Episode 67

I love the office !!!??

A look back into the evolution of the way we work today, where we're headed, the most recent Gallup survey, my personal story, a surprising announcement from an OEM, and the questions we need to be asking ourselves BEFORE we write that back to the office policy.

Learn more about creating your own internal company podcast

Learn more about your host, Jan Griffiths in this short video

Episodes referenced in this episode

Stephen M.R. Covey - Trust & Inspire

Jason Stocker - Volition

Articles and data sources

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Welcome to the Finding Gravitas podcast. It's time to stop trying to fit someone else's mold and step into the world of authentic leadership. Connect with that irresistible force, that is Gravitas. Your host, Jan Griffiths will guide you through an exploration into exactly what this elusive quality means and how you can get it. Now, let's join Jan, on the quest for Gravitas.

Jan Griffiths:

Hello, and welcome to the show. You're here today because you want to be a better leader in the automotive industry. And you're looking to learn from other leaders and experts, both inside and outside of the automotive industry to expand your knowledge and challenge your thinking. You're here because you have more of a growth mindset, rather than a fixed mindset. You're open to learning, and you're ready to transform your work culture to take on the challenges of the future. And oh, boy, do we have a lot of them in this industry? One of the challenges we're all faced with right now, is the return to the office. There it is. What should it look like? How many days a week? Should we be back in the office? Is the hybrid model here to stay? What do people really want? What do you want as a leader? And why? I'll use a combination of a look back into the world of work, and how we even started with the Office concept. How did we get to where we are today? My personal story, my relationship with the world of work and the evolution from the nine to five office job to my hybrid world of work. The recent data from Gallup and a very recent announcement from an automotive OEM that might surprise you. So let's get into it, shall we?

Jan Griffiths:

Where did the traditional office environment come from? And how did it evolve to where we are today? Do you think about that? He might surprise you to know that the auto industry had a major impact in the way we work today. And I believe we have the opportunity to reshape the work culture. Yet again, we can be the leaders in this, we really can. It started back with medieval monks working in quiet spaces, designed specifically for those sedentary type activities such as copying and studying manuscripts. Then, several centuries ago, Europe and the US underwent the industrial revolution, a transformation of our manufacturing processes enabled by the development of new machinery of factories. We went away from this idea of cottage industries that were dispersed all over the countries into a much more focused area, which created the cities and it was all about standardization and scalable efficiencies. That's what factories were all about. The Revolution served to bind workforces to specific locations, cities. And that's where we started to come up with rigid working hours. And we saw this huge shift as mass population migration from the rural areas into the cities. Post-industrial revolution life would never be the same again. Does that sound familiar to you? Are we going through another Industrial Revolution type of event? Is that what's happening here? I think it is. Believe it or not, the makings of the 40 hour workweek started in the 19 century. And here's some other quick highlights. In 1817, after the Industrial Revolution, activists and labor union groups advocated for better working conditions. People were working 80 to 100 hours a week during that time. And then in 1866, the National Labor Union asked Congress to pass a law mandating the eight hour work day.

Jan Griffiths:

The law wasn't passed in 1866. But it certainly increased public support for the change. In 1886. In Illinois, they passed a law mandating eight hour workdays. Many employers refuse to cooperate. And that led to a massive workers strike in Chicago. And there was all kinds of problems. And the aftermath is known as the Haymarket Riot in 1926, and here it is. Here's the automotive side of this. Henry Ford popularized the 40 hour workweek after he discovered through his research, that working more yielded only a small increase in productivity that lasted a short period of time. Boy, if that was the case of Henry Ford new that back in 1926, how did we end up with all these crazy long work hours, and this badge of honor that we like to wear in automotive about how many hours we've worked and how many vacation days we've sacrificed, but I digress. In 1938, Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act, which required employers to pay overtime to all employees who worked more than 44 hours a week, they amended that act two years later, to reduce the work to 40 hours. And in 1940, the 40 hour workweek became a US law. Since 1940, we've seen some movement in the world of work, really, in the the way that the place is designed. So we've gone away from offices in 1964, the first cubicle was invented, and it actually took a while to catch on. And now of course, we would love to llove the cube. So that's the history. And here we are today. And yes, I do believe that we are facing another version of an industrial revolution, his massive transformation taking place in the way we work, and how we choose to engage with our work. We're no longer accepting the nine to five model, the command and control leadership model. That certainly identified us as an industry and in our past, no more, we're evolving into the gig economy. And challenging the employer employee model is challenging the 40 hour workweek isn't enough. Now we've got this whole idea of the gig economy to deal with. And for those of you who might not be familiar, a gig worker is somebody who chooses to work part time or for on a specific project, selling their skills to different employers, I could be considered a gig worker, because I don't work for one client or one company, it challenges the traditional employer employee model. Here's a data point for you, at least 59 million American adults participated in the gig economy in 2020, roughly 36% of the US workforce, and by 2023, experts predict that 52% of the American workforce will have spent some time participate participating in a gig economy. Those are staggering numbers. So that's a little look back into the past and a glimpse into the future. Let me share with you my personal story of the evolution of the world of work and why I titled this episode. I love the office, because I do. And let me explain myself. Like many of you, I started my life in the automotive industry in a manufacturing plant, where even though I worked in the office, I remember walking up some clunky metal staircase onto the mezzanine. And in those days, that was back in the 80s, you had no choice. You had to be in the office. I think my hours were eight to 430. Back then. It's hard to remember all the way back to those days at BorgWarner back in Wales, but I never questioned it.

