What I learned in my first year with Engage Squared

Matt meeting the Engage Squared exec team after a year of remote working. From left to right: Stephen, Matt, Tom, Justin and Claudia
Matt meeting our senior leaders in Perth after a year of remote working. From left to right: Stephen, Matt, Tom, Justin and Claudia

A year of remote working

It’s strange to think it’s been over a year since we all went into lockdown. For me, the first week of lockdown was also my first week in a new job. It has been a challenge, but I’ve also learnt a huge amount.  

Firstly, during this time, I’ve been fortunate to work alongside companies that were prepared — even though they may not have realised. These are the organisations that had started to think about people; remote working; authentic leadership, and how technology could help. They had the “digital” and were primed for the “transformation”. It has been my pleasure to assist these companies as they move towards their new normal

Many other organisations have scrambled to be digital but have no concept or capacity to think about the transformation which became so urgently needed. Instead of considering new ways of working, they’ve digitally enabled out-of-date work practices. The speed of their digital switchover now matched by the slow realisation things have changed for good. Normal is different to how it was before. 

Lockdown has been a universal disruption — staff members at all levels have now experienced what it’s like to be a remote worker. We’ve all experienced the highs and lows of video meetings. As the sole employee based in Perth, I knew that I would be working remotely, but suddenly my colleagues in other states were in the same situation. Executive teams have seen what that experience is like and realise for many the employee experience is the digital experience. People have begun to see the stuff that happens between the work — the “glue” of connections that binds us to our workmates and happened unconsciously when co-located but need a platform and support to happen remotely (yes, this is a reference to Yammer). It’s part of that understanding and intentionality that informs how employee experience can be configured and curated. It doesn’t happen by luck.  

Small wins

There have been small wins. Remote working opens organisations to talent available on a global scale. I’ve been lucky to work alongside WA-based organisations, as well as ones from across Australia and the globe. Are you designing your work and experience to capitalise on this? 

The last 12 months has shown me remote work is just work — whether I’m in my office space or at home. Whilst many have identified the benefits of working from home, the value I see in working from the office is more about the transition from home to work. I get the social proof that I’m “at work” and the commute allows me to mentally switch on and off from work. I get the time to decompress and reflect. I’m also mindful that “working from home” can disproportionally impact younger employees who may be in shared accommodation or living with parents and don’t have the space or financial means to adapt. We need to continually check our privilege when making decisions about work practices.  

This year has reminded me of a term from my dim and distant past, studying archaeology at university: Punctuated Equilibrium. In evolutionary terms, this is where periods of relative stability are disrupted by events that drive significant change or favour certain organisms (think of the asteroid strike that made dinosaurs extinct). In work terms we witnessed the same thing. Static organisations have had to rapidly change in order to survive and those already embracing transformation can thrive. Don’t let your organisation be the dinosaur. 

Welcome to the future of work. 

About the author

Matt Dodd is a Digital Workplace Consultant at Engage Squared, he changes the way people work, create and connect through human centred approaches to culture, leadership and digital services. He combines design, empathy and systems thinking to deliver value to individuals and organisations.

Since 2004, he’s been working in large organisations delivering digital based change. He’s led programs enabling online services for local government and pioneering the use of social media platforms for customer and colleague engagement .

He’s spent the last few years’ shaping the digital employee experience at CBA subsidiary Bankwest; delivering an award-winning Yammer enterprise social network along the way. At Engage Squared he’s now working with Western Australian organisations to build digital capability and transformational experiences.

Contact him at matt.dodd@engagesq.com or on 0477 373 083.

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