The pandemic has brought many changes in how people work. Some lost their livelihoods and others, depending on what they do, now work in a hybrid way, with time split between working from home and in the office. As well as these changes, there has also been a greater focus on health and wellbeing across organisations.
The first organisations were teams of hunter-gatherers, who lived and worked together in small nomadic groups. People played distinct roles and brought together diverse knowledge and experience, so the whole was greater than the sum of the parts, which is one of the fundamental reasons why we have organisations. There are still hunter-gatherer tribes, like the Yanomami in Brazil and Bushmen in Botswana working the same way today. We were hunter-gatherers for around 90% of our history, living in extended social groups of up to 150 trusted or well-known people. The anthropologist Robin Dunbar showed that humans can comfortably support up to 150 relationships. If the number increases beyond 150, we lose the capacity to really know and trust people well enough. This research also supports good practice for organisational design. For instance, the Gore-Tex waterproof clothing company found that they were less productive when more than 150 people worked together at the same location. Like a “golden ratio” for how people work well together, Gore-Tex uses the principle to make sure that “everyone knows everyone”, improving social cohesion and making the company more effective. This helps to explain why some large organisations in the past, who were ignorant of this principle, tended to use a command-and-control style of management, which assumes that people cannot be trusted, so need to be coerced by authority to carry out a task. Some leaders like Henry Ford saw people as little more than machines, and said, “Why is it every time I ask for a pair of hands, they come with a brain attached?”