Jan Griffiths:

I never thought about working from home. It simply wasn't done. And I accepted it, as we all did. And as my career progressed, and I remember those days when I moved to Michigan, and those cold winter, Michigan mornings, negative temperatures, snow and ice on the roads and no matter what you made sure that you made it to the office on time. Even if you literally risked life and limb in those weather conditions. You are expected to be in the office on time, in fact, most days earlier, because we wore that again as a badge of honor that we were supposed to struggle through all kinds of weather conditions no matter what to be in the office on time it was considered weak. If you didn't show up, somehow your loyalty was questioned. And we scoffed and laughed at those who didn't make it in on time. And remember those days when you were sick, and you pushed through it, didn't you? I know you did. I Dead? Because again, I did not want to be considered weak or lesser, then we won't do that now. Well we know not after, not after COVID, not after the pandemic, we have to think about what kind of culture we're creating when we do these things. We just operated that way, because that's the way it was. But we've got to be more intentional and much more self aware. What kind of culture are we creating, even now to this day, I hear people talking about leaders, senior leaders saying, yes, hybrid work is totally acceptable. We have complete flexibility in this company. But then they are in the office every single day of the week. You can't say one thing and do another. Either you believe in the culture that you're creating and the behaviors that you want to see from people or you don't, don't say one thing and do another

Jan Griffiths:

As my career progressed, and the technology evolved, because again, you couldn't, couldn't work from home back in the 80s. You didn't have enough a laptop, it was no such thing. I remember my very first portable computer, I wouldn't call it a laptop, it was more like an overgrown sewing machine. In AVEN, the ability to take that home, oh, I was so proud. It was Allied Signal probably in the early 90s timeframe, and how or how proud I was, I could take this home course to work after hours, not during working hours. Because again, working from home was not a thing. And then as my career progressed, particularly in my last corporate role, I discovered co working. And I've always loved the office environment. I love the banter back and forth, understanding what other colleagues are going through working with people to develop a position on a project. I just, I just loved it. I loved the whole collaboration, the whole vibe of the office. And then I discovered this idea of a co working space. And I joined we work down in Detroit and I started to work there one day a month. Well, actually, I started that we work because I had scheduled our global team meeting off site in the city. And it was great because it was a different environment. It was away from the office, we had the energy of Detroit. People came in from different countries, and they were forced to figure out how to navigate the city together. Our great team building team bonding, I like we work I liked the office space, it was much more relaxed in nature, there was a lot more opportunity to meet other people that worked in different industries in different locations. I was kind of surprised one day actually, I met somebody that worked there from GM. And I said, Oh, that's interesting. I can literally see your head office from this office. Why are you here? And they said, Well, it's because of the environment. We just like the energy. We'd like the vibe, it's very conducive to innovation and creativity. And I loved it. And so I started to work there one day, a month, just one day a month. And this this idea of creating a workspace where it's a pleasant experience. It was different from the sea of cubes that I was working with, and the executive office row. And I remember the day when I was working, and we work and I called into an executive staff meeting and my boss said, where are you? And I said, Well, I'm in Detroit. I'm at work today. And he said, Well, do you have meetings? I said, No. I'm just working here. And you could tell by the awkward pause in silence, that it was not approved. It was frowned upon. I mean, I didn't ask for approval. But you could you could feel the disapproval. You could just feel it. It was palpable. And I thought, you know, wait a minute. I'm incredibly productive here. I feel great about being here. It's a vibrant community. It's much better than being in an office with no window and overlooking the sea of cubes. It just it felt so different. And I I loved it. So to me it was my first taste of a different way of working and I started to question. This is before COVID, how we work and why we work. And then I started to work from home about every other Friday. We didn't have a work from home Friday policy back then. But I just sensed that I needed this time to somehow get grounded. When I was in the office. I tended to go from meeting to meeting to meeting. And lots of, you know, one on one conversations, lots of collaboration, which is good. But then I also needed to get a grip on my home life, you know, being a single mom, a daughter in school and and I just needed that little bit of extra flexibility. And it gave me time to focus on tasks that I couldn't really focus on in the office because of the interruptions. And it gave me the flexibility to pick up my daughter from school and do some other things that I needed to do. And again, I found that overall, that really helped me be overall more productive. And again, there were a few raised eyebrows because it was not an approved policy, but a I did it anyway.

