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Five Ways to Redesign Work

by Nicholas Edwards on November 19, 2018

If you could redesign work, what would you change? Would it be similar to how it is now or vastly different?

The way we work is so well established that we rarely stop to question it. But we should question it, because work is failing to engage the vast majority of us.

This isn’t news – employee engagement and wellbeing have been hot topics in the business world for a while now. But despite all the talk, very little progress is being made.

In order for this to change, we need to rethink everything: the relationships we have with our employers, managers and colleagues; the way we structure and organise businesses; the way we use technology.

Here are five ways we could redesign work.

  1. Rethink the employee-employer relationship

The traditional employee-employer relationship is inherently one-sided, with almost all of the expectations and demands set by the employer. The employee’s role is to adhere to these expectations, and to be grateful for the opportunity to do so.

The result is that employers hold almost all the power, while employees have little input into how they want the relationship to work. It’s time for a more balanced approach.

That’s why we designed the People First alliance contract – a blueprint for a new employee-employer relationship, where both parties come together as equal partners in a relationship based on mutual respect and trust.

  1. Shape work to suit the individual, not the other way round

In the traditional workplace, organisations create job-shaped holes and then ask people to fit into them. This starts during the application phase, when we are shown a list of tasks that comprise the job. We are even told what type of person we should be in order to fit in.

But this doesn’t reflect the reality of the human workplace, where everyone brings their own unique skillsets and working styles. By being forced to adapt to work, we limit our potential. Why don’t we design work to fit the individual instead?

  1. Make technology work for us

Despite its growing influence in the workplace, technology has failed to add real value to our work lives, and has struggled to address issues around employee engagement and wellbeing.

Rather than liberating us from mundane work, technology has simply changed the way we do it. In many ways, technology has added more noise to the workplace through constant messages and alerts.

But all this is about to change.

At People First, we’ve built a software platform designed to revolutionise the way we work, empowering people to take charge of their own work lives and helping everyone spend more time in the flow. When in Focus Mode, People First cuts out all the digital ‘noise’ of emails and alerts, allowing people to truly lose themselves in their work.

  1. Adopt a human approach to people management

When it comes to employee disengagement, bad management is one of the main offenders. Too often we hear about managers who lack the required skills, or even the right mentality, to manage a team of individuals. This is exacerbated by outdated practices such as annual appraisals and performance ratings.

A more human approach to people management is required – one where managers act as mentors, providing regular feedback and encouragement. This is achieved through regular check-ins, where employees and managers meet to discuss progress, set goals and address issues.

People First helps you manage the whole check-in process and even provides managers with talking points based on the employee’s recent activity to help those who struggle to initiate conversations.

  1. Rethink organisational hierarchies

The traditional organisational hierarchy represents a pyramid – the few at the top have lots of power, while the many at the bottom have little. This has been the go-to setup for as long as anyone can remember – but does it really work?

Some argue that it doesn’t, because it leaves the vast majority of employees disenfranchised, powerless to make any real decisions themselves, and ultimately unable to truly engage with their work. It also forces employees into an unfamiliar and uncomfortable relationship with those higher up the chain of command, similar to a parent-child dynamic.

As an alternative, some organisations are looking to flatter structures, where power is distributed more evenly. This means that individuals have more control over the direction of their work, and less friction in getting things done. This leads to a greater sense of self-realisation, and ultimately to a more engaged workforce.

A workplace revolution

These are just a few examples of how work can change, but they all have one thing in common: they embody a much-needed change in ethos, designed to fix the problems that are leading to wide-scale disengagement, unhappiness and low productivity.