What does it take to be an Employer of the Year?

 

It takes a special kind of business to win Business Leader’s Employer of the Year award – and Xledger is undoubtedly one of them.

We spoke to to Xledger’s CEO, Mark Pullen, shortly after completing their office fit-out in 2020, exploring how Xledger build a sense of family through place, process… and putting.

 Photo credit: Business Leader Awards 2021

Xledger’s journey to success

 

“The business in total is about 20 years old. I took over the UK business in September 2019 (I was employee number nine or ten), and I started to operationalize the business from there. So I brought in a new Sales Director and started recruiting some of the key individuals that we needed from our own internal investment.

We defined a five-year plan, which we called the road to a billion. So our business objective is to get a billion turnover in five years (that’s Norwegian kroner – very important to define that!), which is about £120,000,000.

We actually put a target in of 12 direct deals for 2020, but we did about 13 or 14 in Q1 alone. We obviously knew we were on a good trajectory, so we needed new space – we were in Hartwell house and we had about just under two thousand square foot. It was fine with ten people, but soon started to get cramped.  We worked out that we wanted about 11,000 square foot.

Now, for us being in of Norwegian heritage, there are different cultural styles to office space: it’s far more spaced out. I think that the normal guideline in the UK is about 100 square foot per person. It’s double that in Norway. We tend to go for bigger spaces with fewer people. I think there were 150 people in this space that we moved in to before us. We’ll max capacity at 70 or 80 before we’re looking at satellite offices or keep this as our main hub expansion will grow from beyond there.

We are a work in the office culture, highly collaborative. If you’re on that sort of growth trajectory (we’ve grown 170% this year), you need momentum, you need strong collaboration, you need good people.

But the idea of people being in and on client sites all the time was obviously changing, so we put our heads together as to what’s the future going to look like on a lot of assumptions.

One of those was that clearly the working behaviours are going to be different.

Therefore we don’t want an office. We want a hub. And it needs to be a destination choice working environment. Within that, we defined different categories of space that would be required for the different working styles and job functions within our business.”

See the full Xledger case study here.

 

Designing for flexibility

 

“We have consultants whose role is to implement our software into a customer’s business – they have a lot of configuration work, data migration work, accounting work. They have to educate the users on how to use the tools that all of those require slightly different work environment.

They needed a place to sit in the office that was their home, that was theirs, that needed to be relatively quiet. They’re less gregarious as individuals. They’re on the phone a lot with customers. So they needed space to be able to lock themselves away in a focused room, plug and zone in, do complex data mapping and data migration without any interruptions, or interact with a customer in a quiet, controlled professional environment.

We also made the assumption that at some point we will all return to office.

So we wanted a dedicated training facility to give customers the option of doing it remotely, which we now got pretty good at through necessity.

I then looked at collaboration. We’ve got the working areas, then collaboration spaces, different styles in the formal meeting rooms, relaxed booths, sofas, a wellness room where you can just chill out, all those different styles to keep it interesting – but also just to give some variety to their working day and not that formal structure all the time.

Our pre-sales who are previously consultants but interact very heavily with the sales team and the press, needed to be the middle of those so they can easily interact.”

Breaking down “transactional interactions”

 

“If we’re going to make this a destination place, it’s got to be a welcoming, kind, friendly environment with a bit of fun – half the meetings here are just conversations.

So I kind of figured what better to why not do that over a game of shuffleboard? I wanted to create the break-out, the kitchen, an Xbox arena.

Working remotely, all virtual interactions require something. Every time you talk to one of your colleagues, it’s because you want something. There’s no over the water cooler conversation or by the coffee machine conversation. Small talk doesn’t happen because everything’s structured – I’ve got a call in because I need something from you.

I wanted to break that cycle and get people back to just talk. Remember that as human beings, someone’s got their own struggles and get back to a bit more of sense of family. So that area, used to facilitate a bit of fun, is important.”

See the full Xledger case study here.

Creating connections

 

“We’ve facilitated everything you need to do for the different styles of work – but you’re in a really comfortable working environment. You’re back with your chums, with your family. Your job becomes more effective because you’re able to do things quickly.

The point is, we don’t have to actually demand anything – you just provide the facility that makes the choice a no-brainer: I want to be with my buddies in the office.

And that’s why we went quite bold with what we’ve got. Not many offices have a rooftop putting green with a bar and a barbecue, an outdoor TV.

A lot of our day is spent with the necessity of conversing with other colleagues. You don’t sit in a meeting room and do that. Go and sit out and grab a putter and walk around. Have inspired ideas, more creative ideas, away from the mundanity of sitting there in the same four walls.

The flip side is our solo working spaces. There’s a professional microphone, professional camera, big screen. You just plug your laptop in and go.

The issue that’s come out of remote work is remoteness and disconnect.

That’s the opposite of what you get being in an office. You know what everyone’s up to, even whether it’s none of your business. People need healthy conversation, healthy debate, validation. It’s a lonely place when you’re just becoming accountable entirely for your own work. If I’ve done a bad job, I find out after. If I’ve done a bad job in an office, you’re constantly getting “am I on the right track?” feedback.

We have a big sign at the front that says this space is a hub: this is where you come to facilitate anything that you might need to facilitate.

It’s fun. It’s pleasant to be in. It’s healthy, safe. We prioritise wellness. We have Peloton bikes. But if this had been banks and banks are desks, nobody would be coming back. Why would you? This is now not a functional workspace. It’s a hub to collaborate.”

“We’ve hired thirty people recently, and a few of them had their interviews in the office and were saying, holy cow, this place is brilliant. It’s better than my home.
That’s kind of the point, isn’t it?”
Mark Pullen, Xledger

Read the full Xledger case study here or sign up to our webinar for insights on creating brilliant workplace culture on 20th October here.

 

 

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Understanding complex generational differences

 

Conventional wisdom says if you’re a Gen-Z, you’re a digital nomad running a TikTok account as a side hustle, you prefer to avoid all social contact (unless it’s an Insta DM) and you never intend to step foot in an office. Of course, if you’re a Baby Boomer (those born between 1946 and 1964), you live at work, can’t text and refuse to tolerate change.

Evidently, as workplaces become increasingly age-diverse, we are overgeneralising the generations; a behaviour which is likely to drive wedges among co-workers, generate miscommunication and hinder organisational progress.

The theory of generational differences suggests that the period in which you grow up or enter the job market has a lasting influence on your behaviour, life choices, attitudes, and priorities. It’s presented as a simple concept – there are a small number of generations, all of which have a fixed list of characteristics. But in grouping people by generation, we narrow a broad range of individuals into a handful of categories, leading to “insights” that are often wildly inaccurate. In turn, this can have serious implications on how we treat and manage others, as well the organisational policies we design to cater to these stereotypes.