Jan Griffiths:

And then fast forward. Four years ago, I quit my corporate job and started my own business. So now I have all the flexibility in the world. I can live wherever I want work wherever I want. And I found that I miss the office, I miss people, I miss the watercooler conversation and miss the collaboration. And so I had to figure out what what to do as an entrepreneur. So I joined another co working space, I joined bamboo in Royal Oak, Michigan. And, do, I absolutely love it. And let me tell you why. There's different areas, different spaces in the co working world in bamboo that I can go to, to do different things, different tasks, I use the conference room, when I have meetings, I have clients or people that I need to meet, I have a dedicated desk, not a cube, it's just a dedicated desk. And it's not an office does not have four walls. It's got my stuff in it, which I kind of like, and it's got my tea bags in it, which you know, I like, and it's my spot in and there's a space that's upstairs by the window that I absolutely love. It's a coffee table to whiteboard and four chairs, and it's by the window. So there's lots of light. And I love to sit up there when I really need to think and be in my creative spot. So I'll sit in the chair, maybe have a cup of coffee, do some research, and then write down my ideas on the whiteboard. And then I'll go back to my computer and do whatever I need to do with it. And then because it's in a city in Royal Oaks, a nice place to walk around in the nice weather, grab a coffee, it all works for me. But then there's other days when I enjoy working from home. I figured out how to make it all work for me. But here's the thing, it's my choice. I design my day in line with my work. And I make it all work with my life. And this is the part that I think we're missing. It's not a matter of policy. It's not a matter of how many days we need to be in the office or not in the office. It's about choice. If we look around us, we want choice, we want to be able to choose we don't want to be told what to do, it's about being trusted enough to make the choice to work in the best environment possible. And what's right, for one person might not be right for somebody else. And use another paradigm that I think we all have to break in that as we were brought up to expect that wherever we do for one we got to do for the other and it's very much a cookie cutter approach. And you know, we've got to have a policy and a procedure and every single person has got to follow it. Now I'm not suggesting a complete world without any kind of policy and procedure. Of course not. But these policies and procedures that govern how we work, need to be guidelines. And there needs to be a lot of room in there a lot of gray area so that we can meet people where they are. This is how we'll create a vibrant work culture. And as we go through life, our needs change. I know that my need to be working from home was far greater when my daughter was younger than it is now. She's in college now. I don't need so much flexibility but I certainly did when I was a single mom and back in the early days when I was taking a back and forth to school. And that flexibility meant a whole lot to me back then.

Jan Griffiths:

So our needs change as we go through life. And I believe that a great employer, a great company, and a great leader understands that people are unique and different. And it's okay to recognize that this idea of these rigid work rules are really remnants of the command and control leadership style culture. And then you have this idea that we punish people, if they don't follow those rules, that's not how we're going to win. In the age of digital transformation and disruption that we're in right now, no. Gen Z is not going to play that game, you know, that I had, I had a woman a young woman wants it worked for me. And she's brilliant. She has four children, for a time for very young children. So as you can imagine, for her to be in the office, which by the way, was quite a distance from her home was a lot of pressure. And she did the typical mom work routine. And to all the women, all the mothers out there, you'll know what this is, you leave the office as close to on time as you possibly can go home, take care of the kids do whatever you need to do, put everybody to bed, and then you crank up to the computer, and you put in a few more hours. And sometimes you do that, because that's just what you need to do. Other times you do it because there's a sort of sense of guilt that you were not able to stay late at the office, I felt that before. So the work gets done, the quality of the work was there, the work was always done. And but there was an awful lot of stress on her every day. And so I gave her as much flexibility as I could. And then one day, I was called into HR, because somebody had complained that she had more flexibility than others. And somehow HR had clocked her get imagine that some HR had checked what when exactly, she was coming into the office. And when she was leaving. And I was presented with this list of timestamps, and it was suggested that I was clearly losing control, I was not in control of my people, and that I needed to handle it. Well, quite honestly, I was flabbergasted, I couldn't believe that I was faced with this, from the head of HR, about making sure that a director level employee, I have to make sure they clock in and clock out at the right time. I was mortified. So you can imagine what I did with that, absolutely nothing. And I saw myself quite frankly, as a buffer between a leadership culture that was often command and control and the kind of culture that I wanted for my team. And so I promptly ignored it and didn't do anything with it. Now, what I should have done was pushed back to the VP of HR and challenged the leadership model and the culture, and I'm gonna be honest with you, I didn't do that. So we can't do these things anymore. We can't come up with these rigid rules and policies, and then punish people when they don't follow those rules. Because it just doesn't work for them. We've got to be more focused on the work on creating a high performance team on creating the right work culture that people want to be part of. It's about choice. People don't want to be forced into the office anymore. Is there a magical number of days that people should be in the office? I think that's the wrong question. The question is not about how many days should we be in the office? It's about what are we going to do to create a culture and environment where people thrive, where people want to come and gather together to do the work? When does it make sense that people come to the office to work together, let them figure it out. It might be a specific project, it might be a specific day. But that could change. It could change with the nature of the work, it could change with the makeup of the team. What I do know is this, we've got to trust people to make these decisions.

