When I was in elementary school, I remember hearing the adults discussing the possibility of installing air conditioning at our school. While many were in favor, a very vocal part of the community said, “We didn’t have air conditioning when I was in school. If it was good enough for me, then it is good enough for them.” In the end, the school did get air conditioning, but it was far from the last time I heard that argument. Whenever a group or organization tries something new, there is sometimes a background murmur of, “It was good enough for me…” And over the last few years, for better and for worse, there have been plenty of opportunities for that murmuring to arise. We have seen quite the spectrum of workplace fads — open plan office, hot-desking, remote work, crazy business titles (e.g., Chief Jedi), consensus management, and the one that has possibly received the most pushback with recent layoffs: our business is a family. The list goes on and on. And each time we hear the rallying cry against the new. Should we practice discernment and not jump on to every new fad? Of course. But our growth is stagnated when we limit ourselves to the “good enough” mindset.
Fighting the Scarcity Mindset
It is easy to fall into the scarcity mindset, simply because there is truth to it. When it came to installing air conditioning, it meant that taxes would be increased for local residents. When trying out a new fad at work, it will generally cost us some time and/or energy. However, these costs can rightly be considered as investments in the future. It is our opportunity to see the possible benefits that might arrive from this investment.
Evolving with the Workplace
When it comes to the actual experience of workplace trends, even I can be dismissive. It is easy to assume each new endeavor will be a waste of time before we even start. But when I take a step back and look at the big picture, I appreciate these attempts. Sometimes it’s two steps forward and one step back. Occasionally, it’s a leap forward. And we experienced this in a few regards during the pandemic. We were forced to experiment more holistically, as companies, with remote work (which was a massive success on multiple fronts). Also, during that time, business leaders were called upon to be more authentic and emotionally aware of their teams. It was a season with a lot of growing pains, but we are reaping the benefits now. We were forced to try new things, and we grew and learned.
Reaping the Benefits
Just this past week, a friend told me about a moment from his workday that was only possible because of the growth we have experienced in the workplace. During a video conference, a colleague said she needed to step away for a couple of minutes because her terminally ill husband’s nurse had arrived for assessments. The other team members said that she could skip the meeting, but she declined and said that this balance of working while taking care of him was her life. It was a beautiful moment amidst her struggle. Her coworkers were able to understand better and appreciate her commitment and contributions. She was able to normalize her experience and receive the support of her coworkers. They grew closer as a team. And they reached this moment because change was forced upon us and then accepted. She is able to continue contributing in her position while monitoring her husband’s condition because of remote work. She could be honest about her need to step away because of the push for authenticity at the workplace. Additionally, her coworkers were able to respond with compassion instead of awkwardness because these honest interactions have become normalized. In the end, this moment was made possible, and this team was improved because, while the old way was good for a time, it is no longer good enough.
So, yes, looking into new workplace fads and determining which ones to try can be annoying and energy draining. I have definitely experienced moments in my own career where I was fine with settling with the status quo. However, I don’t want future generations to have my experience. I am standing on the shoulders of those who came before me. I have the benefits of electricity, vaccinations and transportation. I want future generations to stand on my generation’s shoulders as well. So, that means I need to push for change as well. And as we push the bounds of technology, we need to continue assessing our workplaces and procedures, and strive for more — because settling for “good enough” is less than our future generations deserve.