In fact, even showing generational differences is complex – because really, it’s about the interaction between two distinct factors; how society changes over time and how people change as they age.

Nonetheless, the way in which Gen Z, Gen X, Gen Y and Boomers approach the workplace is a hot topic – and it can’t be denied that there are indeed some broad differences when it comes to how, why and where these quickly labelled demographics want to “go to work”.

Generation Z: what the research shows

 

Certainly, many organisations are asking how they should best organise to attract, train and retain the best up-and-coming talent, specifically when it comes to Generation Z, the demographic just entering the workplace.

As of 2020, Gen Z made up 20% of the workforce. This is a generation comprising of individuals born around the years between 1995 and 2015 and typically defined by an assumed (and stereotypical) generational personality. This is also a generation that has been notoriously overlooked by businesses leaders and organisations alike, often getting clubbed together alongside their millennial counterparts.

So, whilst remaining mindful that everyone is uniquely individual, what are the likely characteristics that have been witnessed of a ‘typical’ Gen Z employee?

Gen Z are the first true Digital Natives

 

Firstly, the significant intertwining of technology in the up-bringing of every Gen-Zeder has considerably impacted how these individuals think, connect, learn, communicate, seek information and navigate the world. It is without a doubt that younger employees tend to have greater digital knowledge; the first generation to be true “digital natives”.

So, what does this mean for the workplace and business leaders? Organisations should view this with a positive lens and endeavour to make use of this ‘digital’ advantage. From a training perspective, Gen Zeders appear to learn better through soundbites and digital interfaces. David and Jonah Stillman’s research (authors of ‘Gen Z at Work’) suggests that video is in fact the most popular (and effective) learning tool alongside other digital mediums such as podcasts and audiobooks. In turn, this generation also tend to prefer a mixture of experiential and intrapersonal learning methods, where they can make use of these digital resources at their own pace and gear learning toward personal preferences. Often, Gen Z will also make use of their mobile phones as a resource (as opposed to using them as a distraction at work), which is something colleagues would benefit from being mindful of.

 

Gen Z operates in “Survival Mode”

 

Research has shown that if you’re born into Gen Z, you’re more likely to be risk averse, less prone to alcohol abuse (according to BMC’s Public Health report), and more concerned with academic performance and your long-term career prospects than the generations who came before you. Moreover, as Megan Gerhardt’s research at University of Miami has shown, given the significant global events that have occurred during the formative years of a Gen Zeder’s life (such as 9/11 and the 2008 recession), this group are very much aware of potential economic fragility and therefore appear to be a generation of collectively driven and hard-working individuals, operating in more of a ‘survival’ mode with a potentially more grounded mentality than their older workplace colleagues. And this is something of which has most recently been compounded by the Covid19 pandemic and its effects on the economy, job security and future prosperity.

This is of course, particularly good news for employers but nonetheless, this typically ambitious work ethic does not mean Gen Z will necessarily tolerate long working hours, a lack of recognition and inflexibility. Rather, surveyed Gen Zeders have said that they prefer to manage their work and professional lives to fit their needs and interests, desiring to work in an ever-changing and fluid environment. Receiving acknowledgement and career growth opportunities at work will also be prominent factors that help attract and retain younger employees to organisations. Lastly, despite an increase in desire for meaning and fulfilment in their work, Gen Zeders are still attracted by a competitive salary.

 

The importance of purpose, diversity and inclusion

 

Flexibility is also of upmost importance; Gen Zeders will not only prefer, but expect, a flexible, hybrid model of working throughout their careers. These days, younger employees are viewing work as a thing, not a place and as such, many are even seeking more full-time remote working opportunities. For those wanting to go to an office environment, once or twice a week may be enough, so long as the days spent in the office are collaborative, allow for meaningful workplace relationships to flourish and enable learning and knowledge transfer. It is also important that the office environment itself is as enticing as it can be, offering a diverse mix of spaces which facilitates all the above.

It too is vitally important for organisations to understand that Gen Z are the most diverse peer cohort the workforce has ever seen. Movements and events (the most recent example of which being Black Lives Matter) that have occurred during their lifetimes have had a significant impact on this generation’s values. As such, research has indicated that many Gen Z employees show an ardent desire to help organisations make an impact, often seeking work where they can make a positive difference as part of a fulfilling and purposeful career. This also means Gen Zeders highly value authenticity and honesty from their employers. ‘Workplaces that help’ will be popular targets for this generation.

Gen Z’s level-headedness and focus on their career comes at a cost however. As the recently published Telegraph article ‘The future of Gen Z’s mental health: How to fix the ‘unhappiest generation ever’ highlights how this generation suffer higher diagnoses of mental health problems, and sleep deprivation amongst many other negative health consequences, is a point in which prospective employers would do well to be aware of.

Lastly, a significant point raised in this year’s 2021 Work Trend Index Annual Report was that Gen Z view health and wellbeing as a vital and fundamental part of their lives; mentally, emotionally, physiologically, and spiritually. Workplace initiatives to address these areas and help them where they may be struggling are greatly valued.

Gen Z: what we overlook when we focus on generational demographics

 

Ultimately, it is still vitally important to facilitate the best possible work environment, regardless of an employees’ age.

The multiple generations across the workforce have a lot more in common than one might assume. The critical need for businesses is to be inclusive of all types of talent. Typically, older, and younger employees alike want many of the same things: flexibility, opportunities to learn, mentorship, respect, and fairness. Employers should create flexible strategies to accommodate the unique circumstances of employees’ career and life stages. Understanding the pressures and priorities, aspirations and fears of young professionals, to employees with children as well as those approaching retirement age would drastically improve the jobs they provide.

So, what else can business leaders and organisations do to meet the needs of all generations within the workforce going forward? Below are some suggestions:

  • Company culture should strive to be welcoming and authentic. Organisations must celebrate diversity and commit to full inclusion
  • Recognition is as important as reward – lots of apps/portals that provide this (Mo, Perkbox, HiBob, ThanksBen)
  • Operating a flexible work structure should be imperative; envisaging the workplace as an ecosystem of physical, virtual and social, rather than just a physical space
  • Promote development opportunities and advancement paths
  • Offer project-based work and intrapreneurial opportunities
  • Provide opportunities for staff to make an impact (either through the likes of ESG and/or CSR initiatives, or by giving employees a chance to have a say in business decisions as an example)
  • Actively promote and practice wellbeing initiatives
  • Understand employee neurodiversity and design accordingly (neurodiversity refers to the different ways we think, including those employees with autism, ADHD and dyslexia). This in turn means that employees will naturally have different interests and motivations, and so will be naturally better at some things than others. Neurodiversity can be a competitive advantage when employees are in the right environment, making use of their strengths, instead of constantly trying to overcome challenges. To achieve this, we must create inclusive spaces to work.
  • Practice ‘mutual mentoring’ (generations have different knowledge to share-wisdom stems from every generation)

 

Gen Z: a growing force in the workplace

 

To conclude, it is evident that the workforce is becoming increasingly diverse, from both a cultural, societal and generational perspective. Businesses are growing and adapting at a pace never seen before and therefore employee needs are rapidly changing. The influence of Gen Z on the workplace will continue to grow in coming years as they continue to make up a larger part of the workforce. One thing that isn’t changing however, is that ‘people are people’ – with innumerable and complex motives, fears and ambitions.

