternoon into the evening is when we’re at our best, but either way, we have more control over just when that is and we respond accordingly.

So now that we have the large-scale permission and ability just starting to take shape and meaning and impact, it is up to us how much we would like to build on that for the future and create a working world with more choice and autonomy that works better for all of us. Or we can gradually return to being within the office and rescind some of that permission and rein back the choice to enable us all to be largely present and correct in the same space again.

Except perhaps it’s not quite the correct answer that it might have seemed before. It’s a workplace strategy wrapped up in a change programme that will require real effort and courage (from the organisation) to embed in a sustainable way to enable those positives to have any lasting effect. This time it’s a change that many team members will want to see and so at least from one group of stakeholders it’s a change programme to be welcomed.

 

Tim Allen

Managing Director of Workplace

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