Let’s Get Real Episode 10: The Great Resignation

Discussions on the Workplace and Corporate Real Estate Podcast

Written by Sandra Panara, Director of Workspace Insights

Some of the highlights of the show include:

  • Setting and managing goals
  • The 40 hour work week
  • The Great Resignation
  • Purposeful connection in the virtual world
  • Building meaning
  • Accessibility – Making work work for everyone
  • Remote working strategies

If you liked today’s show, check out more episodes of the Let’s Get Real Podcast! This podcast is available on iTunes, Spotify and Google Podcasts.

Transcript: 

Sandra

Hey everyone, welcome to Let’s Get Real with Sandra and Friends, a workplace consortium podcast brought to you by Relogix. I’m excited to be sharing conversational musings about current events and how we envision the ever-changing world of work. I’m Sandra Panara, Director of Workplace Insights at Relogix. With 25 years of hands-on experience, I help value engineer global workplace portfolios and employee experiences by aligning workplace analytics with corporate real estate needs.

Have any questions, comments, or suggestions for future podcasts? Please drop me a line at podcast@Relogix.com.

This week, I’d like to introduce my special guest and friend, Pamela Ross. Pamela is a culture catalyst at Blue Rebel Works, located right here in Toronto. Pam, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself before we get started?

Pam

Thank you so much for having me! I’m Pam Ross, and I’m the founder of Blue Rebel Works. I believe that we spend far too much time at work for it to suck, so our purpose is to improve peoples’ lives by making work awesome.

Sandra

Fantastic. When we were talking about the whole ideation around managers and who sets the goals, you gave an example of your employee coming in and inviting you to a meeting and running the meeting. This kind of makes you wonder, if managers right now are struggling with the whole idea of setting the goals and then managing the goals, to me it wouldn’t be any different. If you’re setting the goals, you’re setting the goals.

I know from personal experience and others that I’ve spoken to that people will sometimes go through a good portion of the year without goals. It can get overlooked. Then, at the end of the year, you’re scrambling to complete the process that requires you to fill out a review form with your goals.

It makes you wonder, is it because management has been more complacent because there wasn’t a requirement, or should there now be a requirement for goals because everyone needs clarity? Especially as a manager, you’re held responsible for the outcomes and output, so if there’s no goal—whose responsibility is that? I don’t personally think there is a difference based on whether you’re in the office or working virtually from that perspective—but, it feels like there is because the work experience is very different from the in-person work experience.

Pam

I agree that there isn’t actually a difference, but there is the perception of a difference. If I see you coming in to work every day, I assume that you’re getting your work done, even if I’m not clear about what the work is. So if I don’t see you, I don’t know if you’re getting the work done, I still don’t know what the work is—it’s not deliberate complacency, it’s just how we’ve learned to manage work.

This is where I’d love to challenge our ways of thinking—what if we never had offices? What if we had never said 40 hours a week was the right amount of work to put in? Why did we go along with that? Why have we continued to go along with that?

I was reading an article the other day that looked at a prediction from the 1930s about technological advances. They had said, within 50 years, people would be working something like 20 hours a week instead of 40 because of technological advances. Well, we didn’t do that. We kept working 40 hours a week, and more.

Now, we’re continuing to reduce headcounts to increase the objectives or increase the amount of work people have to do, and people are putting in more and more hours. I really want to challenge corporations to think differently about why they exist. Is it really all about profit? How could you actually make a difference in peoples’ lives and the lives of all the people who work for you? How could you add value to their lives instead of just being something they have to do for one third of their lives that’s sucking their souls?

I really think there’s an opportunity to re-think that, because everyone I talk to is overwhelmed. You mentioned burnout earlier—you’ve heard about the Great Resignation, right? To me, it’s a great opportunity. People are leaving, but what if we re-thought work totally and created workforces or—not work places, because I don’t think it has to be a place—but what if we created organizations where people could be connected and work there without feeling like they had to quit their job to live a great life? What if you added to peoples’ lives instead of just taking away 8 or 10 hours a day from their lives?

Sandra

That’s a really good point. I think that’s what the pandemic has surfaced for a lot of people—just having the time to reflect on their priorities and how much time is actually invested in work. The thing is, we all work for different reasons. Some people work for money more than anything else, and some people have the privilege of being able to do what they love and follow their passion. But I would venture to guess that the majority of people are working to pay the bills. So, it almost feels like some organizations hold people hostage with the idea that, if you don’t like how we do things, then leave, go find a job somewhere else.

And the reality is, if companies want to win, they need to be able to address the fact that not just their employees, but the whole world has gone through this period together. They have come to the realization that there’s more to life than just work. Nobody’s saying we don’t want to work, but give us the choice.

You’ve probably heard just as much as I have around all the reasons why you need to be in the office.

Pam

We need to connect, we can’t really collaborate without being together—it’s all honestly BS, if you actually take a few steps back and look and re-imagine.

Sandra

And to your point too, it’s not because you’re saying that everything should be online—yes, it’s possible to do much of the stuff that you do in person online. It doesn’t devalue what you do. I’ve had numerous conversations, and been introduced to so many people in the past year online that I’ve never met and probably never will, just because of where they’re located. It’s no less real than actually meeting the person in real life for a coffee or a lunch.

It’d be nice to be able to do that—there’s the social element of that. Maybe in the virtual world it’s more purposeful, there’s more of an objective for why you’re connecting. And sometimes that objective isn’t necessarily business; it could be to learn from each other, which I’ve experienced tremendously in the past year. You’re just curious to know how other people are feeling and thinking, and what their opinions are about the direction work will go in. Whoever you may be, it can help to get those different perspectives. But it doesn’t take away from the realness of the relationship.