Leaders need to work to find common space and strive to meet people where they are. It is equally important for all employees within organisations to practice generational humility and be willing and open to learn from others. Ultimately, to attract and retain talent, employers will have to balance the needs of the multigenerational workforce, focusing more on life stages of individuals (instead of generational differences) as a better bet for effective people management.

What must be remembered is that no matter what Gen we might fall into, we are more similar than we are different – and that should be celebrated too.

 

If you’d like to find out how Interaction can help you attract and retain great employees of any generation, get in touch.

 

References:

  • Chandler-Wilde, H. (2020), ‘The Future of Gen Z’s Mental Health: How to Fix the Unhappiest Generation’, Telegraph
  • Gerhardt, M. (2020), ‘Generational Differences and Mutual Mentorship’, Be More Podcast
  • Gorges, L. (2018), ‘Navigating the Multigenerational Workplace’, TedX
  • Microsoft (2021), ‘2021 Work Trend Index Annual Report: The Next Great Disruption is Hybrid Work, Are We Ready?’
  • Ng Fat, L., Shelton, N. and Cable, N. (2018), ‘Investigating the growing trend of non-drinking among young people; analysis of repeated cross-sectional surveys in England 2005–2015’, BMC Public Health
  • Pollak, L. (2019), ‘A Conversation About Multigenerational Workplace Leadership’, TedX
  • Stillman, D. and Stillman, J. (2017), ‘Gen-Z @ Work’, Harper Collins: New York

 

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In celebration of Bring Your Dog to Work Day

 

25th June this year is Bring Your Dog to Work Day – arguably one of the best days of the year for the office worker. The day was created in 2014 to raise money for dog charities with thousands of businesses across the UK getting involved. Days like this that are dedicated to raising money for our four-legged friends are more important than ever. So many people unfortunately gave up their dogs and puppies over lockdown – dog rehoming charity Dogs Trust announced a welfare crisis with around 40,000 dogs needing rehoming due to the demand for puppies soaring and then being abandoned. Incentives like this are a great way to raise money for dogs while spoiling our own.

Being a dog owner over lockdown has had us spending significantly more time with our dogs while we worked from home. Now, as we begin to return to normal, the thought of leaving our dogs at home who have become accustomed to being by our side day and night is a sad one. Offices that allow office dogs every day are becoming a more desirable option for pet parents.

Here, we look at companies that have office dogs and what impact they can have.

Companies embracing dogs in the office

 

Many forward-thinking companies and global corporations have the benefit of office dogs.

According to research from 2019, 64 per cent of workplaces don’t have dog friendly policies. Yet, their current workforce is increasingly made up of millennials, who are much more likely to organise work around their pets. Companies that offer pet-based policies will attract these prospective employees. Big successful companies that allow dogs at work include:

  • Amazon
  • Ben and Jerry’s
  • Etsy
  • Google
  • Mars
  • Monzo
  • Nestle
  • RSPCA
  • Ticketmaster

A blog on Etsy’s website says: “It’s one of the ways we strive to maintain a casual, creative, and inspiring work environment.” A quick look on LinkedIn shows 1,365 results* for ‘dog friendly jobs’ in the UK. People are looking for it, and people want it. But it is more than just bringing your dog to work.

 

Chief Stress Relief Officer Hugo, Interaction

The fantastic benefits

 

 

Like Etsy states, bringing your dog to work can have a number of benefits on the workforce. According to research that surveyed 31 companies in Kentucky, office dogs resulted in pet parents expressing more of their personality. This can be important in cultivating and maintaining company culture and making the team more collaborative and casual – dogs have been found to promote staff interactions and create an improved social atmosphere. Granted, there will be an initial excitement when dogs are first introduced, but this soon becomes the norm, and when things settle, there are also benefits on the work that is being produced.

Productivity rises from office dogs. When we stroke a pet, our body releases the hormone oxytocin, which helps us bond and makes us feel happier. Stress levels are reduced and employee well-being increases, leading to increased productivity. We are also less likely to want to leave our jobs, too.

In the UK, it is estimated that there are around 17.9 million working days that are lost each year as a result of stress, anxiety, and depression. Putting pooches to work is just one way that we can help support workers struggling with these issues in the workplace. We should take a leaf out of successful corporations and see what they are doing to make their workforce happy, productive, and profitable.

 

 

Fluffy Inspiration Lead, Team Eleven

Tips to introduce office dogs

 

Ensure everything goes smoothly when you make the introduction by following these steps:

  1. Prioritise high hygiene standards – like with ill employees staying at home to avoid spreading illness, the same must be considered for dogs. Make sure they are vaccinated and aren’t carrying any fleas. Also, only bring your dog in if they are potty trained.
  2. Positive vibes only – any dogs that have aggression problems should stay at home. Even if they are nervous, owners should be cautious.
  3. Check about allergiesone in three pet owners have given up their pet because of an allergy. Make sure no one in the office suffers from dog allergies before taking him or her to work with you.

Introducing office dogs can be one of the best things you do for your business. Think about the benefits this will have as well as how this will affect your workforce.

Bar-k-tender Sven, Interaction 

In partnership with Butternut Box, freshly prepared dog food delivery. Additional sources:

 

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What do the workplaces of the future look like?

 

It’s a question many are grappling with. We collaborated with TechSPARK uk to dig deep and find out more with tech-leaders Rocketmakers, Amdaris, and Mayden.

Rocketmakers

 

To kick off the series, we interviewed founder and CEO of bath-based Rocketmakers, Richard Godfrey. With a passion for making new, innovative products, Rocketmakers use cutting-edge technology to develop and deploy bespoke software for startups, scaleups and corporates.

Like many companies “the whole pandemic was a real eye-opener.”

