What might the new desire for employees to prefer working from home say about existing workplace culture? If the workplace was such a great place to be, why the resistance to return?
In talking about employees resistance to return to workplace buildings you hear a lot about the positive aspects of working from home - the time, stress and cost of the commute, and the increase in work life balance. These are the reasons we run to a work from home option. And what about the things we dislike about working at the office? What is everyone running away from?
My parents had a small farm when I was in my teens. I got to see first hand the pecking order that begins to take place when chickens are confined into a coop. Chickens at the bottom of the social food chain would have their feathers removed. You could spot them with their bare, sometimes even naked back sides!
If chickens are provided with more space and a free range from which to graze and roost, the pecking order is eliminated or drastically reduced.
I could see the similarities between the social systems that existed inside my high school. The box inside my school felt as confined as the chick coop, with the same constrictions. The tighter the norms, the smaller the access to power, the greater the opportunity for a pecking order. When I was no longer in the confines of my high school chicken coop, I began to flourish. My free range learning expanded my confidence, my ability to take risks and my sense of self.
The trend towards the virtual workplace and the at home office is here to stay. Whenever possible, employees will be offered some combination of home and on site office hours. The new preoccupation needs to be about making workplace culture a program of attraction. Flexible hours, subsidized lunches, games rooms and fitness centres are perks but I am not sure they are the answer.
How can we foster a 'free range' office culture? One that brings out employee confidence, the ability to take risks and expand their sense of self?
I know what it does not mean. Micro managing, restrictive choices, lack of diversity or monoculture communities feel like the chicken coop to me. No accountability, the rule over the person feels like the chicken coop to me. Short term profits, short term success - that also feels like the chicken coop to me.
The new road now, is to figure out, what does the free range office look like, feel like, sound like? Future blogs will focus on this question but I also hope my readers will have their opinions as well!