Annual planning retreats are navigational waypoints in the world of business. They confirm or challenge our journey so far, and they engage the entire organization around a set of unifying outcomes of the work we will do together for the coming year. They are 3 parts vision, 2 parts estimates, and 1 part knowledge.
What happens when the very definition of “work” comes into question? Where, when, how, and why, are all questions we never thought to ask about this fundamental activity we have done together with our entire adult lives. The pandemic has forced us to reimagine every dimension of our lives just to survive. And, just like the after-effects of 9/11, we will live with these shifts for generations to come. So the question at this point is, as leaders, are we on the offense, or playing defense?
I think the Italian proverb is right, “The best defense is attack!”. Therefore, every leader should prepare their workplace strategies for 2021 now, because three key assumptions about work have changed.
- The productivity assumption: Last year, a lack of productivity was the ultimate fear leaders held when we were unsure about how distracted our employees would be if they worked at home—especially with lean companies. We believed it worked for some, but not all. Today, according to a Gartner survey, 82% of corporate leaders plan on allowing employees to work remotely some of the time and a staggering 47% plan on allowing remote work as the default going forward. It’s a fact now—working remotely has many advantages and very little effect on productivity.
- The return to normal assumption: We are in the middle of the largest shift in the way we work since the invention of the computer while prototyping ideas and solutions in the face of great unknowns. Leaders that assume returning to work the way it was pre-pandemic, may make a tremendous blunder at the cost of their business, their innovation, and their employees. 2021 will provide an incredible petri dish for doing experiments and rapid trial and error. Every team and organization will adopt different solutions, but no one can escape the tectonic shifts that will challenge our understanding of (or desire for) normal.
- The employee assumption: Employees may not want to come back to the current office, and they may want to figure out a new functional way of organizing their day based upon what they are doing. However, sometimes it is very important to gather. We simply cannot assume that every employee has the same needs when it comes to productivity, collaboration, and culture. As a result, many new options become available to us.
As you challenge your assumptions, don’t wait for an answer. Create your plan now and start prototyping options that include work from home, work from the office, work from a third-place like Fueled Collective, and include an intentional focus on the new work/life balance we all will be seeking in our post-pandemic world. To get started, you might try our Functional Plan Worksheet