So, the conversation that seems to be underpinning the push to return is, you have to go back to the office in order to maintain the realness and value of that relationship. I’m not buying it.

Pam

I mentioned someone started on my team on Monday—she’s in British Colombia and will probably spend part of her time in France, because that’s where her family is. So, I’ll likely never meet her in person. But I don’t feel like that should hold me back from getting a great person for the position.

The other thing that came to mind for me is when you said, people won’t choose not to work. No, absolutely! People want meaning and they want to feel like they’re making a contribution. Absolutely, people are not going to choose not to work.

There’s no one-size-fits-all. Today, I can personalize the jeans that I’m going to buy, but I can’t design my way of working. Rather than thinking there’s a one-size-fits-all for your introverts,

your extroverts, your neurodiverse, even able-bodied versus people with disabilities, there are so many opportunities if we just allow people to figure out how they can get their work done.

I know you shouldn’t get your news from memes, but I saw a meme of people who are disabled saying hey, can’t we work from home? That would really help me to be able to do the work, and able-bodied leaders said no, this has to be done in the office. And then all of a sudden, the pandemic hits and able-bodied leaders are saying we can all work from home now. That’s what it took, but people with disabilities had been asking for this kind of thing for years.

There are so many opportunities to rethink how we’ve been thinking about work.

Sandra

In an earlier podcast, a guests said sometimes the resistance to flexible work is because there are too many things to think about. There are so many stones to turn over and it’s hard to figure out what to address first. And it’s just easier to bring everybody back and put everything back the way that it was.

But when you think of it from the standpoint of what companies do, even the example you gave around disabled people, like investing money to fix the physical place to enable people to go to work there—how much more access can you give to people by just allowing them to work from the comfort of their home? Especially if it’s something they desire.

Pam

Even if you think about some people living in Toronto, I have clients living in small condos in Toronto that can’t wait to be able to come back to the office so they can get out of their little space. So, some people are going to love going in to the office a certain number of days a week. Your extroverts might want to get together for beers after work, but your introverts—some people hated that the whole time and were forced into these unnatural social situations that they hated. So this is an opportunity to allow people to work in the way that fits them best.

Your comment about uncertainty really resonated with me. When I talk to executives, they say—well, nobody’s got this figured out. There’s no one to get the playbook from. But actually, there is. GitLab has a playbook for remote work, and there are some companies that have been doing this for a while. There are tonnes of information out there, maybe even too much information, and it can be a little overwhelming. I’m also trying to create something that would be a super simple guidebook. But leaders like to be able to make good decisions with certainty, and it’s very scary for them not to have the answers. So, I think that’s a huge part of this too—that’s where the ego comes into play. They think, I can make a decision to do what I know will work, to bring people back.

But what if you came at this with more of an agile mindset? What about thinking, let’s test this way of doing it, and measure it, and see what’s working and do that for a few months, get

together and look at what worked and didn’t work, and tweak it. You can be tweaking it! It’s going to look different for every organization, every team, so why not choose your own adventure and figure it out as you go along?

Sandra

I agree, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. There’s such uncertainty, there’s no one place to turn, and everybody’s kind of on their own figuring it out, even though we’re all going in the same direction. I’ve said over and over again, every company is unique because of the makeup of the people in that organization. So, the GitHubs and the Googles and the Apples, the way they’re approaching work or have traditionally approached work, is to look at what works for their people. And what works for one company won’t necessarily be applicable to another company. It doesn’t work that way. You need to know how your people are behaving, what’s working, what’s not working, and as you say—tweak it and iterate over and over until you’ve got something that’s working. You’ll get to a point where everyone is happy, and that also enables you to attract a certain type of worker that wants to work within that kind of environment.

It’s definitely an interesting topic as it relates to the view of management and how you approach the future of work, and being able to make a decision when you don’t have anything to guide you except your gut. But I think this is where leadership and management have an opportunity to shine.

Pam

We’re working with some clients right now to teach their leaders a process to engage the team in figuring out what work needs to be completed in the next 3 months, how to best get it done, and how often to meet and collaborate—it’s the process of making a roadmap for your team. You do this, and then iterate. Check in and ask yourself if it’s working, and keep iterating on that. But it takes a leader to be able to engage people and be purposeful about where you’re going, what you need to complete, and then engage your people in the solution and let them get the work done.

I think there’s so much potential and opportunity and I really hope that we don’t get stuck in small tactical decisions instead of looking at things more broadly. If we just do those small things, like re-design the office, you’re not going to tackle the underpinning issues, and you’re probably just going to end up bringing people back in to the office.

Sandra:

Well, thank you for your time today, I really enjoyed this conversation. There’s always more to uncover and learn, so again, I really appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

About the Author

Sandra Panara, Director of Workspace Insights

Sandra has both a deep and wide understanding of Corporate Real Estate and Technology. With over 25 years hands-on experience she is able to apply non-traditional approaches to extract deep learning from the most unsuspecting places in order to drive strategy. She has developed an appreciation for always challenging the status quo to provoke and encourage new ways of thinking that drive continuous improvement and innovation. Sandra believes square pegs can fit into round holes and that the real ‘misfits’ are those environments that fail to adapt. Her expertise ranges broadly from CRE Portfolio Research, Analytics & Insights, Workforce Planning, Space & Occupancy Planning & Workplace Strategy.