Richard admits “We did ask ourselves why we really needed an office, and I think it’s really exposed why you do: it’s the times of coming together and seeing each other physically that are really important”

 

Here’s what they’ve learnt over the last 12 months:

  • Rocketmakers are moving towards a hybrid model of bringing people together for key activities and letting their team work remotely the rest of the time
  • Hybrid meetings were challenging. To combat echo problems they invested in sound-isolating headphones and directional microphones
  • Everyone has adopted a remote mentality to ensure transparency for everyone regardless of who’s in the office or working remotely
  • Rocketmakers have a duty of care to homeworkers, ensuring their home spaces are better than sitting at the end of a bed
  • Virtual gatherings have helped retain culture
  • Mixed Reality presents endless opportunities to bring people together in the future
  • There is real value in having their own branded space

You can read the full interview with Richard here.

Want to check out their office? Click here to see the case study.

Amdaris

 

In this feature we interviewed Andy Rogers from industry-leading software development, digital transformation and consultancy firm Amdaris. 

Andy says “It’s the businesses that pivot and accept ‘what we used to do isn’t going to work’, so let’s adjust’ who will find success.”
 

Here’s what they learnt over the last 12 months: 

  • Amdaris envision a focus on activity-based working 
  • Striking a balance between the needs of the team to do their job and the company to collaborate  
  • Culturally keeping the energy going with local and smaller scale team-building activities  
  • Cutting edge technology like a 360-degree video camera, called an Owl, helps hybrid video conferencing by focusing on who’s talking. “It’s neat because you can see everyone in the room and communication is more natural”  
  • Experimenting with virtual roundtables has been a resounding success with higher attendance and lower cancellation rates 
  • The office is absolutely vital for growth because “our space is our shop front” 

You can read the full interview with Andy here.  

 

Want to check out their office? Click here to see the case study.

Mayden

 

An interview with Mayden’s Founder and MD, Chris May. Mayden is a thriving company that designs, builds and supports software-driven systems for healthcare services.  

Mental health and wellbeing has always been a strong focus for Mayden and it’s engrained in their culture to look out for each other. 

Every employee also has access to a coach, Chris says “A lot of coaching sessions are face to face and outside walking. So people meet up somewhere and they go for a nice walk and talk things through, hopefully leaving both in a better place, combining exercise, fresh air and much needed conversation all in one.” 

Here’s what they learnt over the last 12 months: 

  • Agile working has always been part of Mayden’s business continuity plan, so they hit the ground running when the pandemic hit 
  • It’s okay to be ruthless with which meetings you attend to avoid burnout  
  • A strong communication infrastructure has been important for facilitating learning and growth 
  • Mental health and wellness are issues that sit right at the core of who Mayden are as a business 
  • All employees have access to a coach who they can seek out their coach for help and support. Over lockdown, many sessions have included face to face and walking outside. 
  • Homeworking works because of trust. It’s self-correcting because of the peer pressure element of agile working  
  • Creativity is the biggest things we’re missing from the office. People come alive when they meet face to face compared with video conferencing 

 

You can read the full interview with Chris here.

Tech businesses are spearheading the workplaces of the future and there’s lots we can learn from the last 12 months. Are you looking to discuss the future of your workplace? Get in touch with us today. 

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Navigating the last months of lockdown before going back to the office

 

Now that lockdown restrictions are easing across the UK, businesses are fielding questions from inquisitive employees, wondering if going back to the office is imminent. While no official ‘return to work’ date has been set, many businesses are already reopening their offices, welcoming back employees in a COVIDsecure manner, adhering to government and public health guidance.

Some employees are excited for a return to the office and all that it entails, however, there are others who may feel anxious and apprehensive. Many are still juggling childcare and other situations brought about by the pandemic and others appreciate the flexibility of working from home.

So, what can companies do between now and then to ensure that their team members are as prepared as possible to return to work?

Communication is key when going back to the office

 

Comprehensive communication between management and team members is of the utmost importance during the run-up to the return to the office. Leaders need to keep team members informed of all return to work developments – big or small – and what steps are being taken to ensure that all employees will be kept safe.

Holding 1-1 sessions with team members provides an opportunity to openly air any concerns and ask questions about coming back to the workplace, related to each individual’s circumstances. Having open, clear communication with employees strengthens trust in the company and trust in decision makers having a sound return to work plan.

Management tools such as The Change Curve model can support the forthcoming transition back to the office. By working through the uncertainty of the past year and acknowledging the concerns that the next stage may bring, companies and their employees can begin to make sense of these changes and, ultimately, adapt to them and emerge stronger on the other side.

Mental health understanding and compassion

 

We have now been working at home for over a year. For many, home working is the new normal and with it comes the normalisation of decreased social interaction and busy environments. It’s understandable that because of this, some may experience social anxiety when thinking about returning to the hustle and bustle of the office and having continuous social interaction throughout the day. Employees will also have become used to having their own space, which may have been customised to suit their own needs and preferences.

Companies should expect a phased return to work as employees transition back into an office environment and will need to reassure employees that they can take their time getting back into a routine. In the same way that many of us were exhausted by the transition to Zoom a year ago, it may take a while to adjust to working in a shared workspace again. Especially if employees have less personal space, less control over the environment and potentially more distractions.

For companies getting people back to the office, they need to prioritise wellbeing in the workplace during this settling-in period and be sure to signpost mental health resources to help employees manage any anxiety about returning to the office. Services and helplines such MindSamaritansCALM, and Shout, as well as your internal mental health first aiders, if you have them, can be invaluable.

The new ISO 45003, which is currently under development at the time of writing, will be the new standard aimed at providing better support for psychological health and safety at work. It outlines the potential psychological risks in the workplace and provides organisations with guidelines to establish a health, safety and wellbeing programme.

Individual circumstances regarding personal situations, such as employees who live with shielding family members or who are still juggling childcare, may cause further anxiety when returning to the office. If a team member raises a concern, be mindful and compassionate to their circumstances and work out a schedule and working arrangement that suits them until their circumstances change. This maintains their trust in and loyalty to the company.

Find out more about what the research shows about working from home, download our report here.

The hybrid workspace – new workplace practices and patterns

 

Many businesses have successfully transitioned to working from home during the pandemic. For these organisations, it is well worth considering a hybrid or flexible working model for employees as part of the post-pandemic return. Flexible workers report higher levels of job satisfaction and commitment to their organisations than their non-flexible counterparts and research also shows that most people want to continue working from home, at least some of the time or on a flexible basis. Leaders should take this into consideration when establishing a new hybrid workplace practice.

Turning your office into an innovative, creative space and updating your workplace technology not only creates the safest, most hygienic space possible but empowers your employees to work collaboratively, wherever they’re based. However, this updated workspace dynamic should not come at the expense of individual, focused work, but support all team members in however they’d like to work.

