There is an old Irish tale about an American tourist who gets lost driving around rural Kerry. He stops at some point in the middle of nowhere asks a local farmer for directions. When the tourist asked what is the best way to get to their location, the farmer replied with a grin, “Yerra I wouldn’t shtart from here anyway”

Similar to the bewildered tourist, many in the world of business would not have chosen to start from where they are right now. However, there are huge opportunities in how we go about re-organising and re-starting as we move closer to getting back to the physical work environment. The experts are clamouring for air-time and column inches to tell us where is best to locate our people post pandemic. Personally I think “Where” is the very last question we need to look at when trying to piece the jigsaw back together again. Least we forget, we had a huge engagement issue in the world of work pre March 2020. Simply flicking back on the switch is not going to miraculously rectify this. Before deciding what is the best location for your people to work from I would suggest taking a step back and considering these questions in depth first.

WHY? At essence this ties in to the purpose and vision of your team. You may not be asking but your people have had a lot of time to reflect and have asked themselves many times, “what the fuc* am I doing here?” If this isn’t compelling or clear, then those recruiters messages on LinkedIn become a whole lot more appealing. If this isn’t clear for you or your team, it should be the starting point. A good example of this came from a podcast I listened to last week with Ben Francis the founder of Gymshark (link in Newsletter) for him it is simply, we are aiming to become one of the biggest sports brands in the world. He said the UK doesn’t have a global sports apparel brand and he aims to make Gymshark the first. That is pretty compelling to me.

WHAT? This is a lesson in clarity. The what relates to the specifics of what you are trying to achieve. It forces you to drive absolute clarity for all stakeholders involved. Some elements are easy to quantify, others not so much. Expectations of what great work looks like have now shifted. Hours on your ass no longer suffice as a metric of delivering good work. As the work environment changes people need more certainty around what is expected of them. Vague objectives will no longer wash.

HOW? This is one of the primary concerns for all leaders right now. Once you have identified why and what, the next consideration is how will we go about achieving this. Your strategy will be a vital element here and how you can best bring this to life. There was one way of delivering on this BC (before Covid) and there has been an adaptive means during Covid. The how going forward may be a hybrid of both, but there is definitely time that needs to be spent digging in to what is the best way to achieve these outcomes based on the resources available to us. These may appear like pretty rudimental questions, but you would be amazed at how many teams don’t have this nailed down.

WHO? Once we are crystal clear on our vision and objectives we get a better picture of who do we need to achieve this. Are there obvious skills gaps? Who should the next hire in the door be? As many new hires were onboarded during the past 18 months, it is important to step back and do an inventory. Based on how you are going to design your world of work going forward, have you got the right people on the bus.

WHERE? The first question for many, but what in actual fact should be the very last question in the process. Having circled through all of the above it will now be a lot clearer as to what is the best work design to achieve your objectives, whilst maintaining engagement and a good culture. This may be company wide, or completely different for each department within an organisation. Do your project managers need the same environment as the IT people. Do your commercial staff need to have the same flow as your finance people. How often do we need the sales people in? How often do we need to collaborate in the flesh? This is a very nuanced situation. Taking a step off the hamster wheel to deliberate the above will certainly help you finding the right balance. Do not start with “Where” and try to shoe horn the rest in as an after thought. If you need assistance with this process then we would love to help.