Pecking Hell! Adapting to new ways of working
Let’s talk eggs… and work flexibility, creativity and agile…and (add whatever new thing ambitious change to the way people work that your business is focusing on!)
The “talent” that produce our well-loved and relied upon nutritious product of the egg can be offered 4 different ways of working… Battery, Cage, Free range & Organic free range.
As the consumer of the egg every time we purchase eggs, we are given the choice to support one of these ways of working.
I am always a little taken aback when I see people buy caged eggs. I am very conscious of how wanky that may sound. I totally respect that there are many people who make food choices based on financial decisions alone. However when I watch them buy them, I feel a little sad to think those hens, the little workers, didn’t get the chance to be in the sun or dig in dirt…but then when I look at the price of organic free range eggs, I think Geezz… what do I need to sacrifice for those? So in full transparency, the vast amount of time, I take my free range eggs, and I go on my way.
A couple of weeks ago, I entered back in to an office environment, after 11 months of working outside the structured walls of a formalised office.
I sit in a row of straight desks, with bright lights blaring down, multiple screen options flashing up a continuous stream of requests, and filtrated warm air blowing down upon me. By all means, this a modern and well fitted out office. There are even a few plants dotted around. There are large windows nearby so natural light is there, but unless I consciously choose to move towards it, the neon lights override it. I can get up and move however usually it won’t be very far. Most typically any movement I do is towards a form of distraction or comfort; a cup of tea, a biscuit, or the toilet.
For the majority of 8 hours, I sit at the flashing multiple screens and endeavour to create insight and be a productive worker.
After my first day back, my eyes hurt and I had a mild headache. I knew they were a result of the environment that my body was no longer used to. I could feel how having not been in this environment for some time, I had a new level of sensitivity and my physical body felt overloaded.
Then when I was leaving on my second day, I walked out of the building and it felt like the fresh air slapped me. For the first time in 8 hours, I recognised that I was having to respond to a natural stimulant. And my first thought was – I wanted to get drunk!
When I scanned through my day I would have classified it as a “Good Day”. Yet on leaving the office environment I noticed just how over stimulated, numb and disconnected from my sense of feeling I had become and as a result I felt a degree of uncomfortable sensations. So my default from my full time working days was to socialise and numb, with alcohol, for the idea of heading home to watch something like Better Homes and Gardens, was not going to cut it.
Gratefully, I had a walking commute that day. As I walked home, I tried to unpack the numb feeling I had. As I expanded my thoughts of the day beyond the practical, the image of caged hens came to mind. Again, I felt like I had been slapped, I was a bit shocked, as this visual felt like a direct correlation to the feeling of my day. I felt like what I imagined a caged hen would feel like.
I WAS the caged Hen!
For the past 11 months, I had not experienced feeling so numb and overstimulated by my environment. I had been free to roam. I had been working on different projects, working from home, in cafes or in small collaborations – and unbeknown to me, I had adapted to this sense of freedom and changes to my working environment. As a result I had become a free range hen!
I had left the environment that had been pre-built for production, and I had left to roam. Free to be creative and move and make my own spaces. I felt the weather, and I sat in natural light. I had one screen. Every day I was free to discover new things and produce something I valued. And every day I was consciously choosing how to nourish myself -whether that be with the type of work I chose to do, the food I consumed or the movement I incorporated in my day. So in a sense, I had really become an Organic Free Range Hen! Fed only on my own sense of passion and purpose – no toxins or chemicals.
There is a lot of work going on at the moment in all types of business that is supporting greater flexibility in the workforce. It is being promoted to allow for workers to manage their work life balance. The focus of the “sales pitch” around flexibility is usually around managing family needs, but for me, I feel the need for flexible workplaces goes way beyond these basic benefits.
The need for flexible working environments and a greater sense of individual autonomy is the way to shift the working environment and the embodied experience of working to a more entrepreneurial way of being. One that businesses big and small need to embrace in this new working era.
As we slowly try to move away from the industrial age, where we have asked people to turn up, to make “X” number of widgets or push a paper, answer a phone and then go home. We now recognise that this is not the way we need to be working but for many this transition to more agile ways of being, is a great challenge.
The supported efforts to make these changes are seeing management expectations be constantly challenged by an individual’s reality of the change and the constant increase in the need for everyone to expand their capacity to deal with greater and greater levels of uncertainty.
The feeling of “uncertainty” is now sold as the new state of normal.
So, when will we recognise that this state of uncertainty is not something that humans thrive in?
If we are going to ensure the success of this new way of working, then we need to provide people with the tools to manage their fear and stress response to the new way of being. We need to be able to equip an individual to be able to find a level of comfort, centeredness and belonging – within the sense of uncertainty. We need to help individuals to become ok with balancing the dichotomy or all the benefits of these new ways of working will never be harnessed.
As leaders, we are no longer asking people to just complete a task and move it on to next stage of the process. We are no longer asking people to just lay an average egg. We now are asking them to produce the highest quality and Instagram-able egg!
Today, we are asking individuals to see a bigger picture and to have greater sensitivity to customer needs. We ask them to not only complete a process but also identify the gaps, and take action to close them. We are asking people to paint the picture or story of what the data tells us, and to think creatively for the solutions. We are asking people to be innovative and inclusive.
We are asking them to not only think but also to feel more. Really for the first time, we need our teams to utilise their sense of feeling more than just their thought.
Yet, many businesses, are still creating environments similar to that of the caged hen. We are creating environments that block an individual’s own sensitivities, and as we become numb to the issues and our own sense of intuition, we are unable to orientate ourselves towards the new changes.
Farmers have discovered, you can’t just open the cages and let the hens free. They have recognised that when you do that, the hens’ sense of order and their own health can suffer. In the new opportunities of freedom comes with it the establishment of the new pecking order, and if all the right support mechanisms are not in place, then the hens react with fear and dominating behaviours resort to pecking each other, sometimes to the point of death.
So how are we supporting individuals to really take up the opportunity to make the most of the potential freedoms despite the fear it can create? How are we helping individuals to become conscious of their fear triggers and give them tools to use their feelings constructively?
We are so desensitised by our environments and culture of striving, that we have lost our ability to notice the subtleties’ and the importance of looking after the individual fear response and if we want to create teams that are flexible, and agile; then why are we not talking about the human need to feel safe, and recognise that fear is a naturally inbuilt function to change.
We have half opened cage doors, but no one gently guiding individuals out into the open, to see what fresh air actually feels like. How are we equipping individuals to deal with the unravelling of the sensations that arise after being locked in the cage for so long? How do provide individuals with a sense of self control even in the constant state of change?
By helping people to expand their self awareness on all levels. Through awareness comes choice and through choice comes personal ownership. We can learn what to do, we can know how to do it, but until we embody the new ways of working within our sense of “being” then the benefits of these new ways of working will be a long way off.
Interested in learning more about expanding your teams individual awareness or how you can create an environment that supports better wellbeing?
Then reach out, I would love to work with you.