Hybrid Work

Future of Work Pioneers - Belinda Morris

The future is 'one big adventure', says Belinda Morris. Work isn't somewhere we go any more, it's something we do, and how we do it changes every day. Trust us on this, her advice will help you reimagine the future of work!

Over the last two years, we have interviewed 2,000+ Future of Work Pioneers who have shared their insights into new work paradigms. Today we feature Belinda Morris as part of our series. Enjoy!

Belinda Morris is the Founder and CEO of Peoplescape, an HR Advisory, Search, and Training Firm. Belinda is someone who sees the glass half full, loves a challenge, and adapts quickly to change. As an entrepreneur, she is a creative problem solver, and lends her expertise to small and mid-sized businesses, assisting them to thrive and grow by building people-first cultures of belonging.

She has a passion for the employee experience. She has managed and led teams internationally, in organizations of all sizes for over 25 years. Belinda's unique skills and insight into workplaces, leadership, and cultures of belonging, place her in a strategic position to effectively guide clients and assist them in building a revised playbook for their future workplaces. Having lived and worked across four continents, Belinda and her family, when they are not living and working remotely, now call Los Angeles home.

"I think the Future of Work is… unfolding and becoming one big adventure! It’s about a flexible approach where people can explore and do what they love, while seeking other interests that also bring them joy. This blended lifestyle is the new norm rather than an exception. For employers, it’s about being flexible, transparent, and trusting people and the process, as well as being open to changing their beliefs about what makes the “ideal worker”. 

Some additional challenges for employers will be to engage with their people in the right way, to motivate each equitably dependent on their own circumstances. This includes financial rewards. As my colleague Michaela Humby, who handles the most challenging reward dilemmas, states: “Companies need to recognize and communicate how pay and progression strategies will operate along with this new-found flexibility”. 

The future will require setting goals based on results, rather than potential …  and remembering to adapt when circumstances and human experience gets in the way. The future of work is about acknowledging the whole human at work – not only the professional part of each person – and then reaping the rewards of extending this empathy and trust.

What were the top three challenges you or your clients faced when Covid-19 began in 2020? 

  1. Understanding what was going on for our business and our families in real-time, while making the best decisions for everyone, without the clarity that data, experience, or a crystal ball usually bring.

  2. Balancing compassion and a sense of humanity with the imploding business landscape and the sense of panic and self-preservation that was driving so many decisions was difficult. Business leaders were feeling blindfolded in terms of what was the right thing to do, not only regarding Covid-19 but socially as well. Having witnessed the George Floyd murder, protests, and the coverage on social media, it was difficult to know what employees would think, feel and react to decisions being made for them. 

  3. Figuring out that accomplishing less was in fact not less, but different, which was just fine. Employees were suddenly stuck at home with many responsibilities due to daycare centers closing, children at home in Zoom school, with many people still expected to work. Mental health stressors emerged,  involving the lowest level on Maslow’s pyramid: safety security, food, and shelter. Parents, especially women and particularly women of color, were disproportionally disadvantaged during the pandemic, having to drop out of the workforce due to job losses and home responsibilities. This has become a challenge that has set us back until today.

What are the top three most influential decisions you’ve made or helped clients make over the past two years?

  1. Surviving: In the initial stages, I worked with clients on the preservation of runway - cash and liquidity. We assessed what work was mission-critical and what could be deferred or deprioritized, ensuring teams’ well-being– and remembering the power of families. We advised on some inevitable layoffs or furloughs always considering the legal and human landscapes involved.

  2. Leading: Leaders were called on to create calm and a sense of security for the employees all while scrambling to make sense of the pandemic themselves. For leaders it was critical to retain a sense of curiosity and willingness to listen and learn from employees, support teams and nurture cultures remotely. 

    Previously, leaders had always felt they needed to have all the answers and make all the decisions, so it was a paradigm shift to join their teams in managing the unknown with a sense of humility that comes with facing these challenges for the first time together.  Showing leaders how critical LISTENING has become, even more so in uncertain times, has been a big learning for all of us.

  3. Returning: Designing return-to-office strategies, policies, and plans that successfully balance the needs of the organization with the needs of the humans that fuel it. Support the redesign of current workplaces by deeply understanding individuals’ needs, and the root causes, then collaborating with people to ideate solutions, all the while remaining open, and daily lines of communication open.

What is your current workplace strategy, and how did you determine it? 

Our current strategy has not changed that much since the pandemic - at Peoplescape, we have always been flexible, focused, and virtual.During and since the pandemic we have been gathering best practices and experience, to guide clients in how to navigate their workplace strategies, and policies and the impact these decisions have on employee happiness and sense of belonging.

"Here at Peoplescape, we’re investing even more in our people. We are constantly seeking to be even more flexible, listening, asking, and deeply understanding our teams, while constantly sensitive to how life is affecting our colleagues and their families."

We believe in a flexible, individual approach where we can play to the strengths of each of our team members and wherever possible try to give them what they want. Those who yearn for social interaction are stimulated by onsite client visits, joining a colleague at a workspace, or working together independently on a zoom, as if alongside each other in an office. Those who prefer deep-dive research work can opt to stay 100% remote basking in their solitude. We can easily adapt our approach to our clients and our people. 

