I was recently at WORKTECH21 London and was part of the panel that discussed “New Ways of Working”. I was pleased to be part of this exciting, very timely discussion alongside a group of sector experts, all of whom brought with them invaluable expertise to our conversation. Being part of WORKTECH21 was memorable for me for two reasons: firstly, it was an opportunity to speak publicly about a topic I am passionate about and dedicated to constantly researching; and secondly, I was speaking to a packed room of business leaders eager to learn about the opportunities that have come into sharper focus during the last 18 months or so.

Due to Covid, businesses are now at an exciting juncture where they can take a step back and consider the merits, and the challenges, associated with newer, non-conventional ways of working. For the most part, the businesses we work with are grasping this as an opportunity to engage with their employees, rethink their strategies and are considering newer and exciting ways of conducting business. Most companies we work with are tailoring their working model to take several perspectives into consideration. Without a doubt, this is the era of employees, so leaders need to listen to what their people are expecting from the companies they’re part of. There is no business without people. No matter which sector you operate in, the way I look at it, there are three key aspects that are relevant to any business undergoing change and seeking to redraw blueprints for the office of the future:

Offering choice

There are two parts of this: one, for the first time, employees are empowered to choose what is best for them, within reason. And two, business leaders can now choose to let go of older, inefficient ways of working and embrace a model that will bring out the best in everyone.

The working world is going through a monumental period of change leaving leaders and employees with the opportunity to reconsider the way businesses are run. Those that leave old habits behind and make choices that are in everyone’s best interest will eventually emerge from the pandemic with a stronger, happier and more productive way of working.

Using technology to build an inclusive culture

Culture remains the beating heart of any organisation and it survived despite us all working remotely for over a year. Technology has supported our shift to hybrid working and will continue to do so into 2022 and beyond. All business leaders have the opportunity to demonstrate that they are ahead of the curve and ensure that their technology creates a seamless hybrid work environment between those in the office and those working remotely.

As experience of remote working has shown us, virtual co-operation and collaboration can be more inclusive, allowing a more diverse range of people to participate. However, on the other hand, technology can bring with it a level of isolation – everyone doing the job but missing out on the important connections with each other. We no longer end up having those water-cooler conversations, and here’s where business leaders have a bigger role to play, neatly bringing me to my third and final point.

Promoting empathetic and intentional leadership

Workplaces are made up of different personalities: introverts, extroverts and everyone in between. The new workplace needs to take people-psychology into account. It’s no longer about just putting your head down and getting the work done. As hybrid working gathers steam – with teams split across offices, cities and even whole time zones – those in charge need to be both intentional and empathetic in their approach.

Businesses should seize the opportunity to create workplaces that attract and retain the best talent. One way of achieving this is by communicating more effectively, and more often. Having said that, businesses need to ensure that communication goes both ways: listening has never been more important. One-way communication belongs to the past and will not work with employees anymore.

Business leaders are coming to terms with how critical it is to create a workplace of choice for its employees, and the importance of their role to listen and then lead the way. Today’s business leaders face one of the biggest challenges of their generation as we prepare to enter a new era for the workplace. But the pandemic has given them the chance of a lifetime to develop a fresh blueprint for the type of workplace they would like to nurture in the future, for the good of their business and their people.

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