For all of the advancements and enhancements we’ve seen take center stage, sometimes it feels like we’ve time-traveled back to pre-pandemic circa 2019.
Over the course of three years, under the worst conceivable circumstances, we proved that there were new and different ways to work, shining light on the possibility of much needed, long overdue changes to the workplace. Yet over the course of those three years, we saw a slow slide back into what felt like regressive behaviors, wiping away a lot of the progress that had been made.
Reasons to return to office have included everything from “it’s for the culture” to the more blunt, “we have a long-term lease and spent a lot of money on commercial real estate,” and then a smattering of generic statements, none of which addressed the heart of the matter or the employees it had impacted.
If it was working, why were we all but abandoning the progress we had made in favor of a return to something that wasn’t? Beyond the tactical choices lies a philosophical difference in how organizations are looking at their approach to how we work: progression or regression.
Addressing the human in the room
Change is inevitable, that is a universal truth. In an effort to catch and control change like a butterfly in a net, we’re racing to solutions that create standardized policies.
What we need to do is focus on understanding the forces driving change and explore solutions that meaningfully move us forward. Four-day work week, flexible hours, work from anywhere. Everything can and should be on the table for discussion, because whether or not an organization is aligned to the idea that change can be for the better, change is happening.
Tensions are running high because how we work and how we live are intertwined. We’re all advocating for what we want, it’s human nature. We’re all different. We all work better in different ways, are motivated by different factors, value different things.
A way forward involves shifting our approach to human-centered design thinking anchored in an embrace of impermanence. We need to re-frame this as an opportunity to build for a new way of working where we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface.
Much of the frustration we may be feeling comes from this notion that decisions have been made and that they’re final, it’s open and shut. But the world has changed, and people have forever changed.