Jan Griffiths:

So let's take a look at the data. There's a recent Gallup poll. And they studied more than 140,000 us employees since the onset of the pandemic. And they say simply this the one thing is for sure, and I quote, we're not returning to the same workplace that we left. So according to the Gallup poll, pre pandemic, we had 60% of people fully on site as of just recently February the 20th. That went down to 19% on site, anticipated location in 2022 and beyond 23%, say fully on site. And then the preferred location of the employee from the employee data preferred location is only 9% on site. So the data would suggest to us setting ourselves up for a big problem here, if we are trying to push people to go back to the office, and actually only 9% Want to go back to the office full time. According to the data 53% Expect a hybrid arrangement, and 24% of employees expect to work exclusively remotely. That's a huge shift. Currently, nine out of 10 remote capable employees prefer some degree of remote work flexibility going forward. So remote work is here to stay. And according to the Gallup report, and I quote, according to our surveys, leaders and managers prefer hybrid work and they have considerable hesitation about employees being fully remote. Ah, typically leaders want to honor the flexibility that employees desire, but they are concerned about sustaining team performance and culture. If team members work primarily from home long term. For this reason, some leaders may be tempted to restrict remote work options moving forward, really. It comes down to trust, do we trust people to make the right decisions or not? I think as leaders, we all have to ask ourselves the question. Why do we feel this need to create a mold to create a policy to dictate how many days are back in the office? Why why why we love the five why's in automotive, let's apply that thinking to this. Why do we want people back in the office? Is it because we don't trust them? Is it because we think we might be considered weak by our colleagues. If we allow a more flexible workplace? Are we doing it because we get this big office and a lease. And we have we feel this obligation to try to fill it. Doesn't mean we've got to get out of a lease and change the office that we're in. But it does mean that we need to change the way that the office is laid out. If we've got different people, different groups of people coming in to do different things, let's make it more of a co working kind of environment. According to the Gallup poll, and astounding 54% of employees currently working exclusively from home, said they would likely look for another job. 54%, that's a big number think of the impact to the bottom line. If 54% of your employees decided to go look for another job. If you force them back to the office, there's a company that I just started to pay a lot more attention to.

Jan Griffiths:

