The Lens Shift on Work Structure

By October 13, 2021Teams

Seven Lenses to See How Everyday Work is Changing – A Series

work structure video

Why Work Structure Matters

Hi, this is Evan with Thrive at Work. Over the past few weeks, we’ve been talking a lot about the new hybrid work environment. This is where some folks are working in person, some folks are working virtually, they might be working different hours and it looks like this going to be in place for quite some time. It’s time to take a different look, looking through new lenses. A new pair of glasses, if you will, to see new opportunities. We want to create environments where people want to be and where they want to show up every day and do their work. We need a work structure where people don’t get zapped by Zoom meetings or feel like they’re left out.

Today we’ll be focusing primarily on work structure. We’ve already focused on leadership, inclusion, and wellbeing and we’ve got a few others coming out. In this video, I want to talk a little bit more about work structure, the actual work itself. How can we start to think about what your work can look like in the hybrid environment? How can we approach that differently?

We don’t want what we did at the beginning of the pandemic, saying “Let’s take the work we did in the office and just replicate that in virtual. The same meetings we were having before, we’re going to be having those on Zoom.” Then, guess what happened? People were and still are sitting on Zoom meetings all day, making them more tired sitting at home looking at screens than they ever were before.

Not Just Replicating the Way it Was Before (in the office)

There are ways of thinking about work structure and not just replicating the way we did it before. What does that look like?

1 – Clarity of Work: What is best done in person and what is best done remotely?

First of all, we’re asking questions. What do we need to be live for (synchronous)? What is more flexible – what can we be doing on our own or not together in meetings (asynchronous)?

Let’s look at some examples:

  • Where do we need to do work around brainstorming, design? We may be on a whiteboard, talking about ideas, concepts, or planning. That’s one piece of work that requires a collaborative effort, but a lot of time we need to be live for that.
  • When we’re working on actual outputs, maybe there are handoffs that need to happen to get a work output done (ie. a tax return, a website design or an app creation) where multiple people might be working on the same thing – How do those interactions take place now that we’re hybrid?
  • Thinking about planning and process design. Thinking about alignment, who’s doing what this week? Where do we need to do things differently? How do those conversations take place in a hybrid environment?
  • Where and how do we socialize? When do we make time to have experiences where we can chit-chat and get to know each other? How can we stay in synch via huddles where we can on a daily basis plan out our days together?
  • How are we doing things like learning, development, feedback, one-to-ones with managers, and so forth?

This is all under a bucket of thinking. What work do we need to be live for? What work can we do on our own? Where do we maybe need to check-in?

Next, think about how to reduce our time together. How can we get something done by working differently when we have the time alone?

2 – Technology Supports Work Tracking (no matter where it’s done)

How can we use our tools and communication techniques in order to make that possible? A lot of time we see folks have their tools ie Microsoft Office 365, Slack, Trello, but no one is using these things consistently. This means that we’re still seeing a ton of meetings and a ton of emails.

We need to bring sociology to technology. That means really figuring out how we can use the tools and the tech that we have or maybe that we don’t have to think through all of the things that we need to interact on. Perhaps you don’t have to set up a specific meeting just to have each kind of conversation. This happens by discussing what we can do on our own, when to work out loud, how to make things more transparent, and how to notify people when we need their input.

The tools can do a lot of good work and help you think about redesigning your processes. This means things that used to take place in person – ie. a customer coming into their office to pick up their tax return and sign documents can now be based in the Cloud, where they e-sign. We may not need to have people in the office and the clients have a completely different experience as well. It gives us a chance to rethink what needs to actually be done in the office, what can be done hybrid, and how we can use tools to support different goals and communication needs.

3 – Key structures to communicate for wherever you are; Agreements

The third area is really around creating agreements. Therefore, we’ve got to learn new behaviors and tools, and also, know when and how to use them. That takes a bit of time as some folks will pick it up quickly, we can’t assume everybody knows how to use tools that are available to them. We have to talk about how we are going to use tools to change our workflows and create new ways of doing things.

Step-by-step:

  1. Experiment; try the new ways of working.
  2. Iterate; see how they get better, what needs to change, and make changes.
  3. Agreements; decide on how work is going to look.

Finally, you’ve got new processes and tools that reduce meetings and email, letting everyone take a bit of a breather, while people still feel like they are all creating input.

4 – Everybody plays a part, have a learning mindset, & experiment a way forward

That leads us to the fourth one which is making sure everybody’s had a part in helping to craft and design what their work can look like for them. As we’re all in different situations and scenarios, we want people to feel like they have a chance to be successful, they have a chance to excel. That it’s not feeling like it’s exclusive or unfair, that people in the office don’t have an advantage versus those who might be remote or at home.

Those are all conversations to have as you look at work structure in a different way that’s hybrid. Moreover, don’t just replicate the way it was before. Think about new ways to make work even better in a hybrid environment using tools and getting everybody involved.

Stay tuned for more of these videos and thanks a lot for listening to me and I’ll see you soon.

If you’d like to connect with us to talk more about these lenses or about the way that work is changing, please get in touch with us by booking a call, head to our website, follow our blogs, or join us on LinkedIn. Also, have a try at our new Hybrid Culture Pulse check linked in the pop up at the bottom of the page. We look forward to seeing you next time.

Evan Ishida

About Evan Ishida

The work I love is designing solutions and experiences that help people learn, collaborate, create, and innovate together. As a proud Ohio University Bobcat, I began my career as an internal consultant, and team leader in large global Fortune 200 corporations where I focused on learning and development, instructional design, communities of practice, and learning technologies.

Leave a Reply