Sunday 6th May 2018

As we rapidly move towards the end of the 2010s, the working environment as we know it continues to grow and evolve, with workplace trends constantly being updated. We’ve seen major changes from uncontrollable factors, such as economic crashes and political adjustments; on a smaller scale, trends come and go, and industries fluctuate in their popularity, leaving most of us using guesswork to decipher where things are going, and how they’re going to affect our workplaces.

Of course, it’s not just a case of being at the mercy of outside factors. A successful workplace needs its own structure, culture and goals, not to mention a strong network. This is one of many ways in which, as we move into a more mutable path in the modern workplace, tradition can be turned on its head. Enter the concept of a fluid network.

A fluid network promotes the notions of learning, growth and a sense of community. Rather than following a traditional workplace hierarchy, with all employees reporting upwards to senior employees or line managers, a fluid network encourages workers to collaborate and idea-share with peers. This arrangement is obviously less formal, and for many, it may seem difficult to put into practice, especially when we’re so tied to the common set-up.

According to Anton Andrews, Keynote speaker at WORKTECH London in November 2017, there are four clear features of a successful network:

  • Transparency – allow people to build on each other’s ideas quickly and effectively
  • Mutual trust – enable more people to share and contribute, to strengthen the network
  • Responsiveness – allow networks to adapt very quickly, and bypass bottlenecked information which can often occur in a hierarchy
  • Resilience – give the network a unified and solidified organisational knowledge base

The way these features are created in the workplace will obviously vary wildly for different organisations, but there are some universal needs, in order to make the fluid network a success. As Andrews points out,

mutual trust is incredibly important in creating a truly fluid network.

This means trust that absolutely goes both ways – more senior employees need to be able to trust junior members to participate without chaperoning>; conversely, the opposite should be true, with employees feeling comfortable in the situation.

Ultimately, the easiest way to implement a fluid network is by noting how data is shared around the workplace, and make simple adjustments where possible, until more fluidity is achieved. The most crucial element is to ensure that collaboration, discussion, creativity and participation, at all levels, are recognised and rewarded. After all, a fluid network cannot flourish without positivity.

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