We’ve all learnt valuable lessons from Covid-19. Companies who previously thought that working from home led to a decrease in productivity have been pleasantly surprised by its success. Many employees have been trusted to carry out their work without oversight and require little micro-management. These practices should be brought into the workplace, and can result in time saved for all team members and managers, as there is no longer a need for constant monitoring.

In the largest benchmark of employee workplace experience, Leesman found that 76% of workplaces did not offer an outstanding experience. If organisations want people to come back to the office, the experience has to be great.

Average just won’t do in a post-pandemic world. Take a user-centric approach to define the future of your workplace. The best workplaces are aligned to the needs of users, ensuring an outstanding experience for all.

We recognise that returning to work will bring both happiness and apprehension to team members who have been working from home for a year. It is important to listen to any concerns to help ease anxiety and to keep them informed at every step of the way. If you’d like to find out more about how Interaction can support your return-to-work strategy, get in touch.

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Our Head of Research and Strategy, Deborah Wilder, got the chance to follow up with James Caig to dissect creativity in a lockdown world. Find out how their conversation went below.

Deborah: What brought you to where you are now?

James: Okay, so I started working in a big media agency when I was about 30. I grew up there and became a Strategy Person.

Since then, I have essentially been Head of Strategy roles at media agencies, advertising, creative, digital and CRM agencies, so I’ve done the rounds in terms of disciplines.

I’ve become something of a generalist, which is quite useful, I think. You ideally see the bigger picture, but you’re also interested in and observant of the different ways in which work gets made.

You become interested in how you get people to do their best work. What’s the difference between talent and culture, and what’s the role of leadership in all that?

 

Deborah: It sounds like what you were talking about is what old-fashioned terminology would label optimising productivity – is it that?

James: It’s probably more than productivity in the sense that I think productivity includes creativity and innovation. I think there’s a bit of a misnomer that means being busy all the time. And it’s conflated with busyness. And often busyness is conflated with presenteeism.

In certain small-minded businesses, that conflation is really dangerous.

If there’s a wider understanding of productivity, people feel like they belong. When they’re given permission to think differently and make mistakes, that’s where innovation comes from.

 

Deborah: That’s a really interesting one about giving people the freedom to be busy or not be busy. Going for a walk for ten minutes round the block might be the most creative and productive time of the day. But that describes a knowledge worker. What about all the other people who do other stuff? Because I think a lot of this is getting muddied.

James: You need to factor in breaks. You know, there’s a reason good ideas come to you in the shower because you’ve stopped thinking about it. It’s a critical part of the process of having ideas. But the way in which those creative businesses charge for the work, is often in time slots of people, so it becomes task orientated, which actually irons out any opportunity for invention and the surprising non-linear nature of creativity.

Some of the biggest challenges I’ve ever worked with were working at places where the output is ostensibly great, great creative but the process and the culture is extremely mechanistic. And it doesn’t make for a good situation for the people caught in the middle.

 

Deborah: So with computers doing all sorts of things and doing all the procedural things, the knowledge workers will become the norm in a way.

Does everybody have the ability to be creative? Do you think that it’s something we can nurture? What’s the special recipe for creativity?

James: So I think, yes, everybody can be creative. I think there’s certainly conditions. And that’s the first one.

To try training how to do it can feel quite scary. It can feel quite intimidating. I think, you know, a blank piece of paper when you haven’t drawn for a long time is really overwhelming.

I’m being quite flippant there by saying drawing. I think that’s the problem; creativity is seen as being an artistic thing and isn’t necessary.

Creative subjects are either marginalized or minimised the number that you can do.

I despair at that. And I think then you’re invited to specialise quite quick. When you’re in a world where you’re trying to foster a sense that creativity is built on making mistakes, you can’t have good ideas without having bad ideas.

Curiosity brings dividends. It brings different relationships and rapport. It means you get a better working knowledge of where people are coming from. And, you know, it creates a bigger canvas on which ideas can grow.

When you have people you have the opposite, which is “people do this task in this way” you’ve got no serendipity. You’ve sort of almost stamped out curiosity by default because you’re not able to think differently across the process.

 

Deborah: You know, as a curious person, I find it infuriating that people aren’t curious. Over the last year or two, I’ve heard more of creativity rather than innovation coming through again. Do you think they’re interchangeable?

James: I think they are often used interchangeably. I think to mean the same thing, which is sort of new ideas.

There’s nothing particularly wrong with that.

I think creativity is a mindset and innovation is a process to come up with new ideas that are actionable, that can be implemented.

The danger is when you conflate them, is that people who want innovation in their business think it happens just by encouraging people to be creative and come up with ideas. And it doesn’t, you kind of need to systemize that. You need to find a way to make it work without squashing it.

 

Deborah: It’s always one of the things we’re asked to create a design that will encourage innovation. And it’s more to encourage creativity that whilst, we can design both, of those to a certain degree, I think it’s very much a cultural thing rather than an environmental thing.

James: People often ascribe cultural problems to environmental solutions.

So “we need more breakout space” might be a code for “no-one speaks to each other”.

Again, it’s a bit like innovation and creativity. The two can become conflated and they can look from a certain distance like they are one and the same. But they’re not, they’re different leaders with different outcomes.

 

Deborah: Often it’s just seen as a tangible problem that you can fix. But often it’s just not enough. I’ve been so fascinated with physical activity and its role in all sorts of ways. I have seen a couple of things in the news the last couple of days about the connection between physical activity and creativity. What do you think about it?

James: I think I probably understand it as a theory.

The time away from work, meaning you’re giving your brain and making your brain occupied with something else that isn’t work, allows room for your ideas to bubble up and percolate in a different way.

There’s a wonderful book I always press on my teams by James Webb Young. I think it was written in the 1920’s. It’s so old that I think it was David Ogilvy who wrote the foreword for it on its report and its refurbished publishing in the 50’s and it’s how to have ideas. It’s a five-step process, and the fourth step of the process is to stop.

Physical activity, I think, and exercise can be a way of allowing this to happen. I think it’s adjacent to creativity and can be harnessed for it.

 

Deborah: Ok, so we have managed to go almost half an hour without mentioning the pandemic and now I have to ask, do you think creativity suffered during the pandemic?

James: I wouldn’t pretend to know what everybody’s reality is of how it’s been for them, but I think there’s a particular type of creativity that I think has been adversely affected by the pandemic. And that’s the kind of collaborative creativity which I think certain agencies thrive on.

Lots of agencies probably didn’t realise how much they relied on it and perhaps are wondering what now, why their thinking isn’t as clear or they cannot convey what they’re trying to say to clients or the stuff that doesn’t land with as much impact.

So, you know, that’s not all to do with creativity, because that’s just to do with a simple connection problem, I think. But I think personally I found more opportunity to shut up the laptop, just sit down, lean back with multiple notebooks and take a step back.

