Rest, review and rewire – why you should take a data-informed approach to 2022
If firms want to prosper in the new year, they need to use data more wisely to inform decision-making and insist on more regular forms of rest and recovery for their staff, writes Leonie Green.
I feel like my reflections on 2020 leading into 2021 could be revisited very easily for this year’s reflection. There is so much of the same occurring again, and a heavy ‘lifeload’ continues to be a very real factor that we all need to recognise and manage better.
However, there are important differences that need to be considered as we assess 2021 and open the new page of 2022. Importantly, as we recognise that COVID-19 is the new normal, we need to find a new cadence to manage ourselves and our teams that doesn’t leave us more exhausted than our current, very high exhaustion levels.
Let’s start with a reality check. The Great Resignation was a big headline in 2021. It’s always worth reading a little further to see what’s accurate in the headline, of course, and to consider whether our ‘quit rates’ are any higher than normal. This article in The Conversation suggests they are not.
Your firm’s people metrics/data are worth reviewing to see if there are any emerging patterns of resignations, or whether your quit rate is the same as in previous years. It’s also worth considering what other data you have available (or need to start collecting) on engagement levels and what underlying challenges need addressing.
Better (more accurate) and targeted data will help inform better decision-making in the year ahead. If the past two years have taught us anything, that is certainly one very critical learning.
Data is getting increasingly easy to collect, but in the era of Big Data we need to filter it carefully. Curate the data available to get clear on what needs to be tracked over time. More targeted data on your people (the employees who create value within your firm) is vitally important for better decision-making and better workplace policies, or interventions, that match the need.
Data should be firm-specific, but one piece of data that is relevant to everyone (this year more than ever) is measuring the rest and recovery that our people are achieving.
Rest: a firm-wide cadence of regular breaks and recovery?
Collective exhaustion levels are a hot topic. This is often the case in the lead-up to Christmas, but this year there is a cumulative impact of two years of COVID-19.
With lockdowns and lockouts, many of us have not had the normal cadence of holidays and breaks throughout the year. There continues to be the worry of what holiday plans may be thwarted at the last minute, again. Remembering, too, that we are more than ever in a 24-7 work cycle. If we don’t proactively manage around that for periods of rest and recovery, then of course there is going to continue to be high levels of exhaustion and burnout.
So, the number one item on our list for 2022 needs to be how we incorporate more regular forms of rest and recovery in our lives. Rather than hanging out for that one big holiday, we need to stop and think about how we tune off and tune out on a more regular basis, so we are giving our brains and our bodies the rest they really need. This is rest that happens at the end of each day, at the end of the working week, and ideally at least every few months.
The need for rest and recovery is, of course, true at an individual level, but it’s also true at an organisational level. If we want our employees to be working at their best, then we need to consider our systems of work and what we are promoting or encouraging by way of rest and recovery.
Consider what you are celebrating on this front as a firm. And consider what data you have available to track an improvement in how well you are (collectively) resting and recovering for optimum performance levels.
Review: what data matters most?
Once you feel like you have a better plan in place for serious rest and recovery throughout the year, start reviewing the data available to you across the metrics that matter to your firm when it comes to your people’s engagement levels and corresponding productivity levels.
What are your employees telling you about current systems of work? What are they not telling you? What data is missing? What data is important to track in the year ahead? What data is relevant to your firm and its needs?
Regular review of data will help inform better planning and decision-making around workplace policies and interventions that are firm-specific and really go to the heart of what your firm is trying to achieve.
Rewire: what new strategies or interventions are most helpful?
The pandemic has given us an opportunity to better understand Big Data and how it informs decision-making. It has also enabled us to see the experimentation that is often part of public health policy – testing out interventions to see if they have the intended impact on the health system (and its outputs in health data).
A systems thinking approach is helpful within our organisations as well (for some background, Thinking in Systems by Donella H. Meadows, is worth a read). A systems thinking approach means we consider where things are not working (based on data) and what specific interventions may help re-wire or re-organise the system of work. Importantly, we need to consider how the boundaries of our systems of work have changed – and how we can better influence the systems of home-based work that contribute to, or inextricably link to, our firm’s approach to work.
For some inspiration on what interventions might look like to prompt better levels of engagement and productivity, the following are worth a summer read:
- Homeforce: Building a connected, engaged home-based team, by Jo Alilovic. The new normal really is a blend of office and work environments, and we all need to learn how to manage this dynamic better.
- Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones, by James Clear. At an individual level we need to think about what good habits we need to introduce within our own personal systems/ways of working. At an organisational level you may want to think about what your systems are enabling and fostering by way of good or bad habits, and then design an intervention to prompt a better habit.
- The Productivity Commission’s paper on Working From Home is also worth a read to make sure you are arming yourself with an understanding of what is happening and what needs to be managed better within the options available – and a prompt for what data you may want to focus on or collect within your firms for 2022.
With each year, we want to consider how we navigate through it to be in a better place, rather than a worse place, year on year. For 2022, let’s also reflect on what better actually means for us as individuals, and for our firms collectively.
Better might mean, for example, more meaningful work, more connected teams, higher levels of work satisfaction, healthier teams, lower levels of resignations, higher levels of staff engagement, lower annual leave balances, or higher levels of sick leave. The data available is endless, so be strategic in measuring what really matters, and what better really means for you and your firm.
Here’s to a better 2022!
Leonie Green is the co-founder and director of the Corvus Group, a workplace and legal advisory firm with more than 20 years of senior legal and HR experience working in Australian and international companies. She practised as an employment and industrial relations lawyer for a number of years prior to moving into management roles in industrial relations, shared services and human resources. She can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.