And I like what I hear coming out of them. They're an automotive OEM. And it's Mitsubishi. And this came out, they put out an announcement on April 14. And they said, "Mitsubishi Motors North America Inc, today announced a new work from home policy that affords flexibility to employees whose jobs can be performed from home, with no required minimum number of days in the office a benefit, more common among cutting edge technology companies and automotive brands. This announcement comes as the company reports strong sales across the first quarter of 2022 and builds on its momentum as the fastest growing non luxury brand in the industry. Our new work from home policy comes down to one thing, tremendous trust in our employee team." Said recently appointed MMNA CEO Mark Chaffin,"Over the last two years our employees have risen to the challenges of a global pandemic and historic supply chain disruptions. And they've propelled the brand to record breaking sales success. They've demonstrated they can do it all while working from their home and company offices. That commitment should be rewarded with confidence and flexibility. And today, that's what we're doing." That's an exit from the announcement. Wow, there it is. Right there. Am with you, Mark Chaffin all the way. And we've got GM, of course with work appropriately. We need more OEMs to take this stance because we all know in the automotive industry, the tears follow what the OEMs do. So it's all eyes on you OEMs. Kudos to Mitsubishi. I'm totally impressed. And I love the part where he says when he talks about that it's more in line with cutting edge technology companies and automotive brands. We talk about innovation, we talk about disruption, we talk about EVs and autonomous vehicles. We've got it on the technology side, we know where we want to be in the marketplace. But remember, we've got to win in the workplace as well. And we can do this, we can lead this, let's not follow cutting edge technology companies, although we are kind of behind a little bit. But why can't we be in front of it? Why can't we change our mindset to do that? If we want to attract Gen z's, we're going to have to do it. We're going to have to change the way we think. So I love that this example came up. This announcement came out on April 14, just in time for me to record this podcast episode. So thank you, Mitsubishi. So again, I love the office, because I love the culture. I love collaboration. But I love to be in the office on my terms. I love it when it's my choice. I want people to feel great about what they do, how they do it, and where they do it. And I love it because I'm afforded the ability to work in an inspiring workspace. And so my plea to you, my brothers and sisters in automotive, is this. The question is, again, not how many days in the office? The question is, what are we going to do to create an inspiring, engaging work culture, where people want to thrive and want to be there when we trust and inspire people? Oh, trust and inspire. That's the name of the recent book by Stephen MR. Covey. And if you haven't bought their book, you need to, or at least listen to the podcast episode that I did with Stephen Covey. There's a lot there that we can learn from. We can achieve high performance with our teams. We can get the results that we want and more. Let's give them the option to make the decisions about how that work happens, how they engage with the work and where the work takes place. We can still have the space that we have. But let's make it different. Let's make it better. Let's make it more community based, more inspiring. Let's foster innovation and creativity. If you want to come visit me at bamboo, you're more than welcome. Just send me a message. I'm happy to host you anytime.

Jan Griffiths:

My business, Gravitas Detroit, continues to evolve. I would love to tell you that when I left my corporate job, I knew exactly what this business would look like, and what it would take to be successful. But that's not true. I am learning every single day. And the internal podcasting business is gaining tremendous traction. It's really resonating out there because it's a way to build a strong corporate culture where employees can consume the content on their terms, on demand, on the go. And yes, again, it's their choice. People are so sick and tired of corporate speak, and they don't want to be stuck in front of a screen. Because they're in front of zoom screens all day. People want choice, so give it to them. At the end of May, I'll be speaking at Podfest in Orlando. This is a podcast a conference, if you told me five years ago, that I would be speaking at a podcasting conference, I would have laughed. I didn't even know what a podcast was five years ago. And now I've got 66 episodes under my belt. So I'm really looking forward to getting into that community in Orlando. If you have an interest, you are more than welcome to join the conference. I'll put a link in the show notes. And then in June, I will be speaking at the Great Lakes data and analytics summit at the Troy Marriott on June 10. And we'll be talking about data and digital transformation all day long. But what about the leadership model needed to go along with that? That's what I'm going to be talking about. And then finally, I'm going to put it out there right now. I'm writing a book. Yep. I don't know if you heard the episode that I made with Jason Stocker. I'll put the link in the notes. He's the president of CNU bearing in North America. But Jason introduced me to this term volition, I'd never really paid much attention to the term and he understands it, very well indeed. But I found that I practice it and this is what volition is all about. It's putting the idea out there and then you you focus on it. You tell everybody about it, you develop volition. And the it sort of has to happen. I did the same with the podcast. I put the announcement out there actually was from the Automotive News stage. When I said, I'm going to start a podcast in January, and this was in the October timeframe. And so once you make a statement like that, and you put it out there on social media, you sort of have to make it happen because it becomes a personal credibility issue. So it's happening. Here it is, I'm putting it out there right now. I'm writing a book. I am going to condense all of the interviews that I've conducted on the podcast because I've learned so much from interviewing people on the podcast. I want to condense it all down and make it into something that's easily digestible, and a book for you to read. We can transform this industry. Together, we can redefine the future of work and create a vibrant, thriving automotive industry. We've got to be open, we got to have a growth mindset. We get to listen to people inside and outside of the industry. I am here I will do everything I can to help you make that happen. Stay strong out there. Firm in the belief of your authentic leadership and join me on the quest for Gravitas.


We love feedback. Email Jan directly at jan@gravitasdetroit.com to tell us about your journey into authentic leadership. We want the show to be meaningful to you. So leave a comment on what you thought of today's episode and let us know if there's any topics that should be covered in future episodes.

About the Podcast

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Finding Gravitas
The Authentic Leadership Podcast

About your host

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Jan Griffiths

Jan Griffiths is the founder of Gravitas Detroit, a company committed to helping you unlock the power of your team through authentic leadership.
In January 2020, Jan launched the Finding Gravitas podcast where she interviews some of the finest authentic leadership minds in the quest for Gravitas.
Gravitas is the hallmark of authentic leadership.