 

Deborah: Yeah. Have you managed to feel like you’ve managed to keep relatively sane during lockdown, have you got any tips?

James: I think it’s come in waves. Yeah. I mean a good place. Now I wonder if that’s because I haven’t yet this year had a drink, or had any coffee – or been on Twitter.

My dad told me on that the first proper lockdown in the summer last year, he said:

“Prisoners will say that the days are really long, but the months are really quick.”

And I think there’s something of that going on here, isn’t there? Because the days feel like they drag and then you turn around because everything is even, flat and the same there’s no sense of, your up and down and difference and variation, which we all need for memories and experiences.

I start to realise that sort of two types of call. One is especially when you’re working in a service industry like an agency into a client.

There are sort of conversational ones away you might be on receive.

This one’s a more performative sort of presenting something and they’re different. But then in the same way that a meeting would be different to a presentation meeting that you were doing it.

Not all Zoom’s are created equal. Not all video calls are created equally, and I think acknowledging when you use up more nervous energy than others is important.

I wonder if there should be more policies around how many people are allowed to happen if you’re freelancing and then you can’t do much about that, we’ll start to see policies creeping in where people will put in 45 minutes, not hours.

I live in Bristol, but I spent most of my career living and working in London and enjoy working with those agencies, and now it’s more of a flat playing field. I can work with those people again. We’ll probably see quite a big shift now, and I realise the opportunity that comes with remote working and flexible working that happens to be administered, enabled technologically.

But I’m in a position where we have our networks were able to do that, reconnecting with people or connecting from a point of, you know, from a place of strength.

Whereas people who are 20, 25, or just out of university and going to the places that don’t have that. And they need osmosis to learn the culture, but mostly to learn what their job is, they need to learn what work is.

By being around people doing it. And I think that’s because a lot of how we learn is from modelling ourselves and what other people do. And I think if you’re not able to do that, you stagnate. I think we might have a whole cohort of people who’ve come into the workplace who suddenly have to be acclimatizing and habituated in a way that they never had to do before.

And this is where I wonder whether the creativity will drop because all the communications we do at the moment are purposeful, whereas creativity is often the bits that happen in between.

Businesses want to retreat back into what they knew, what they believe that teams want, which is everyone back together.

And that might put me back where I was before, living in Bristol, but left a long way away from the physically from the work.

I think about how hard it is, how hard I’ve seen it to be for some leaders to just manage the idea of a team culture with the people who are paid employees, let alone factoring in flexible working for anybody who wants. It’s for multiple locations, for factoring technology into that and for planning the process.

There’ll be some businesses who need to work out now what their culture actually is if people aren’t together. A business really is a collection of people on the same side at the same moment.

But I wonder whether the pandemic would have been an awakening or even a reckoning for those sorts of businesses and those sorts of leaders where they’ll see that it’s worth putting in the effort to kind of create a culture, to create a sense of belonging, something purposeful and meaningful.

I think that might be an irony here, which is the organisations with the strong cultures can afford to do that and will work it out as they go. And then critically, they trust their teams to do it.

The really strong cultures are the ones where the leaders aren’t fearful. In fact, they’ve hired the right people and they trust them to get on with it.

The fearful cultures haven’t really got confidence in where and who they’ve, you know, hired and what they try to do or have the ability to lead them in a way that really inspires confidence and trust.

Someone posed a question once about 10 minutes trying to answer what makes a leader. We all came up with all sorts of different definitions of leader. And the guidance really is only one thing is that is: is anybody following them?

And I think if that exists in your business, I suspect you’ll be able to manage the complexity because you won’t be able to, you won’t be trying to micromanage it, you’ll be trusting people to do what’s needed. I think if you don’t have that, you’ll be drawn into micromanagement.

And that’s when all the kind of challenges come running.

As the leader, you have an obligation to do what people need you to be doing for them, giving them something to follow.

You’ll have the people who will grasp that obligation with both hands and kind of really run with it.

 

Deborah: Yet do you think we’ll have a two-tier culture? We’ll have a virtual culture and a people one

James: I think, again, it comes back to what is the glue that binds you together? What is it that makes your business? If it is only location, then you get a two-tier culture.

I had some time on my hands I got made redundant. So I wanted to see what it was like for people. And I spoke to the creatives, I spoke to strategists, I spoke to business leaders. I spoke to clients. And end up writing a bunch of a bunch of interviews and a series of articles and it kept taking me back to another EM Forster quote, not the Machine Stops, but from Howards End; “live in fragments no longer.”

There’s an idea that sort of living in fragments is what we’re doing at the moment and there is a danger that we might choose to live in fragments because it feels easier. It feels more convenient. There’s less friction. Friction can be ultimately rewarding. Anything hard is worth it. And I think there is a danger that we’d end up individually fragmented and collectively fragmented. We should try to avoid that and we should focus on connecting with each other.

 

Well, that’s a very nice philosophical way to end.

 

If you liked this, why not watch James and our panel discuss ‘Can Creativity Survive Remote Working’  on our YouTube channel here.

James Caig

Consultant strategist and facilitator James works with the UK’s biggest media agencies on their biggest brands – and biggest ideas.  

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A creative breaking point?

 

There was a moment, back in spring 2020, when many of us did a little happy dance as the first national lockdown was announced. Exhausted by the daily grind of commuting and frustrated at never seeing quite enough of our families, we marvelled at how much better our work-life balance would be without the stresses of office and commuter life. The anticipation of less noise and fewer interruptions lifted our spirits. For creative thinkers and problem solvers, uninterrupted thinking time felt like a gift. 

Fast-forward 10 months and there is a genuine fear, in the creative industries, that creativity and problem solving have suffered rather than thrived in our prolonged isolation from one another. As author and marketing expert Martin Lindstrom wrote in his article for Contagious: “I spoke with a friend of mine, the global chief marketing officer of Burger King, Fernando Machado. He told me that nearly everyone he knows in the creative field is at breaking point. They’re simply losing their creativity.”. 

But why is this? What has happened to our ability to originate ideas or have breakthrough ‘aha’ moments when trying to solve problems? Of course, it’s no surprise that home-schooling while trying to do a day’s work is not conducive to creative thinking or that the mere thought of grocery shopping while a pandemic rages doesn’t put one in the best frame of mind to innovate… but is the sudden drop-off in creativity also connected in some way to the fact that we are no longer leaving our homes to go into our workplaces? There are many who would argue that it is. 

