Experimental Adventures Are the Secret to A New Way of Working

By Mark LeBusque. Published at Apr 22, 2021, in Features

“Blessed are the curious for they shall have adventures.” — Lovelle Drachman

One of the most valuable learnings over the past twelve months is that we have embraced curiosity and a lot of “I wonder...” and “what if...” moments in the workplace.

We have become more adventurous and as a result, it has opened a whole new way to look at how to operate a business successfully when embracing remote working arrangements. The challenge now is to continue the adventure and remain curious about how to successfully combine remote and the more traditional ways of working.

That’s right, instead of going with the ‘we’ve always done it that way” line, businesses and employees continue to experiment and explore the best way to exist in a future state. Some experiments have proven to be an incredible success, whereas others haven’t quite worked it out. That’s the nature of experimentation. You win some and you lose some.

So why should we continue to embrace the concept of future work as an experimental adventure?

I have advocated and experimented with some radical and very successful approaches to flexible work, with what I call an ‘experimental adventure’.

Here are my five tips to make flexible work truly flexible:

  1. Trust is the Foundation – the biggest mistake business owners can make is not trusting their employees to be working if they’re not in sight. The pandemic has shown that humans can be trusted to do great work when not physically supervised. The old adage of ‘to be seen is to be productive’ is so yesterday and has no place in a more flexible work agreement. The first and most important tip is to change your story about trust by saying ‘trust implicitly’. Anything else just won’t work.
  2. Every Human is Unique – one size does not fit all when it comes to flexible work, and we’ve seen how trying to put all employees into one box has negative impacts on motivation, engagement and discretionary effort. The truly flexible small business manager will sit down with each employee and create an individual flexible work arrangement. Why would Joan, who is a middle-aged single mum with primary school aged children want to spend quality time with them after school pick up have the same flexible arrangements as John, who is single and loves nothing more than being with friends hiking in the outdoors three days a week?
  3. Get Radically Creative with Performance Goals – The Fair Work Commission recently released an award flexibility scheme detailing the following: ‘The schedule’s working from home provisions aim for agreements that balance the personal and work responsibility of the employee with the business needs of the employer’. Take a creative approach and why not build non-work-related goals into the employee performance plan and acknowledge the human and not just the ‘worker’? It might only be one non-work-related goal but it will have a positive impact on the relationship and the formation of trust.
  4. It’s not all about Working from Home (WFH) – don’t put all your eggs in one basket here as a business owner. Working from home is only one potential element of flexible work. Get the creative juices flowing and involve your staff in a brainstorming session to truly explore and experiment with what flexible work could be. Changes to span of hours, days worked, locations both temporary and permanent are all on the table right now. Leave no stone unturned and remember great ideas can come from anyone in your business.
  5. Don’t ‘Guilt Trip’ Your Employees – when we eventually return in some format to the office, business owners must be 100% conscious of the throwaway lines that create a level of guilt for the employees. Looking at your watch and rolling out one liners like ‘good afternoon’, ‘it’s alright for some’ and ‘I was here until midnight last night’ are not useful and will soon erode any feeling of trust and psychological safety for your employees.

All businesses have an amazing opportunity right now to lead the way on flexible working arrangements by continuing to embrace a spirit of curiosity, experimentation and adventure.

The only thing stopping them is going back to the seven words that will lose momentum and potentially your fight to retain and attract great talent who have been both experimental and adventurous over the past 12 months.

How experimental and adventurous are you prepared to be?

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