What are you doing in the office anyway?

This is an adaptation of a blog I wrote some time ago on my old blog platform. It’s not new or revolutionary but I was prompted to repost it after reflecting on the people I’ve worked for that have expected and enforced me sitting at my desk from 9 to 5. It’s not new, but it’s not standard practice either. 

Some time ago now I read an interesting article that got me thinking about flexible work arrangements and how we’re not really using them to their full potential. If you’d like to read the whole article then here is the link.

There are two main streams of thought that this article provoked for me. The first was the use of technology to facilitate flexible work arrangements. The second was a system of objectives based, rather than 9 to 5 based, performance management. Let me explain.

The use of technology is, I think, best summed up by this quote from the article “instead of the technology liberating us from the drudgery of work, it has added to the hours we are working and introduced new stresses into our lives. We have not taken the opportunity to redesign work to take advantage of the technology, we have simply overlaid it onto conventional working practices”. I agree, technology makes us more accessible and gives us more information, but it hasn’t really changed the nature of the work, it has intensified it. We’re bombarded by contact and information.

There are more opportunities for the use of technology then what we are currently utilizing including remote working. Face-to-face contact is nice, but how many roles in your organization are ‘head down, bum up’ for most of the day? Could they be working from home instead? Connected to your servers and equipped with communication devices. Where inter-office communication is required, are there ways technology can assist with this that don’t involve traditional meetings. How can you use social technology to facilitate meetings? It’s quite possible, you’ve just got be open to learning about it. The amount of money you could save on office space could be invested into technology to break down communication barriers caused by working remotely.

Ok, so one of the main issues I hear about working remotely is that, if you’re a manager, you don’t know if your employee is slacking off. This brings me to my next proposal. Rather than have a working day based around sitting at your desk 9 to 5, the work is based around achievement of some very well written objectives. So who cares if you’re not working 9 to 5, as long as you’re achieving your objectives?  Workers could pick up their kids from school, go to the beach, read a novel, clean the house, or drink margaritas in the sunshine (that’s what I’d be doing) whenever suited them, as long as they were achieving their objectives. Autonomy and responsibility are awesome motivators.

This is quite a change in mindset and does require a different set of skills of managers then what they might currently be using. There is more emphasis on empowering and coaching. For a lot of businesses this is a pretty significant cultural shift. We’re still working in an industrial, punch card/time clock mindset. This needs to be revolutionized. Not tweaked, revolutionized.

Whose responsibility is it to make these changes to the way we work? That is one thing in the article that I do not agree with, that it’s up to HR to instigate these changes to workplaces. I’d argue that it is up to HR to influence senior leadership to, in turn, make these changes themselves. What do you think?

2 thoughts on “What are you doing in the office anyway?

  1. Allison Michels

    I think we should expect people to behave like adults, then treat them like one. I love this and have had some personal experience on all the angles of this. Great post


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