It seems that being cloistered in our homes has resulted in three changes that directly impact our ability to create: 

Change #1: Our ‘orbits’ are much smaller

 

Our worlds have shrunk so dramatically that our personal ‘orbits’ are much smaller. With smaller orbits, we encounter less variety, less colour, less texture in our lives. We meet fewer people, see fewer new vistas and stumble across fewer fresh opinions or points of view. With so little variety, there is simply less juicy fodder for our brains to feast on. If we consider that creativity is often defined as the making of connections between things that wouldn’t normally go together, it stands to reason that the greater the number of unconnected things our brains are exposed to, the greater the potential for connections to be made and for creativity to flourish.  

And conversely, the fewer unconnected things (particularly new things) that our brains are exposed to, the fewer connections we can make. The brain is a gloriously efficient thing. It is often described as a pattern-detector, always on the hunt for similarities in experience, so that it can make the sourcing of a solution easier. While this is a fundamental contributor to how we grow and learn and is ideal for the myriad small decisions that we make every day, efficiency does not encourage creative thinking. It may, in fact, stymie it. 

Change #2: Schedule-first cultures

 

We have inadvertently created a schedule-first rather than a people-first culture. Our diaries are frequently packed with hours of back-to-back video conference meetings; often beginning before the traditional working day and ending long after. We post-rationalise by telling ourselves that with no commute and no need to build in time to move from one meeting room to another, we can surely squeeze in another call. The problem with this is that not only are we threatening our productivity by failing to pause to breathe, stretch and process, we are also removing any possibility for idleness… and idleness is crucial for creativity. 

We are already cultivating a terrifying lack of idleness in twenty first century life. Watch passengers on trains or on station platforms. Notice your own behaviour as you wait for the kettle to boil or you stand, socially distanced, in a line outside the supermarket. The chances are that you’re busying yourself on your phone. This might feel like idleness, but it is actually focused activity. True idleness has another name: daydreaming. When we walk from one meeting room to another or walk to our workplaces at the start and end of the day, our minds wander, and we daydream. And this provides fertile soil for creative thinking. 

Research done in 2012 discovered that letting our minds wander can boost creative problem-solving. It’s the reason we can spend a day trying to generate ideas, or solve a conundrum, yet get nowhere, but as soon as we’re walking to the bus stop or lying in the bathtub, the solution comes. Why does this happen? Because the brain is continuing to work on the problem beyond our conscious awareness. In our work life, those moments in between meetings, or waiting for a lift are crucial. Behind the scenes, the part of the brain that analyses, organises and focuses on tasks – the Executive Network – is taking a back seat to the part of the brain associated with daydreaming and imagination; the Default Mode Network. Neuroscientists say that creativity requires both the Executive Network and the Default Mode Network. The former is needed to assess and understand the challenge and to organise the eventual solution, while the latter enables those grand leaps in creative thinking. Sadly, we are not giving our ‘imagination centres’ the space to do their thing. 

 

Change #3: Isolation

 

Finally, our isolation from other humans is doing untold damage, not just to our mental wellbeing, but to our creativity. We are neurobiologically built for connection with others and connection can only be partially achieved through a screen. When we are developing creative ideas or solving problems as a team, we are embarking on something that is already delicate. Sharing our ideas is not easy. What if they are laughed at, rejected, or worse still, completely ignored? To throw your idea into the ring or build on another person’s contribution takes courage and requires vulnerability. Many a brainstorm or idea development session has failed because participants have not picked up on their colleagues’ subtle cues in facial expression and body language or because the energy in the room has dipped. The reason that facilitators often bring about successful sessions is because they can assess a room and temperature check the energy levels, notice small expressions of excitement or interest and develop the session accordingly. While this is not impossible via Zoom, it is much more difficult.

 

We often talk about ‘water cooler moments’In many ways the water cooler moment encapsulates everything that we’re currently missing when it comes to feeding creativity. Around the water cooler, we’re likely to see, hear, maybe even taste something new. In walking across to it, or waiting our turn, we switch to daydream mode and our brains start to solve the unsolvable. We may also meet a couple of new people or have a laugh with close colleagues. In either case, we’re inadvertently building comradeship and psychological safety, cornerstones of successful brainstorms and problem-solving sessions. 

So, when we are in a safer place in this pandemic-blighted world, will we run back to our offices, whooping and cheering? Like many, I hope we can have some balance and work can take place both at home and in workspaces with our colleagues. I have treasured the precious time with my family and have not missed the unrelenting crush of the commute one bit. I have managed to carve out quiet time to complete big pieces of work with more ease than I would have done while working in a busy, bustling office.  

But I will welcome back with open arms, those unexpected moments of discovery on the route to work, the ideas that pop into my head while I walk from one end of the office to the other and perhaps more than anything, the camaraderie and warmth of good humans with lots of stories to tell, who want to solve problems with me.  

 

If you liked this, why not watch Carla and our panel discuss ‘Can Creativity Survive Remote Working’  on our YouTube channel here.

Carla Faria

Carla is a commercial content consultant with a keen interest in team and interpersonal dynamics, who has worked at some of the UK’s biggest publishers.   

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The impact of Choice Architecture on culture 

 

In 2008 Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein shone light on a theory which has been quietly underpinning the advertising industry since its inception.  

Their book Nudge – Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness introduced the concept of Choice Architecture. Presumably prompting many ad execs to break out in cold sweats as Thaler and Sunstein revealed the explicit ways marketers use psychology to part us from our cash.  

Psychologists have known for a long time that telling people how to behave is not effective. Even showing them does not always lead to people adopting specific behaviours.  

Trickier still, decades of psychological research have shown that providing people with information can be effective in changing their attitudesbut this will not always be predictive of behaviour 

Several theories focus on the power of context to explain this discrepancy between attitude and behaviour. In other words, our environment influences our behaviour more than we might think. 

How a workplace impacts culture 

 

Most people instinctively understand that their environment influences their behaviour. The smell of citrus, pine or fresh coffee sells houses. And if a space is already messy we’re far less likely to put things away. However, when it comes to office space, it’s easy to underestimate the many subtle features which can prompt specific behaviours. 

Let’s think about it in a slightly different way. If your offices are rigidly designed with glass spaces for executives and a closed-door policy, you won’t be promoting the open conversations, creativity or collaboration that is likely to occur in a more relaxed and informal environment.  

Equally, if you want to encourage conversations across departments, where you place your coffee and kitchen facilities will help facilitate those chance encounters that start to build relationships and connections.  

If you want to encourage cross-working between different floors, how you connect those floors is important. A lift lobby won’t give you what you need, but a central staircase that brings people into each other’s working space will.  

Team Eleven’s central staircase.

These physical changes to an environment can have a big impact on people’s behaviour 

At Interaction we look at the culture that businesses want to create and then consider the behaviours they need to promote to reach their business objectives. 

