As we enter Phase 3, of the S-Curve (A. Edmondson, adapted from G. Land), we have a unique opportunity to design “Future WorkPlaces” as a win-win-win for business, teams and individuals.

The “Great Working from Home Experiment of 2020”, did not have the benefit of the consciously considered human-centred design principles, we typically recommend for teams seeking to co-create high performance FlexAgile WorkPlaces of the future.

Rather, it was urgently rushed into place, to protect lives and livelihoods, in the middle of a crisis.

On good days we’ve heard our clients espouse the value of less “dead” commute time – positively impacting personal productivity and the environment due to l fewer cars on the road, in addition to closer connections with colleagues – resulting from the window we’ve gained into each other’s personal lives.

On bad days, we’ve heard it described as chaotic, confusing and alternately socially isolating or socially overwhelming (depending on your home schooling and/or home office circumstances).

The highest priority has been, to keep people physically safe whilst maintaining their ability to do their job, and support their emotional health and wellbeing.

This has not been a typical “FlexAgile” experience.

In the initial stages of the crisis, (it seems like a long time ago now!) the focus of business was to “keep the lights on” and figure out what the “winning model” was in the new world.

With many companies successfully emerging from Phase 2 of the S-Curve, with all but their most intractable challenges resolved, they now turn to the next order of business, Phase 3; devising what comes next.

With a very different economic trajectory to pre-Covid forecasts, many companies previously in the throes of adapting their strategy and “go to market” approaches to ensure survival in the “old disrupted world” of just 3-4 months ago, now again, find themselves re-thinking their markets and marketplaces and devising what the next new winning formula will be.

We’ve coined the term “hyper-disruption” to describe the experience.

Whilst many companies are exploring cost reduction measures ensuring short term protection in response to hyper-disruption, it’s equally critical to explore short and long term reinvention and renewal of business models, products and programs, to lay the foundation for future survival and growth.

The very nature of reinventing business models in Phase 3 is complex, and we know diverse teams with diverse mental toolboxes are uniquely positioned to find optimal answers to challenging problems.  (S. Page).

So it’s crucial, as we design Future WorkPlaces – be they virtual or on-premise –  that we seek to enable high performance environments which enable both individual performance and the collective intelligence of teams.

What Future WorkPlace designs will enable “high performance teams” to thrive?

Beware recency or confirmatory biases which lead you to determine either a remote or on-premise WorkPlace is best placed to deliver this outcome.

If you’ve had recent positive remote experiences, you might be tempted to go “all-in” for remote / distributed Future WorkPlace models.  Conversely, if you’ve experienced frustrations, you might be tempted to swing the pendulum and opt for the traditional on-premise WorkPlace.

Crucial for “sparking” new ideas and generating new perspectives essential for the organic renewal and reinvention of every business, is the oft accidental and informal “water cooler” chat.

Enabling this organic human interaction, has been the rationale for much of the open plan, hot desking arrangements incorporated into modern office design.  During this crisis, instant messenger applications have sought to replicate this organic communication – with greater or lesser success, depending on their pre-existing level of adoption.

It is our view supported by data from clients, that achieving a blend of distributed and on-premise “Future WorkPlaces” will achieve optimal employee satisfaction, engagement and business performance.

FlexAgility is not just a “perk” for high performers.

It is a performance enabler generating win-win-win outcomes for business, teams, individuals (and the environment).

Symmetra’s Roadmap for designing Optimal “WorkPlaces of the Future”

When designing “Future WorkPlaces”, we recommend leveraging a Human- Centred Model of Design to co-create the win-win-win for your business and your team.

Human- Centred design principles always start with empathy for the human condition and experience.  Next they define the goal – which in this instance is to design a Future WorkPlace which maximises individual and team performance.

We recommend leveraging the collective intelligence of your team to solve this complex problem by:

  1. Asking: what would our WorkPlace look and feel like, to achieve our highest performance, individually and collectively?”
  2. Challenging: your own traditional thinking and biases about performance in remote vs. on-premise Future WorkPlaces.
  3. Consciously: exploring a blend of remote / distributed and on-premise arrangements, to unlock the optimal mix of individual performance and collective intelligence.
    • When faced with a request for ongoing FlexAgile arrangements, ask “how might this work if we were to…”? rather than respond “it won’t work because…”
  4. Exploring: a wide range of FlexAgile options including:
    • Flexible start and finish times; compressed working weeks; time-in-lieu; part-time and job share; purchasing leave, unpaid leave and sabbaticals are all options available to retain and engage teams and enhance individual and collective performance over time.

It is the ideation discussions of the team, which co-create the experimentation required to refine the optimal solution for implementation.

Optimal “Future WorkPlaces” require experimentation and an ongoing shift in mindset of how “flexagility” supports optimal individual and collective performance.

We urge you to use this great ‘reset’ to explore your own unique and optimal “Future WorkPlace” to unleash the critical blend of individual and collective performance which will steer your business through Phase 3 of “hyper-disruption”.