As we have experienced through the pandemic, we are all an inextricably linked ecosystem with the impact of changes ricocheting across families, work teams, organizations, communities, cities, the globe, and even … the metaverse.

What is one tip you’d give to your peers, or have you learned from your peers about the evolution of workplace policies and practices

After all that we’ve been through with this pandemic, I think we’ve seen that we can’t go back to how it was before, as much as some expect or hope we could. To quote a dear colleague, Tina Robinson: “We can't put the toothpaste back in the tube – recognize that work has fundamentally changed, and we aren't going back”. 

In fact, we’ve seen how so much is possible - making it work doesn't have to be that hard. What we will need to adapt to is how we look at the definition of work

"Instead of seeing work as ‘somewhere we go’ for most of our waking hours, instead, we decouple it from a place and consider work as ‘something we do’. By examining the quality of the work delivered, not when its done, we start to shift focus to the results and outcomes. This helps us to see that what might have made one seem high achieving before, could be changing."

When we focus on the work outcomes, as separate from the social interactions, and remove the cliques, water cooler banter, and “in-group” connecting, we reach a more even playing field. The new world of work, in a knowledge economy, no longer enables an advantage to those who play politics or are better connected through privileged networks, or circumstances. Crediting those who achieve work outcomes purely due to their abilities to impact and deliver the results, allows more people to be on an equal footing, than ever before.

Remote work has had an immensely positive impact on workplace inclusion and belonging for those who never felt they quite fitted in. In fact, when Slack’s research group surveyed 10,000 workers, during the pandemic, it found the sense of belonging, for women and people of color, doing remote work had significantly increased. This was in stark contrast to that of their white, male colleagues. The difference was seen to be due to the in-office dynamics that often strengthen similarity bias and the “old boys club”, giving some a leg up and excluding others. A sociologist colleague, Youngjoo Cha, of Indiana University writes: “During this pandemic, we’ve challenged the notion of the ideal worker with a nationwide experiment in telecommuting”. 

Work - de-coupled from "place", allows our minds to re-imagine talent pools altogether. Not just location-wise, but what types and levels of talent can deliver pieces of the work using new combinations and possibly partnerships that have never been explored before.

I suggest we keep asking ourselves how we can role model the right focus in this new world of work while also acknowledging the privilege the workplace of old brought to certain groups. We will each need to figure out what we retain from the old way and what we bring forward into our new approach?

What do you think an office or workplace will be, feel and look like in five years?

Enormous variety, designed to fit organizational cultures, with as many layouts as there are individual preferences. It will feel like home – and look welcoming! 

Ideating on the design of workspaces is a key requirement in our new world of work.

In fact, if we were to completely rethink the workspace strategically - if the office is now a venue for meetings and connections primarily once or twice per week - do we still need desks?

"Companies will be more successful in recruiting and retaining engaged talent if they design their workplace as if it was a new product they were innovating. Use Design thinking - Be flexible. acknowledge and understand that there are many varying views and preferences out there now. Engagement is personal!  Find out about individual motivations – ask employees what they want, deeply understand it, why it’s important to them, and what else is important, and then invite employees to co-design it with you and remain open and flexible, committing to making it iterative."

"The future will bring a new acceptance and expectations about employee wellbeing, mental health, and work-life balance. With this new respect and embracing of these cornerstones of healthy employee life and embracing them, providers will become a key part of the fabric of the new workplace."

The last piece which I would emphasize here is “meaning”. Those organizations that find in what they do something that impacts the world for the better are those that will succeed in attracting and retaining the workforce of the future.  We’re very likely to find workplaces emphasizing and amplifying the causes that their employees support. As a result, I’d expect to see diversity in new types of partnerships for the organization.  

Finally, research by Laszlo Bock’s organization, Humu, show that companies that lead by enabling the most clarity, learning, freedom, trust, purpose, and inclusion will be those most likely to retain their people, whatever is thrown at them. 

What are you most excited about when you think about the future for the workplace and for your organization?

As a change junkie, and an ambassador of growth through people, I am most excited about the fact that after what we have been through, in a short space of time, we can see how global-scale change is truly possible – and how growth comes by putting people first more than ever. 

When we think about how some organizations never skipped a beat during Covid with regards to remote work, only gathering together when the work truly demanded it, to see clients or to socialize – the contrast is remarkable. Especially when we observe how this remote concept was so revolutionary for so many others, that it sent less progressive, companies into panic rooms struggling to relinquish the old paradigms. In fact, looking at remote working today, we can see that when forced to get creative and adapt, we can do so in extremely short timeframes.

Please share one prediction for the Future of Work that you’d strongly bet on.

"Innovation and globalization now and in the future will be strongly enhanced by the virtual environment of work. In this Future, employee capital rules, where people can be anyone, come from anywhere, look like anything, work from anywhere, and still remain able to contribute and impact, as long as they have something worthwhile to say and know how to say it."

What will define success in the future, will be organizations that champion mentorship relationships, global, cross-team collaboration, languages, communication skills, and knowledge sharing using connection technology to replace the insular methods we used previously. And do not get me started on the metaverse and where NFTs will be taking us … 

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