As the end of the pandemic approaches, as the percentage of the population immunized increases and as we resume many of the habits that the risk of virus transmission forced us to interrupt, it’s becoming clear why human evolution is slower than it should be.
Talking to business leaders on a regular basis it’s clear that the vast majority want to return to the old days. Ask about the rules they are dictating (the choice of the verb is not accidental) to their employees, the majority say they want their employees to go back to working “as before”, working from the office, and at most, as though this were some major concession, working remotely “a couple of days a week”, but under strict rules, and not exceeding a certain number of hours per month.
The reasons for this fear of change leads managers to propose a return to working practices as though this were “logical” or “natural”, inventing, without any evidence, problems and using axioms such as “people need to be in contact with each other to work”, “you can’t sell by videoconference”, or “innovation depends on those casual contacts by the coffee machine.”
They may sound logical and persuasive, but these are unproven assertions trotted out as a justification for fear of change. Believing that you need to physically be in front of the person you’re selling something to reveals a fixed mindset (many companies follow a distributed work model and are doing very well) or from a lack of ambition (maybe it difficult to sell via a crappy videoconference, badly illuminated and without advanced virtual resources, so how about about trying to do it well? ) A one-size-fits-all approach simply doesn’t work. Why work from home two days a week, and not three? Or why not as many days as people want, and if they abuse this, take the corresponding action? How about treating people as people and try to be aware of their needs, instead of dictating absurd rules on everyone?
The future is distributed or hybrid work, and rather than damaging productivity, it will improve it. If you can’t understand this, you’ll be left out of the future, and your company will be one where people try to leave as soon as they have the chance, swapping it for another that gives them more confidence and more freedom. It will become a sink for people without the talent or ambition to adapt.
The supposed problems of distributed work are usually lumped together as the 5 Cs:
- Loss of Control
- Loss of Culture
- Loss of Collaboration
- Loss of Contribution
- Loss of Connection
And all of them, 1 through 5, are falsehoods and misconceptions cited by people who are afraid of change: managers who believe that the a business culture must be based on authority, as if we were back in the dark satanic mills of the industrial revolution, when only visual and direct supervision kept workers from slowing down.
If in the third decade of the 21st century you still see authority as the basis of your company’s culture, you have a serious problem. If authority is necessary because your employees can’t work without permanent oversight, you have a recruitment problem or, directly, a crappy corporate culture: not only do you need to recruit the right people, you also have to change that culture for a more rational one. If you believe authority is the fundamental value in labor relations, you’re trapped in the 19th century. Evolve.
Don’t hide behind myths that only obscure our fear of change: the context has changed, either you evolve and change with it, or you disappear. Contrary to Darwin’s theory of evolution, human development is is not so much due to random mutations and natural selection, but above all to cultural adaptation. It’s culture that leads us to adopt certain ways of doing things more efficiently, that gives us competitive advantages, that allows us to survive as people and as organizations. And without these changes, we simply will not survive. If we do not start working more flexibly so as to avoid those absurd traffic jams and congestion at rush hour, if we limit ourselves to simply “returning to normal”without taking advantage of the lessons learned from the pandemic, we will continue doing the same thing, and we all know where that path leads.
If we continue to allow managers paralyzed by myths and fear of change to make decisions like these, if we continue to perpetuate authority as the basis of corporate culture, we will be going about things in the wrong way. But unfortunately, there are too many people who don’t mind getting it wrong as long as they don’t lose their authority and the culture that supports it, as long as they don’t have to change their beliefs, so long as they don’t have to evolve. Identify them and try to avoid their influence in your company. They are toxic, very dangerous. For everyone.