Nap Stations, Shortened Work Weeks, Telecommuting…Crazy or Crazy Smart?
As you’ve no doubt noticed, the modern workplace has started to loosen up a bit. Walk into any company founded in the last decade and you’re more likely to see someone dressed in jeans and a t-shirt than you are a suit. You might see five offices with an actual door—made of glass, of course—but the rest of the space will be filled with cubicles. In one corner, a ping pong table; in the other, a colorful plastic slide offering a playful ride down to the lobby. Of course, not all offices are this avant-garde, but even the more conservative, long-standing institutions are noticeably less formal than they used to be.
That informality extends to work arrangements, too. More and more employees work from home for some portion of the work week or have flexible schedules that allow them to come in earlier or work later to accommodate life outside of the office. And we’re not just talking about the U.S. In Seoul, South Korea, workers will soon be allowed to take afternoon naps at work (but only in the summer, according to Bloomberg Businessweek). Probably the most significant change to be touted as of late, though, is the idea of a global three-day work week. Billionaire Carlos Slim argued recently at a conference in Paraguay for people to work three days a week for eleven hours each day. People would have to push retirement off to age 70 or 75, but only working three days a week would give people more time for family, entertainment and ultimately innovation, he argued.
Whether Slim’s specific idea catches on or not, the general trend toward greater flexibility and a better work-life balance isn’t going away. The question for companies is not should you create more flexibility in your workplace, but rather how. What components will work best for your business and your employees? Not all practices fit, which means you’ve got to take the time to figure out what your employees are looking for and what you can accommodate given the nature of your business. For instance, if your business thrives on consistent face-time between employees themselves and with clients, then allowing lots of telecommuting may not work. Instead, maybe you look toward altering the times people have to be at work as opposed to the location–like establishing that 10 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. are core hours when everyone should be there, but outside of those hours people are free to adjust their schedules. That said, don’t let outdated perceptions of how business gets done cloud your judgment. Just because most of your meetings have been face-to-face in the past doesn’t mean they have to be moving forward. Look into what technology can offer in this regard. Embracing new technology may actually improve efficiency and increase profit in the long-run.
Seriously considering how your workplace can be more flexible is certainly important for keeping your existing employees happy, but from a recruitment perspective, it could be a game-changer. Do you think the best candidates are looking to move to an organization that’s less flexible? Probably not. Chances are, they’ve been getting the job done in a big way at their organizations, working whenever they’ve had to instead of just when expected, and so don’t want to be tethered to a traditional system that doesn’t recognize that. If they could join a company where they’d be given the freedom to bring their A game and leave early to pick their kids up from practice without feeling guilty? Game changer. It sounds simple, but it means so much.
Now, all you have to do is find those star performers. Hmmm, I wonder who could help you with that…?