During my maternity leave I’ve had the chance to reflect on the changing working environment. There’s a lot of talk about flexibility, but it is very difficult to find businesses or organisations who truly embrace and encourage flexibility.
Outdated working environments stifle creativity and flexibility. Allocated desks. Landlines. 9-5 in office hours. Hierarchy. These all contribute to old school attitudes.
Now don’t get me wrong, many people cling to these things as solid foundations. They make the workplace feel comfortable and safe. Some of them, like my own desk, are things that I value. But do they really set the right environment for doing the best and most exciting work? Does it empower people to be masters of their own destiny? Does it make people accountable for themselves, their teams and the quality of the output?
The workplace of the future, in my view, will be less static and more fluid. There will be less rules and more accountability. Costs will be lower so rewards can be higher. There won’t be talk about work/life balance, because work and life will blend seamlessly to create a happy and healthy workforce.
The reason so few businesses and organisations have achieved this is because there is a fear of the unknown. A lack of trust and a nervousness that some employees might abuse the system. And a desire for senior management to be able to see, organise and control what goes on in their organisation.
So my 3 commitments as I return to work as a senior leader are:
To listen more: What will make work more enagaging, more fun, more seamless for everyone.
To be braver: Break down hierarchy and barriers, interfere less, encourage talented colleagues to be masters of their own destiny, say YES even more than I did previously.
To lead by example: work flexibly, be accountable, reward the right behaviours, attempt to blend work and life seamlessly and hopefully get great results along the way.
My return to work is exciting, but it is also daunting. How will I achieve everything I want to at home and work? Flexibility is the answer and the future is really only ever a day away.