Last year i wrote a book called ‘Finding Your Campfire: A Remote Working Survival Guide’. I called it my ‘emergency book’, written over the first two months of the UK lockdown, and it explored three aspects of the journey out of the office, and into the distributed organisation.
The first theme was the ‘Individual Journey’, which considered ‘time and boundaries’, and the ways we must work to separate our spaces, to retail our energy, and sanity. The second theme was about ‘Leading Remote Teams’, and focussed on how we hold each other safely, and ensure nobody is left behind. Finally, ‘Being Together Apart’ examined how cultured fares with the move to remote: it used the analogy of the campfire to consider how we cannot all carry the same weight, and our collective responsibility to shelter and support.
Now, at the start of 2021, i am looking at how to follow up from that work: many people are exhausted, teams are facing a new year whilst still being apart, and there is no clarity when this particular journey will end.
’Pause – Refresh – Renew’ was an idea that i introduced in the Campfire book, and am now developing out to the next stage: it considers how we let go of old models of work and working, and truly adapt into new ones. It is the breath we take at the top of a climb, before we continue the journey towards the summit.
The ‘Pause’ is about recognising the journey that we have made, and the price that has been paid. This price will vary by individual, and much of the cost may be hidden. It’s also a pause to consider how the Organisation itself has changed: what did we lose in the move to remote, what do we miss, and what have we gained. This may seem obvious, but is it the same ‘obvious’ to us all?
Refresh is about letting things go, and packing for the journey ahead: many of us carry forward weights that we could do without. From task lists to unspoken guilt, not all of the load that we carry is visible to everyone else, not necessarily to us ourselves! ‘Refresh’ is an activity of unpacking our bags, considering what is important, and what we can discard or give away.
Renewal is about the ‘us’ of the Organisation: a commitment to each other, and a conversation about the culture that will support us over the journey ahead. Culture is created through these conversations, and the actions that they provoke, so this is a chance to renew something that may feel as familiar as the carpet beneath our feet.
Of course, an ‘event’, or a ‘book’, cannot cause you to pause, cannot tell you what to carry forward or leave behind, and certainly cannot give you a new culture. It can only act as a framework or provocation for a sustained period of renewal, a period of activity that will be carried in a tension between every individual, but also in the word and actions of the Organisation itself: this year may be the time when the phrase ‘we are right behind you’ will need to be evidenced through action.