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The New Rituals of Work: Design Leads the Way

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Despite so many technological advances, the way people worked stayed fairly static for many years. Work has now changed suddenly; there is no doubt about that. Where work was mostly in person, now a lot of work is remote or in a hybrid model. Nobody wanted this change to happen in this way — by being forced to quickly adjust due to a global health crisis. It’s like the whole working world collectively face-planted. No one asks to fall. But with any fall, there is an opportunity to reassess, get back up, and change course. Now, there is a tremendous opportunity to redesign the rituals of work. Ashok Krish is the Global Head of Digital Workplace at Tata Consultancy Services, and he believes we are in a transitional phase of work where new routines and rituals are being established.

“A lot of new rituals of remote work had to be put in place. And I think that is the single biggest culture change that a lot of companies missed; more so than the technology. I think the technology, most companies already had it. They just accelerated the adoption and rollout of it.” 

The entire world is right in the middle of a work culture change. Employees are still learning to work and be productive from a distance. And companies are figuring out how to bring people together despite distance. But there is a way to bridge the divide between a company and it’s employees, wherever they may be physically working. Thoughtful analytics and technological design are the answer, and when applied effectively, they can create new digital norms that foster productivity and employee contentment.    

On this episode of IT Visionaries, Ashok explains how work must be reimagined with these new norms in mind. He details how new rituals must be designed and then incorporated, and he dives into how reshaping the old way of work can actually open up new possibilities and efficiencies within the technology companies already have under the hood. Enjoy the episode!

Main Takeaways

  • Transitioning Work Rituals: Work has changed suddenly from mostly in person to often remote. The old rituals of work no longer apply today. Long, frequent meetings don’t work well remotely. Perhaps they were never really efficient in person either. New rituals must be established for remote work to be successful and for workers to be content.  
  • Valuing Frontline Workers: Frontline workers are immensely valuable. Given the tumult of the last eighteen months, companies have learned to better appreciate their frontline workers. Historically, frontline workers were underserved by IT and had to find their own tech solutions. Now, there is more of a focus on providing frontline workers the IT support they need.
  • New Work Norms: New norms must be established given more work is remote or hybrid now. Technology can be used to increase productivity and contentment in the workforce. Using tech to limit meeting times and messages increases the importance of these activities. It’s essential to get two-way communication going, perhaps especially in high power distance cultures. Interactive town halls, that aren’t too long, can create two-sided communication that connects leaders with their employees. 
  • Creating a Culture of Connection: The challenge with remote work is that we can no longer rely on physical proximity to create connection between people and to identify when people are feeling disconnected. Analytics can be helpful to determine if people are overworked and stressed. Then, HR needs to reach out to establish contact to make sure employees are doing okay.
  • Ritualization of Design: New IT design principles must be established that support today’s work and workers. Ritual can be helpful for many types of work because it establishes an efficient guide on how to efficiently get things done the right way.

For a more in-depth look at this episode, check out the article below.


Article 

Despite so many technological advances, the way people worked stayed fairly static for many years. Work has now changed suddenly; there is no doubt about that. Where work was mostly in person, now a lot of work is remote or in a hybrid model. Nobody wanted this change to happen in this way — by being forced to quickly adjust due to a global health crisis. It’s like the whole working world collectively face-planted. No one asks to fall. But with any fall, there is an opportunity to reassess, get back up, and change course. Now, there is a tremendous opportunity to redesign the rituals of work. Ashok Krish is the Global Head of Digital Workplace at Tata Consultancy Services, and he asserted that we are in a transitional phase of work where new routines and rituals are being established.

“A lot of new rituals of remote work had to be put in place,” Krish said. “And I think that is the single biggest culture change that a lot of companies missed; more so than the technology. I think the technology, most companies already had it. They just accelerated the adoption and rollout of it.” 

The entire world is right in the middle of a work culture change. Employees are still learning to work and be productive from a distance. And companies are figuring out how to bring people together despite distance. But there is a way to bridge the divide between a company and it’s employees, wherever they may be physically working. Thoughtful analytics and technological design are the answer, and when applied effectively, they can create new digital norms that foster productivity and employee contentment.    

On a recent episode of IT Visionaries, Krish explained how work must be reimagined with these new norms in mind. He detailed how new rituals must be designed and then incorporated, and he dove into how reshaping the old way of work can actually open up new possibilities and efficiencies within the technology companies already have under the hood.

Now that the nature of work has fundamentally changed, it’s first important to consider the assumptions that were made about work as well as how workers had been previously valued.

“Interestingly, the pandemic forced companies to rethink how important frontline employees were,” Krish said. “…I think most companies, what they realized was the fact that their frontline employees were the most critical and underappreciated and underserved from a technology standpoint.” 

Not only had frontline workers been underserved previously in terms of technological support, many longstanding ideas about productivity were disrupted once remote work expanded. There was an antiquated mentality that many meetings and messages were required to get work done. Of course, this didn’t work very well remotely, and perhaps never really did in the office setting either. Krish maintained that technical designs could help increase efficiency. 

“One philosophy that we regularly used is this idea of digital nudging,” Krish said. “Can I use ways of digitally nudging people into certain kinds of behaviors? The other one was corporate communication.”

For instance, Krish described how creating a default meeting setting for fifteen minutes made a big difference in time management. In the least, this allowed leaders to consider if they really needed a longer meeting. Additionally, Krish mentioned a bot helped productivity by putting a limit on the amount of messages being sent each day to five. This effective, simple tech gave workers a push to make these messages important.

“The point is if everything is important, nothing is important,” Krish said.

An entirely new style of technical design concerning work is required to meet the needs of companies and workers today.

“I’m increasingly calling it ritual design,” Krish said. “Historically, why do religions have rituals? It’s a way for you to internalize a set of messages through habituation.” 

Though creativity is important, many types of work require ritualization for ease, consistency, and efficiency. New rituals need to be embraced that create connected, digital communications between companies and employees.

“There has to be a deliberate intention on both sides,” Krish said. “Employees have to constantly keep broadcasting what they’re doing. Information has to be public by default and not private by default.”

Creating communication structures that flow from management to employees and vice versa is paramount. Employers must have a pulse on how employees are doing and get them the support that they need. This can be particularly challenging as employers can no longer always lean on close physical proximity to determine how employees are feeling. Krish suggested digital, town hall style communication as a potential solution.

“Far more people are likely to participate and listen to you if they’re allowed a voice,” Krish said. “Don’t just do [a] one-way conversation; make it two way. For example, in certain cultures in Asia, you have to deliberately tell people to do this because they’re not naturally two-way communicating things because [of] high power distance and hierarchies [and] a sense of hierarchy.”

Regardless of region or culture, all workers are striving to adjust to the new normal. New work norms must be designed and then taught to all workers. The whole working world was temporarily knocked down. The old work rituals helped the working world get back up. Ideally, these new rituals that are currently being established will lead companies and employees to deeper connection, satisfaction, and productivity. 

To hear more about how Krish and Tata are designing technologies in order to create new work rituals, check out the full episode of IT Visionaries!

To hear the entire discussion, tune into IT Visionaries here

Episode 309