ITV Backing Business: Working Smarter
As part of its ongoing commitment to helping UK businesses return to growth, ITV Backing Business wanted to explore the future of the office, culture and people. With working patterns disrupted over the past 7 months, could now be the perfect moment to drive growth... through reimagined offices, improved business culture and re-energised teams? With a top line up of professionals on the panel, our Working Smarter webinar dug deeper into some of those burning questions.
ITV were joined by:
- Ann Francke OBE, CEO of Chartered Management Institute and author of 'Financial Times Guide to Management: How to Make a Difference and Get Results'
- Scott Morrison, creative consultant and Founder of The Boom!
- Bruce Daisley, host of #1 business podcast 'Eat Sleep Work Repeat' and author of 'The Joy Of Work'
The panel brought with them a wealth of insights and different perspectives to the table. In other words, it was a lot to absorb and we didn't want you to miss out on any of the key learnings. So we made notes:
The office: don't go back to factory settings
One of the topics that rightfully held a large part of the conversation was the office. Or as the panel agreed on: the working environment. The idea that the 'office' is something we have to go back to, is not only a huge assumption of where people want to be, but is also wrong, Scott Morrison points out. He goes on to say that companies should now be thinking about what is the environment that gets the best work out of the business, what tech do people need, soft skill support, or training? You need to have the right people around you to make those decisions for your staff.
Leading on from that point, Ann adds that working from home brings inclusivity, not just for your pets to join calls but more junior people can join - creating a more collaborative environment. A lot of organisations are dominated by white men in senior roles making the important decisions.
This is not inclusive and it is important to avoid this behaviour. In addition to this it is easier for men in these positions to travel into work without the responsibility of childcare. We need to stop thinking about the 'office' as something we must go back to.
Bruce added that the 1st generation of big office cultures like Google and Facebook were winning the race on attracting talent, but now the next generation is about attracting people who choose where they want to work.
Contrastingly he also pitched that the office has the network effect and brings the benefits of bumping into people from different departments. Although people are now realising they can do this without having the commute, the office still serves purpose for those with a desire to connect with humans. People will want to strike a balance.
Leaders should create the right conditions
The conversation moved onto how we can enable this improved and flexible culture, and the panel were in harmonious agreement that it starts with leadership. Ann delved into how leadership drives culture, and culture drives attitudes and positivity. Research from the Chartered Management Institute reveals that 1 of 5 things that a leader can exhibit, and then create good culture with are:
Setting clear direction
All of these things you can do virtually and you can learn so much from the people who work for you. Leaders who enforce rules and hierachy, who aren't encouraging social community are missing a trick. Ann continued that leaders should let people do their daily rituals - let them pick up their kids or go to the gym. Some are even recognising that people are anxious and have been given a day off for wellbeing. Anyone looking for advice on how to work smarter - should work well.
The panel continued to dig deeper into culture and its fundementals. Scott led on when you notice an organisation's culture isn't right, you can often see a mini fault line, however COVID-19 has blown that apart now we are working from home, and any behaviours they weren't doing before have been highlighted during this time. There are some simple fundamentals needed, simple reframing. ITV for example has a culture that is right. The relationship they have with culture and its people; the value exchange helps them to understand what they need to do to fill certain gaps. They use a very common sense approach where the business asks what it's employees need from them to deliver the company strategy. This is powerful, by offering resources, flexible working, training and most of all asking what they need to deliver great work. This was all in place before the pandemic. So fix the fundamentals, and test and learn. There are a lot of simplicities in this situation, and if made complicated we can get it wrong.
Bruce reaffirms that culture is a key part of performance. When he started Twitter he was pulled in by this disney land magic that tech firms project. However they can often exhibit a blame culture which has had subsequent learnings on how he interacts with colleagues. He says people's personal best can come from connecting with colleagues - and often feeling a sense of familairity or affection can make stressful jobs rewarding.
Diversity and inclusion
Connecting to the next part of the discussion, Ann talks about how some minority groups can feel left out of office conversation and that it is important for leaders to respect difference. For example black women often feel the minority in an office dominated with white men who are also senior - which can be exclusive and prevalent in a lot of modern offices today. People need to appreciate different walks of life and that white men can't project a certain way of interacting onto everyone. Businesses need to become actively anti micro aggressions as it is not enough to sit by in silence when you see someone is being excluded. Simply raising with a colleague 'did you realise the impact you had on this person' can help people understand the impact they've had on someone, as most are not concious of this behaviour.
Companies that have better culture and diversity, deliver better financial results - and there is evidence from institutes that diversity delivers results.
Scott highlights the benefits of working from home, and how much more access we have to people's perspectives. People are now more than ever wanting to share their views and speak up. Whatever the issue, like Black Lives Matter - people are willing to share their thinking and solutions. There is a lot of work for this area and my advice to leaders is talk is cheap, take action. Leaders in this culture mindset think of culture, diversity, and tailor wellness opportunities.
"Take time to look after wellness or be forced to take time looking after illness."
Wellbeing at work
Scott continued everyone is going through this situation differently. Not everyone is doing yoga at 8am. Take time to look after wellness or be forced to take time looking after illness. We're not working from home, we're living in the office so wellness rules apply now more than ever. Bruce begins explaining on what individuals can do from a wellness perspective. Observe those around you. There can be toxicity projected between individuals in what each of us believes is acceptable - how long we think is acceptable to reply to an email. There is the notion that replying to an email in 5 minutes reflects how good you are at your job, which is wrong. We all need to be getting into a discipline where we make sure we are getting an hour walk a day, going for a coffee, just stepping out of the house are simple things that will help you start seeing real benefits. There is an illusion that being chained to your desk all week will get refreshed over the weekend, whereas in reality we are spent. You should incrementally improve what you did last week - log off at 5.30, don't check emails on the weekend - small incremental steps should be made.
Ann reinforced that individuals should be asking themselves each day what they can be doing to look after themselves, but also brings this back to leadership. Mental and physical wellbeing is paramount now and employees needs to feel respected, safe and listened to. This is very important for concious leaders to ensure. If you are feeling ignored by a manager then get evidence to support what you think. According to research, 9 in 10 people what to keep their flexibility after the crisis.