Adapting to change in the workplace – some tips

Change can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be. Handled properly, change in the workplace can help you improve processes and move towards better forms of working. Right now, the world of work is going through a phase of extended disruption from a number of angles, most connected to Big Tech. This upheaval will affect everyone eventually, so best to be prepared.

When you are going through changes, it’s important to try and keep an open mind on what is actually happening. It can feel as though you are being attacked, but that’s rarely the motivation for change. Remember that this is usually about improving an already well functioning machine, not ripping everything up and starting from scratch.

Once you have the right mentality, it’s easier to see areas that are not working as well as they could do, parts of processes that could be streamlined or tedious tasks that could be left to machines. Another thing to think about is what you are not doing because you don’t have time – a change could free things up and open new doors.

Most changes work best when they are implemented carefully and slowly, with maximum employee buy-in. Workers are rapidly alienated and demoralised when they receive orders from on high, as it feels authoritarian and remote. Getting feedback from workers at all levels of the workplace pyramid will help everyone feel involved and part of the process.

With all that general philosophy in mind, there are certain easily actionable tips for adaptation in areas that many companies are currently experiencing change. These will help you manage your way to a new reality.

Remote working

Probably the biggest recent example of change in most workplaces is the move towards remote working by many companies. A growing number of employees cite it as a key reason for accepting a job, so you need to consider switching to virtual working sooner rather than later. The challenges of managing remote teams are manageable, though.

You may not need to go full remote immediately. A number of companies have experimented with the idea of hybrid models, where workers spend some time in offices and the rest of the time working remotely. This mixed method makes it easy to adapt in the short term as a halfway house to full remote work, or you may want to stick with it.

Next, think about how to make the most of the opportunities that remote work brings you. Perhaps you want to implement asynchronous working or cast your recruitment net further and hire foreign independent contractors. Remember to keep things like team building activities in your calendar so that workers feel included and encourage them to make the most of their flexibility. 

AI – the rise of the machines

Another rapidly approaching workplace change is the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) in more and more work processes. Whereas many Big Tech disruptions have affected blue collar workers in the majority, this is something that targets office workers.

While it may seem that greater automation means no more jobs for humans, remember that there will still be plenty of roles available for people to check the output of computer-generated output. This means that you need to plan for reskilling existing employees, as this will allow people who know the company culture to be included in the process and reduce turnover chaos.

You may find that this reskilling also involves opening up new areas of the business, so ask employees which directions they would like to go in. Again, this helps you to retain talent that fits well with your corporate vision, rather than having to hire from outside.

Four day weeks

While this is not a direct result of Big Tech, improved possibilities for remote working and better efficiency in automated processes have lead a number of companies to consider a four day week, with early experiments being positively received.

Again, you may want to ease into this, perhaps starting with casual Fridays where employees are encouraged to leave work at midday. You may want to combine it with a remote day or two, so that there’s increased flexibility, even if the hours stay the same.

Make sure that you retain your targets – the idea is not to do less work, but to achieve the same output in a more efficient timeframe. Also, resist the temptation to demand more from your employees, or to walk back the proposal by asking them to occasionally work the full five days. This is a change that needs to be stuck to in order to work to its full potential.

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