This forms part of the workplace strategy that can inform and influence every stage of the design, build and fit-out of the offices we create 

Understanding human behaviour

 

The theory of Choice Architecture is based on three key aspects 

    1. How options are presented.  
    2. How they evoke particular associations (and the benefits that result from a decision) 
    3. Making one option significantly easier to choose than others.  

When it comes to designing behaviours into the workplace, we can subtly use this framework to inspire people to make better choices. For example, when it comes to things like health, collaboration and even creativity. However, there are other methods too  

Nudge theory was explored by Richard Shotton in his fascinating book The Choice Factory. Shotton identified 25 specific traits of human behaviour that influence how people respond to adverts. It’s an interesting read with some crossover to behaviour in the workplace.  

 

The fundamental attribution error 

Shotton describes a classic experiment. Forty trainee Catholic priests were separated into three groups. One group was told they were late for an urgent meeting. Another was told they needed to attend the meeting immediately. The final group was told they had a few minutes to spare. On their way to the meeting, they passed a person in distress.  

Only those who felt like they had time to spare stopped to help.  

The objective of the experiment was not to test the priests willingness to help. It was to demonstrate that context contributed to their behaviour. As Shotton says, “There’s the tendency to overestimate the importance of personality, and underestimate that of context.” 

In the workplace environment, we need to be aware of context and its impact on behaviour. Biophilia and connections with nature, relaxing spaces and carefully thought-through foot flow can create an atmosphere conducive to knowledge-sharing and collaboration. However, a business with a focus on heads-down individual work, or a competitive sales culture, may need a different space. One that is more defined, with focussed lighting and clearly delineated private spaces.  

Hanging biophilia in Xledger’s office.

 

Social proof 

If you see a group of people standing around a tree and looking up, you will crane your neck to see what they’re looking at. This is just the same when you’re in a supermarket and you reach for the marketleading brand. We naturally do what we see or know others do.  

This is demonstrated in a workplace environment. We mirror the behaviours of others around us. If we see that people get rewarded for behaving in a certain way, we are likely to adopt the behaviour ourselves 

We can consider this when designing out sedentary behaviour. Whether it’s group Pilates sessions, set paths for walking meetings, cleverly situated tea points or simply a leadership culture of walking the floors and always taking the stairs.  

In his 1979 book The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception, psychologist James Gibson outlines Affordance Theory. This is the idea that clues in our environment suggest possibilities for action, and these clues change with the intentions and capabilities of those within that environment. 

For instance a small set of stairs will form an impenetrable barrier to a crawling child at their base, but will provide a seat for a tired child or a way to get to the floor above for an adult.  

From this we can understand that the same aspect of the environment provides different “affordances” to different people.  

In the workplace this translates to having multi-use objects and areas with clear wayfinding design elements. These might take the form of paths or edges to help users subconsciously see all possible uses of the space.  

Some other factors to consider include:  

  • Sit/stand desks can (of course) encourage less sitting. 
  • Desks placed on carpet islands nudge people not to walk on the carpet, keeping a COVID-safe distance from the desk.  
  • Limiting the number of rubbish disposal points on a floor means people have to get up and move to throw waste away. 
  • Less printers mean people walk more (and don’t print without thinking) 
  • Standing areas can encourage standing meetings, which have been proven to be shorter in duration and often more efficient.  

 

Distinctiveness 

As human beings we are hardwired to notice what is unusual. We will quickly spot a person with a pink Mohican on a train full of suited commuters. While we might easily be able to see this application in advertising, how does it apply to the workplace?  

brand personality is conveyed externally through marketingEqually, how the brand lives is reflected across a business’s workspace – both by aligning with the external brand for the sake of visitors, and by cementing the employee brand to those who work in the building.  

Often, it’s tiny touches that really bring a brand’s spaces to life, from furniture and furnishings to the art on the walls and the naming of the meeting rooms. In order to build a strong, well-integrated culture, it’s vital that business ensure brands consistency across their space, giving those that use the space a collective sense of a distinctive identity.  

 

Habit 

A lot has been written about the acceleration of change in the workplace. And 2021 will see this continue as a hot topic.  

In recent years, there has been a changed understanding of the office and its purpose. The importance of community, belonging, flexibility and dynamic arrangements have all been heightened. This year has highlighted even more what we value most about the office – what the workplace does best; collaboration and culture.  

Our working days have been shaped by a new work environment with different environmental nudges; the lure of a comfy chair, the short walk to the fridge, the perceived ease of sending another email rather than walking to someone’s desk or making a call. 

When we return to the office it’s possible our unconscious habits will have adjusted, so the workplace may have to adjust accordingly.  

On a fundamental level, people are creatures of routine. We easily adopt the same morning routine. Sleeping on the same side of the bed. Stepping into our trousers with the same leg every time. 

2020 has forced us to change our habits. And it’s been eye-opening to see how quickly people can adapt to new situations. We know that change is a constant. And if we want to keep changing and adapting, we’re going to have to learn to break our habits and navigate through disruption.  

However, disruption isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it might be vital for the long-term success of a business.  

Harvard Business Review article Change for Change’s Sake put this clearly: 

“A company periodically needs to shake itself up, regardless of the competitive landscape. Even if the external environment is not changing in ways that demand a response, the internal environment probably is. The human dynamics within an organization are constantly shifting — and require the organization to change along with them.  

“Over time, informal networks mirror the formal structure, which is how silos develop. Restructuring gets people to start forming new networks, making the organization as a whole more creative. It also disrupts all the routines in an organization that collectively stifle innovation and adaptability.” 

 

Positive disruption 

Disruption is of course difficult – it breaks habits. Habits which generally allow us to free up space in our brain to make decisions. We rely on mental shortcuts, called judgmental heuristics, to ease our cognitive load, enabling us to make quick decisions with little conscious effort. But we know that just doing the ‘same old’ is dangerous when it comes to business. 

Nudges in the physical environment can exploit or reprogram these judgmental heuristics to guide the desired behavioural outcome. These nudges can help a company manoeuvre through times of disruption while creating new ways of working, tackling challenges and unspoken norms.  

We can use nudge theory in workplace design to reflect our changing habits and needs.  

Spaces can be evolved by creating designs that enable desired behavioural changes  more focus on facilitating togetherness and social behaviours or, more measurably, higher staff retentionfewer sick days or better Glassdoor scores. 

A space to thrive

 

At Interaction wbelieve everyone should have a space in which they can thrive.  

This leads us to enable some of the world’s best work by creating the world’s best workspaces, built to encourage positive behaviours at every level.  

If you’d like to change the way your company works, get in touch today.  

 

Written by Charlie Moss, Relationship Manager at Interaction.

Email Charlie | LinkedIn Profile

 

 

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