Shouldn't the greater good of the company supersede narrow personal interests?
Work-from-home too was a big change for the Indian workforce when it was first introduced
The CEO of Yahoo! unleashed a week of frenetic tweeting, columnists preening with all and sundry weeping for the loss of work-from-home. How dare she do that? Some pointed out her privileged status of nannies, unlimited help and manicured nails as her undoing!
And when her counterpart at Best Buy followed suit, all hell broke loose. It was almost like the end of the free world, as we know it. Everyone and their dog was spouting sanctimoniously, from every platform that allowed them to air their views!
My response is to acknowledge that each of these organisations are doing what they need to do, to stay competitive and stay relevant. If I were an employee in either of these organisations, I’d throw my weight behind this decision, figure out the ‘why’ and look for ways to support the turnaround strategy. Shouldn’t the greater good of the company supersede narrow personal interests?
While the jury is still out on that one, the bigger question on everyone’s mind is - does this mean it’s the end to flexi working the way we know of it today? Are these guys setting a trend for other companies to soon follow suit? Like popular fashion trends, you will see a slew of ‘me-too’ policy changes and several imitations of the original, irrespective of whether it even makes sense to the current context of the organisation!
This column, however, is not about whether work from home is right or wrong. I am not going to add to the experts’ views, there is enough said and done! Instead, my 2 paise to you is - don’t get too caught up in taking sides.
This too shall pass, and hopefully it will make way for a new-improved-workplace practice, that which is relevant to the dynamic work environment today. And when that happens, will you be ready? Are you future proofing yourself?
Organisations are known to go through cyclical changes in work styles and as a professional, you’d want to be on the right side of this change. Being ready and adapting ensures that you thrive, irrespective of the direction of the wind, because it is not the strongest of species that survives but the one that adapts the fastest. That would be applicable to just about everything in life, wouldn’t it?
Work-from-home too was a big change for the Indian workforce when it was first introduced. Celebrated as a new-age perk, candidates were soon deciding which organisation to join based on whether they allowed this. Supervisors, however, went through a culture shock! They had no idea how to manage teams that weren’t physically present and it personally took me some time to get used to the crying baby and barking dog syndrome.
But we all learnt. Employees learnt the balancing act, supervisors got over their stigma and new skills were honed – working and networking in a virtual environment, virtual presentation skills, etc. Life moved on.
Test your boundaries
Change isn’t easy but then again, it provides an opportunity to test your boundaries. Here are 3 behaviours that will determine whether you are likely to thrive or just cope:
1) Spot the signs – Many a time, we miss the forest for the trees. To avoid being blindsided, stay alert, listen and register the signs of oncoming change. Was it referred to in the last team meeting? Did your manager check with you in your last 1-0-1?
A well networked professional will acknowledge these signs and be forewarned and forearmed. Creating backup options ahead of the actual change can help you to not only deal with it but potentially thrive too.
2) Ask yourself – “What’s the worst that can happen?” This question will force you to look at the worst case scenario and then work back from there. If I have to take on a 2 hour commute every day, what does that translate into for me, my family, my personal commitments, etc?
It’s prepping yourself to look at what could go wrong and find strategies to do your best to prevent or better still, decide what is non-negotiable.
3) Try, test and experiment – New patterns require an open mind and some time to generate a sense of comfort. Leaving your child at day-care for an hour extra each day, will take some getting used to. Give yourself room to explore different permutations and combinations – some of which you will fail at, before you write it off completely.
But remember, this will change too and in the process, build new capabilities required to flourish in this era.
Utilise the power of personal connection
Having said all of the above, as we focus on building new capabilities, some existing ones we will have to continue to invest in and consciously grow from strength to strength.
Once such capability that I would personally vouch for is ‘The Irreplaceable Power of Personal Interaction’. That connect over a coffee, a face to the email is very important, especially if you are flexi working or remote working. Most often, even when we get to office we miss this.
Here are some ways you can create and maintain a personal connection:
1) Schedule a call every day, with a different colleague from the immediate or larger team, to catch up on what’s happening in their world
2) Ensure that you join weekly team calls without fail, and participate actively
3) Plan to visit your closest office at least once a month
4) Join a social event with colleagues at least once a quarter – this could be an official dinner or just a potluck at the office cafeteria.
In doing all of the above, maximise what technology can do for you, but don’t let it replace the value of human interactions. By the way, I have an app that does the equivalent of counting the sheep for me every night. Great fun, but the bedtime story ritual with my son, puts us out in record time!
Everyone has a choice, make yours
Work from home is, without doubt, a boon on days when your child is unwell, the plumber is due to visit, when you are under the weather or God forbid, when you’re caught in a vortex of all three.
Wait a minute. Why wouldn’t you take a day off and pay attention to the wildly important task at hand? Why do we choose not to exercise that well earned day off? Choices have a twisted way of impeding decisions and cloud our mind from making that ‘either or’ decision. Instead, we go for an ‘and’ approach and probably do justice to neither. There will be points in our career where choices will require trade offs. Playing the game with a combination of the hand that you draw and that which you are dealt, will ensure that you are firmly placed on the saddle and safely strapped in to take on the Mayer Effect. CEOs will come and go; work cultures and working arrangements will come a full cycle, but thinking through what you read above will help you future proof your career.
(I am grateful to Dr Tanvi Gautam, for her interesting blogs titled ‘What lies beneath’ and ‘Real Men Don’t Need Work Life Balance’. While these blogs were definitely thought starters for my article, the views and thoughts expressed are my own.)
Elango R. is Executive VP - Emerging Geographies SBU and Global CHRO at Mphasis