Choice: Because We All Need a Little Guidance Sometimes

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Choice: Because We All Need a Little Guidance Sometimes

This month in our Wit and Wisdom for Well-Being series: Choice!

Good designers give choices that make you successful no matter what you choose. Let’s be honest, there are individuals making design decisions at organizations who don’t even make their own wardrobe decisions. So, it’s important that as we think about the choices we provide to our stakeholders, we give them the right variety and clear, concise, and consistent information to help them be successful in whatever choice they make.

We’ve discussed previously the concept of autonomy and the importance of variety and choice, but how does that actually work in practice?

Hybrid remains a hot topic as we evolve out of the pandemic. It’s abstract as a term and even more complicated in action. The idea of “hybrid” is ideally meant to support variety and choice, however, unless the strategy is executed well, the result could be employee turnover, burnout, and loss of engagement. So to be successful, what choices do you give people? Does this model of workplace strategy function effectively for the organization, its people, and its goals?

ICE CREAM FOR DINNER?

When giving people a choice, the goal is to help them be successful. If you give a 4-year-old a choice of anything they want for dinner, odds are they’re going to pick ice cream. However, if you give them the choice between carrots, peas, or green beans, you’re helping them make a decision that’s ideally better for them than ice cream.

While we aren’t generally planning workplace strategies around 4-year-olds, adults have been known to make poor decisions as well. Admittedly, ice cream for dinner seems a bit decadent, but I’ve been known to have popcorn and red wine for dinner every now and again. Sometimes I make that choice because I don’t have better options in my kitchen, other times it’s because I am too tired to put forth any energy other than opening a bottle of wine and using my Whirly Pop. Perhaps if I had something healthy to eat already in my kitchen, or something else that was quick and easy to make, I would’ve made a better decision. Sometimes, I just want salty popcorn and red wine and perhaps I believe this is a “healthier” option than ice cream.

Now that I’ve set off your cravings, what I’m getting at here is that people make both bad and good decisions for a variety of reasons. A lot of the decision-making process has to do with the options people have available to them, how informed they are of these choices, and the ease and convenience of the options.

CHOICE IN THE HYBRID WORKPLACE

When we look at the design of space, there is a lot of thoughtful research that goes into understanding the choices people make and how they interact with their built environment. The WELL Building Standard builds upon the idea of “passive participation” in a healthy environment—being healthy just by being within the space and making healthier options easier to choose by design.

This concept of helping people make good choices by design applies to the hybrid strategy as well, though it’s a bit more complicated. To my knowledge there has been little evidence to date of companies that have mastered the challenge of “hybrid” work, however it is important to recognize that how hybrid is defined is unique to each organization. Thinking critically about the variety of options available and the resulting choices employees may select can help you work toward meeting the needs of the organization as well as your employees.

In addition to burnout and turnover, one of the key ways you know that your “hybrid” strategy isn’t working is when your employees don’t understand what choices they have to manage their workday. A carefully designed workplace strategy offers options that support success for both individuals and the organization. It starts with clear choices for employees, it considers the convenience of each option, and I cannot emphasize this enough: a good strategy ensures that information is communicated clearly to all stakeholders.

Communication is essential to helping people make good choices. When providing people with information they need to make an informed decision, being clear, concise, and consistent goes a long way.

AS A REMINDER, COMMUNICATION SHOULD BE:

  1. Clear. Using simple and unambiguous terminology is important. Explain the intent of the policy, options available, and how to make a selection. Even clarifying what the time frame is for “day” can be important. More than flexibility in days, employees want flexibility in their schedule, so consider options that allow for someone to come into the office at 10am instead of 8am to avoid traffic on their commute.
  2. Concise. People are distracted easily. Squirrel! So, keep communication short. Give individuals what they need to make the decision and if they want to learn more, provide them options for Q&A.
  3. Consistent. In lieu of information from the source, people get creative. Consider sending out updates on a regular cadence, such as every Tuesday at 10am. Even if you have no specific updates, use it as an opportunity to “work out loud” and share some of the decisions you are in the process of making. You’ve hired smart people, put their brains to work.

These insights aren’t meant to give you the answer to all your hybrid issues; they’re meant to help you think critically about how you define your workplace strategy and some best practices for execution of that strategy.

As always, we’re here to help with the process. If you have any questions, thoughts, ideas, or would like to learn more about how Stok and our subject matter experts can support your organization, please reach out.