The future of work requires new mindsets

Datacom has undertaken a major project examining mindsets, macro trends and industry pressures. Drawing on extensive international and local research and the experiences of its customers, the company is proposing a new way to approach work, one that is centred on four mindsets that we inhabit and switch between as we go about our work each day. By Tracey Cotter-Martin.

After two years of remote and hybrid working, millions of people across the world have settled into new routines and ways of working that look set to become permanent.

For many, that’s liberating. Employers have more appetite for flexible working, allowing us to set our own hours and are focusing more on outcomes rather than how much time we spend at our desks.

But the work changes triggered by the pandemic haven’t all been as positive. Many of us have ended up working longer. Some have lost connection with colleagues and the goals of their organisation. Burnout is a real issue.

Businesses did their best to equip and support the remote workforce quickly as we went home to carry on working. But there’s a sense I get from talking to our customers and my own colleagues at Datacom that a more fundamental shift is underway in workplaces that actually preceded the ‘mega event’ that was Covid-19. It’s been driven by the level of complexity and change workers have had to deal with in recent years, which only accelerated during the pandemic.

For years, designing workplaces has been driven by the idea of personas. An office manager has different requirements to a receptionist, who works differently to a travelling salesperson. So we’ve invested a lot of time and money designing office spaces, technology and the working day to suit their differing needs.

But what we’ve fundamentally overlooked is that each worker, regardless of their profession or place in the organisation, needs to have a different mindset to approach different types of work in the space of a day to get the job done.

Is the task at hand familiar or unfamiliar, simple or complex? Are you in discovery mode or trying to deliver something? Are you working on your own or with collaborators?

Virtually all of us go from thinking to delivering to collaborating to discovering, and back again, multiple times each day. This is just the nature of modern work. But we haven’t accounted sufficiently for these necessary and frequent mode shifts and we could all end up paying the consequences.

Patrick Lencioni, one of the world’s leading authorities on business management and teamwork, said early on in the pandemic that “now is the time to lean into being human”.

“This is not the time to save an hour or two in order to make people more efficient. This is the time to over-invest in time with one another as a team,” he pointed out.

Technology companies, and I include Datacom among them, are very good at coming up with technology to solve customer problems. But the pandemic and the ways of work left in its place requires us to look beyond the digital tools that let us stay productive to those factors that allow us to thrive as human beings and part of a team.

A client recently asked us for advice on reconfiguring their office space and technology set-up because only 40 percent of the building was now being occupied at any one time. Their inclination was to reduce floor space, put in some couches, move to hot desking and order more notebooks and tablets.

But this was a business that was undergoing a major change in its operating model. What it really needed to do was step back and consider the way people think and work and how that may alter as the organisation went through its transformation.

Clay Christensen helped revolutionise how large organisations like Twitter and Google innovate with his ‘jobs to be done’ methodology. It urges us to get to grips with what a customer, or in this case an employee, actually needs to do to get the job done.

Yes, time, space and technology need to be organised. But that’s the functional stuff. We must go deeper and account for how people think and consider their emotional state, before we can give them the tools and the environment to help them succeed in their work.

By drawing on extensive international and local research and the experiences of our customers, we are proposing a new way to approach work, one that is centred on four mindsets that we inhabit and switch between as we go about our work each day – LEARN, CLARIFY, FOCUS, CREATE:

At Datacom, we’ve challenged ourselves to take a step back from technology, understand the context that a person is operating in to then create beautiful solutions that enable people to work regardless of task, and facilitate that ongoing connectedness, engagement and flexibility that workers are asking for and which the future of work demands.

Mindsets provide a vehicle for us to address both the hearts and minds of the future worker. Where we are and how we feel are intrinsically linked – physical spaces that are engaging, fit-for-purpose and easy to access support us seamlessly transitioning between mindsets.

The one constant in the future of work will be people. Technology and buildings will come and go and we will continue to need to adapt to change. But our research shows that above all else, workers want three things – connection, engagement and flexibility.

By taking account of the mindsets we inhabit while working and adapting the tools and environment to suit them, we can help make the future of work more productive for everyone.   

Tracey Cotter-Martin is the associate director – Futures, Insights + Experience at Datacom.

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