Work is a thing you do, not a place you go to

This article is part of an ongoing series about how Beyond helps organizations forge stronger employee connections, ultimately helping to build thriving, resilient, and proud cultures.

4 min read
October 21, 2021

“Work is a thing that you do, not a place that you go to.”

This is the belief now held by the largest population in the workforce today, millennials, and indications seem to suggest that for Gen-Z it’s even more important.

While the wave of remote and hybrid work was certainly exponentially accelerated by the pandemic, the problem it serves at least a partial response to has existed far before we were all sheltering-in-place.

Two-thirds of the American workforce reported being burned out pre-Covid, and the reasons aren’t hard to track down. In addition to the recent emergence of “hustle culture,” the data about our broader American work culture tells a blunt story: we work longer hours, have shorter vacations, get fewer unemployment, disability, and retirement benefits, and retire later, than any other comparably rich society.

And, all this hustle does not equate to productivity. Take Norway for example, which is the second most productive country in the world with the third-lowest average hourly workweek.  

If, for every cause there is an effect, the desire for greater work flexibility, autonomy and balance is a predictably strong effect.

This changing landscape of what makes for a fulfilling and thriving workplace was a central question in our own unique research.

We knew that the components that comprise the “future of work”–a catch-all term for significant systemic changes that will affect how, where, and what work looks like–are largely interdependent, which is validated by the evolved “Hierarchy of Needs” that our research revealed.

The image shows a pyramid. The bottom layer is yellow and says, "Support & Recognition. Psychology safety, respect, suitable remote or hybrid work conditions, work and and life boundaries".The next layer is green and says, "Fairness & Equity. Fair and equitable pay and benefits".The next layer is blue and says, "Meaning and Growth. Continuous learning and participation in high-performing teams". The top layer is purple and says, "Pride. Connected to values and impact".

The holy grail–Pride–is as much its own unique attribute as it is a sum of its underlying parts.

Our data shows that 82% of employees who rate themselves as “proud” felt they had the flexibility to organize their work in the best way that suits them, compared to 44% of those “not proud.” And, this is supported by wider industry data – 74% of US workers consider flexible working to be the new normal, and upwards of 60% would take a pay cut in exchange for more flexibility.

And, flexibility in work need not be a radical idea. Take Patagonia for example - the poster child for being a responsible, progressive and high-performing business. Their mantra began with the concept “let my people go surfing,” and still thrives today. This is supported by the latest research from Adam Grant that demonstrates “When employees have the flexibility to customize their work, they’re more effective, more satisfied and more likely to stay.”

Though, it should be caveated, as we’ve likely all experienced over the last year, that flexibility and remote work, especially for an organization of even modest size, is not easy. There are both operational considerations – how work gets done – and emotional considerations – how people feel – to design for.

On the operational side, the five levels of remote work provides a nice model for decoupling logistics and processes from the physical office that are not helpful to a remote or even hybrid context.

And, on the emotional side, psychology professor Clay Routledge, rightly points out that, “Managers should consider the potential long-term effects of remote work on relationships, team-building, and mentoring. It may be difficult for many employees to view their work as meaningful if they don’t feel connected to their coworkers and managers. Hybrid options that allow some flexibility but still create an in-person work environment that helps employees form and maintain strong relationships may help create a balance between meaning at and outside of work.”

Beyond helps organisations think systematically about employee-centered solutions, and execute creatively to bring them to life in meaningful ways. We work with leaders, teams and those responsible for culture and operations to design approaches that will truly make an impact. And, we do that through:

  • Workshops to clarify the values and principles that guide cultural design, ensuring any program or policy is authentic to the businesses' DNA
  • Tailored programs that address distinct business challenges, such as fostering culture in a remote environment, using our own unique frameworks and well-researched studies on organizational behavior
  • The creation of products and platforms that meet employees where they are, and aid in cultivating a connected employee experience
4 min read
October 21, 2021