Crafting the Future of Work: Eric Moore, The Design Thinker

Eric Moore is a Communication Coach and Consultant who helps professionals enhance their communication skills and create positive workplace experiences. He specializes in navigating the intersection of people and technology in the modern work environment.

In this interview, Eric discusses the challenges and opportunities of hybrid work, emphasizing the importance of clarity, effective communication, and compassion in fostering employee engagement. He also provides insights into measuring the performance of new work models and suggests resources for leaders to improve their leadership abilities.

Looking ahead, he envisions office spaces evolving with a focus on purpose and vision, incorporating elements of biophilia and providing flexible arrangements to meet the needs of diverse workers.

Can you explain what you do in two to four sentences?

As a communications coach, I help professionals improve their communication skills and create positive workplace experiences. Together, we explore the intersection of people and technology in the workplace. We learn how to leverage tools like emails, video calls, and messaging for effective communication. Sometimes, that means face-to-face conversations or picking up the phone can make a big difference. Think of me as a guide, helping you to navigate the world with too much technology. 

What are the top three challenges that you would say your clients or leaders generally are facing?

At the moment, arguably, there's only one major challenge: the global macroeconomic condition we're in. Clients are looking into hiring freezes, project delays, and reducing research and development. At the moment, I am helping them effectively plan and communicate about these challenges.

How do you define hybrid work?

Hybrid work is a flexible approach that involves determining when and where to work, staying socially connected, and effectively coordinating tools and norms in a connected or disconnected environment.

It presents challenges and opportunities, such as finding a healthy mix of audiovisual equipment and software to enhance the office experience. This includes features like intelligent cameras, captioning, eye-level cameras, and immersive audio speakers. Organizations are also exploring ways to reconcile real estate and facilities, potentially reducing office footprints and subletting. Finding innovative ways to engage employees in the changed environment.

What aspects of hybrid work are your clients most challenged by or ask about most often?

Clients are primarily concerned with the financial aspect of hybrid work. They want to evaluate the capital expenditure and test their long-term strategy. For example, spaces are being redesigned with flexible seating, modern amenities, and technological advances. However, my clients also seek guidance on installation and setup based on industry best practices established by companies who are pushing the boundaries in office spaces.

Have you encountered the challenge of working with a client who is more aligned with the “old guard mentality” than an innovative one? How do you navigate that disparity?

Not too long ago, the idea of innovation meant adding some beanbags, ping-pong tables, and casual Fridays. I think it's going to take more than this to reimagine engagement, and leadership needs to recognize that. I've spent the past three years working with experts and leaders in this field, and there seem to be three patterns that are emerging around “Old Guard” versus reimagining engagement. 

The old-school work schedule, 9-5, five days a week in the physical space is gone, except for more physical jobs or the service industry.

  • First, clarity is crucial. People will come back if they know their role in helping the company meet its objectives. This is not some overarching goal to be better global citizens, but clarifying why coming into the office is moving the needle.
  • Second, communication should be timely and tied to clarity. For example, I might message you to come to the office to meet a valued customer, thank you for your hard work, and brainstorm. We can facilitate communication just-in-time through various platforms like Slack, Teams, or text messaging.
  • Last, demonstrating compassion or empathy is vital. Employees need to feel valued as individuals, not as numbers. They need to feel like a person first and an employee second. I use a framework called "nonviolent communication" to create a safe environment and provide feedback and recognition.

These three aspects of clarity, communication, and compassion have become even more critical because of the pandemic and the rise of hybrid work. People are seeking greater support in these areas as they navigate the challenges of remote and office-based work.

How can organizations best support different types of people, cohorts of people, given that everyone has different needs, in terms of work life, harmony, productivity, the way that they like to work, creative hours, etc?

In my experience, it starts with frequent employee surveys, or what you might call a pulse. Gallup has one survey called the Q12, which does a solid job of measuring employee engagement. You can use that as a jumping off point as it’s free and they break down each of their 12 questions, including the science behind it, why would you ask these questions, or what’s expected as a response. 

Some organizations might be a little more loose or creative, versus companies that are more rigid or data-driven. My suggestion is to use the Q12 questions as a baseline. That will help you determine what the “best” way to support different work-life harmony is. 

For example, maybe the marketing team only meets once a week in the office to brainstorm on a new campaign. Whereas the engineering team may have to come in a lot because they're trying to ship a new product. I recommend doing a survey that's org wide, a different survey that's department-wide, and then a third that's unique to an individual team.

What metrics or other indicators will you recommend be used to measure how your clients' new work models are performing?

For measuring the performance of new work models, I suggest considering a few key metrics. While this isn't my expertise, I look at metrics from the world of products and services.

1. One metric I recommend is the System Usability Scale (SUS), which assesses the ease of use of a platform or software. It comprises 10 questions, alternating between positive and negative statements. By adapting these questions to fit the client's new work model, you can evaluate the usability and effectiveness of the system. If the SUS score is below 66, it shows potential usability issues that may require further attention.

2. Another approach is the ADKAR model from Prosci, which stands for Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement. 

  • Within these five letters, different metrics can be applied. It starts by assessing employee awareness of workplace challenges, such as hybrid work.
  • Then, you measure their desire to change and whether they possess the knowledge and abilities to adapt. 
  • Finally, reinforcement through praise, awards, or acknowledgments helps sustain positive behavior. These metrics offer dynamic insights into performing new work models, allowing for continuous improvement and change.

The point is, you want to get employees involved in creating work models that people can get on board with. We need to make our employees the new customer, which means creating a customer experience like we do for our own customers.

What resources do you recommend leaders start with to improve their ability to lead in whatever environment they're leading? 

To improve their leadership abilities in any environment, I recommend leaders start with design thinking as a foundation. It involves four phases: seeing the world, understanding the world, making something for the world, and storytelling for the world. 

Leaders can foster innovation by observing, understanding, and creating ideas.

"The Scout Mindset" by Julia Galef is a game-changer for reading recommendations, showing us different ways of thinking and encouraging open-mindedness. It is important to understand the strengths and weaknesses of both soldier and scout mindsets, and this statement emphasizes this. Thinking this way can be beneficial in the hybrid work environment, where being adaptable and accommodating is important.

What does the purpose and vision for an office look like from your perspective in the next five years?

In the next five years, I envision office spaces evolving with a focus on purpose and vision. The design will integrate biophilia, incorporating natural elements like living walls and natural lighting. The emphasis will be on creating welcoming and pleasing environments with affordable furniture options. Open spaces will give way to the recognition of the need for quiet and focused areas, especially for neurodivergent individuals. Larger companies may explore subletting or transforming underutilized spaces into shared workspaces similar to WeWork. These trends in interior design, closed spaces, and flexible arrangements are likely to become more normalized in the coming years.

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Danielle Farage

Future of Work Influencer

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