#ValoFest2021 Reflections: Improving the Employee Experience when Working from Anywhere

Looking beyond COVID-19’s enforced transformation of work, we can see major forces changing the nature and place of work forever. As the decline in the mega trends of super consumption and mass production give way to consumer need for uniqueness and variety, so too are people looking to tailor the way they work.

Employees are losing their reason to go to a centralized office, making environmentally friendly choices of not commuting during rush hours, claims futurist Ilkka Halava. This means companies need to find new ways to improve the employee experience, so they can work effectively across physical and digital boundaries as well as functional silos.

The digital transformation of work and how companies deal with it, were the themes of #ValoFest 2021. We hosted three separate, but aligned, virtual seminars on 21st of April in the APAC, EMEA, and NA regions, with an impressive line-up of speakers. Sessions provided insights and practical advice even for an evangelist of modern work like me, who has worked from anywhere for two decades.

Cultivate joint habits to create a successful employee experience

Working from anywhere is the term that David Burkus, best-selling author and TedEx speaker, introduced when describing the future state of work. David’s #ValoFest keynote yesterday gave me chills as I discovered a new route to greater efficiency, business outcomes and enhanced employee experience in the world of digital workplace.

In his session he dived into research on what makes virtual work succeed. Shared understanding, shared identity, and psychological safety are not new characteristics of a successful working environment, but in a virtual world building joint habits or encouraging dissent is just that much harder. He said leaders must become more aware of facilitating moments that are natural settings for social humans.

Following along the same lines, employee engagement specialist Alysha M. Campbell reminded us that more than 70% of communication is non-verbal and via virtual channels anything we want to come across has to be much more intense. Therefore, the leadership model in this transition to hybrid work must focus specifically on energizing the employees.

Overcoming the fear of the unknown is a good place to start

At this point the listener starts wondering. Since we know what ought to be done, why do we fail on the attempts in making the hybrid-work scenarios succeed?

As so often, the problem starts with the human factor. Bluntly put, as the best-selling author Scott Berkun reminds us, we just refuse any change. It does not matter if an innovation is for the better, we still refuse to take it on as it is unknown.

Even the greatest commodities in today’s society, like the lightbulb, required a lot of effort to become a success when introduced in the first place. Even if the lightbulb made lighting up the room a lot simpler in contrast to a candle, it was still something unfamiliar and perhaps even scary.

In overcoming the resistance of change within digital working models, change management guru Al Lee-Bourke has seen it all. In his vivid manner, he reminds us that a good start would be to speak in the language of the employee.

Take for example a commodity like the car. As a driver, we are not taught about the engine and other technical details. Instead, we concentrate on learning how to push the pedals, turn the wheel, and obey traffic rules.

Show, not tell, how digital tools can help

So, why do we do just the opposite when it comes to introducing digital working practices, for instance Microsoft Teams meetings? Instead of telling the audience what features there are to start with, why not show them how digital tools can help them to do their job better?

Perhaps, this adoption of the new type of work is so hard because all of us are still learning. The leaders do not have the best practices to copy from their previous supervisors. There are no structures or models in place, but we must build them together.

Just like Al demonstrates, the organizations themselves cannot be changed, only individuals. Therefore, for the leader it is critical to build alliances leading by example. The end result of changing employee behavior may result in positive organizational change.

Fortunately, the business leaders guiding their organization at the mist of new era of work do not have to know it all. The key is to start adopting the human-centric models of the physical world to digital settings.

Empower teams to work effectively from anywhere

And at this year’s #ValoFest, David Burkus’s session provided a nine-bullet outline for getting the most vital characteristics in place. Although, we at Valo like to see ourselves as pioneers of modern work, right after wrapping up the #ValoFest, our leadership team agreed on the first actions based on David’s framework.

It will be interesting to see what forms of work will prevail after the pandemic when we’re free to select our place of work. For me personally, it is obvious that the office is not the place to be productive but somewhere to strengthen the natural bond in order to empower teams work effectively from anywhere.

I encourage anyone trying to make sense of the hybrid work to sign up for the brilliant #ValoFest session recordings here. All 15, including the ones not mentioned in this blog, will be available for audiences to view next week.

Want to know more about how to improve the employee experience?

Read our Q&A with the fantastic remote work expert Laurel Farrer from Distribute Consulting. She says companies embracing a hybrid model of work will reap the benefits, including improved employee retention, saved recruiting costs, productivity benefits, and overall profitability. Find the full interview here.

If you want some practical tips on how to get your employees to embrace new technology, our friend and Microsoft 365 expert, Tracy van der Schyff shared her tips with us. She says investing in tech alone won’t fix your problems, but training your people on how to use the new technology will. Find out how to do it here.


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