We’ve all heard the stories and seen the photos: slides, scooters, novelty-sized chairs and office pets galore.
Some of the most well-known brands in the world are leading the charge to shake up their teams’ working lives: tech-driven businesses like eBay and Netflix are both notable for their open working policies, and Richard Branson stirred the business community in 2014 when he gave his staff unlimited annual leave – but since then it seems that very few businesses have followed suit.
Although the trailblazers are high-profile, businesses of all kinds have the potential to bring about a radical change in their culture and produce high quality work as a result.
The key to more progress in this area is thinking more HR than PR: consider what benefits open policies can bring to your business and the people you employ, rather than how attractive the idea sounds.
Makers vs managers
By rethinking the way your organisation operates, and reconsidering the needs of your employees against your business goals, there is tremendous scope to shift the convention of management-led controls and regulations.
In the process, business leaders can remove long-standing barriers to productivity and creativity that come along with those traditional models. In our experience, considering the needs of the makers (those on the front-line of the business), not the managers, is the way to get the best from a talented workforce.
With increasingly high demands of employees and an accelerated pace of life in general, tracking and restricting holiday time seems not only arbitrary but an unnecessary administrative burden – if somebody’s worked hard, why not allow them to reset and come back refreshed, rather than worried about their dwindling holiday allowance?
Additionally, employers could do worse than organising a company holiday to bring the team together. It needn’t be Las Vegas or Thailand (although that wouldn’t hurt) to be an improvement on the occasional after-work drink at your local.
So it may not be all that hard to make downtime better for your team, but what about when they’re actually at work?
Open all hours
Now more than ever, our time is the most precious resource we have. The needs of a client project or a tight deadline may demand work outside of the typical nine-to-five window. Moreover, some people simply don’t work as well during the morning as, say, at midnight.
In recognition of those idiosyncrasies businesses might see a benefit to opening their policy on what time people clock in or out, and allow their employees to play to their own strengths in order to get the job done. In our experience we’ve found that when people are allowed to work when they want to, they are also amenable to working when they need to.
Personal strengths also include preferred devices, and sometimes locations. Allowing your team to access files in the cloud is an excellent way to promote mobility, but also to enable individuals to work with their preferred hardware without a learning curve to acclimatise to company systems.
Read more on company culture:
- Why SMEs should think of today’s employees as consumers
- Business lessons learned from Star Wars: How to become a Jedi company
- “Magic desk” helps CEO create healthy workplace culture
Are you ready?
There’s no doubt that these changes won’t happen all at once, and business leaders would be wise to evaluate their organisation before taking the plunge.
It all boils down to trust, of course, so unless a relaxed and permissive work environment has been a part of your organisation from day one of recruitment then lay the groundwork carefully before opening up your management policies.
Clear lines of communication are important at this stage: teams should understand what the business expects from them and be happy to meet those expectations no matter what their working hours are. By keeping feedback swift and actionable, it should be a straightforward process to maintain productivity with open policies.
Whether these kinds of cultural changes seem like the future or just a fad, there’s scope for all businesses to benefit by embracing the fact that one workplace doesn’t fit all.
Improved staff retention is just the start, with boosts in creativity and efficiency from flexible and open policies yielding demonstrable business results in the long term too.
This is just as true for internal purposes as for the actual client-facing work.
At Potato, a suite of efficiency-boosting apps were all made by people who just thought that one little idea could be useful for the business.
Now we have tools ranging from checklist apps to expense logging systems to our very own food ordering/ delivery service.
On that last one, we pay for all the food too, and deliver it to your desk if you want, so that’s one less thing that our employees need to worry about.
Stevie Buckley is head of people at web app development service Potato
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