Seriously, I think the government and the private sector should consider this idea: every employee should have the freedom to choose where to report for work. I think most extroverts and those who are single would still choose the typical office set-up. Nothing’s wrong with that. I think however, that this set-up which was made the standard of the corporate or professional world is only for some type of people but not all. I honestly think it was a big mistake to let it apply to all. Just like in everything, there is no such thing as one size fits all. Introverts are but a victim of the society designed by extroverts. Perhaps due to lack of other options to meet people during the dawn of civilisation but to meet at a certain designated place face to face, we have the traditional set-up that we have now.
Times have changed, we now have options. Working from home and telecommuting should be made an option for real and as a permanent set-up with those employees who opt for it. We always envision how the future would be–where people can work from anywhere they wish to and meet only virtually with their holograms. I think we fantasize way too much about the future that’s near that we forget to see it’s actually here. I’ve been interviewed lately through video conference with the person interviewing me being eight hours away by flight with a three-hour time difference and it went so smoothly and efficiently. How much more possible would it be to meet and do day-to-day work with colleagues who probably live in the same area and city?
I see that steps getting to this are being taken using work-from-home options but the culture and mindset of people in organizations especially of people in higher office make it impossible to feel natural about it. I mean, let’s be honest, it doesn’t feel as accepted as the HR department would wish to portray when they are advertising to hire. Everyone feels guilty somehow for working from home when everybody is in the office. And there’s the notion that those who work from home aren’t really working.
To meet the need to have face-to-face discussions and effective catch-up meetings, there should be a regular everyone-goes-to-office day. Depending on the organisation, it can be once a week or fortnightly or even monthly. The point is, everybody will look forward to this day because it doesn’t happen everyday–much like a Christmas party. People will dress up and be early for this go-to-office day instead of the current reality we have where everyone goes to the office daily at least five times a week at a fixed time, most of them dragging their feet to work and some just counting the hours till it’s time to leave. This culture is counterproductive. I’d say, let those who want to go, go to the office and those who want to work from home do so.
Why do I think this will work? Because I believe that all people yearn to work. Otherwise, they won’t apply for a job. They would look for a sense of accomplishment and this revolutionary change which gives them choice would free their minds of societal constructs and limitations. So even if they are not in the office, they would finish their work and finish them well. Most HR organizations understand that not all people have the same personality and that workers from Generation Y easily get bored and have a very different style of working from their more experienced colleagues. Yet they stop at these findings. They put a lot of effort investing at building fun rooms and team buildings, out-of-towns and parties, or half-baked flexible options to work from home once a week IF and ONLY IF you reach a specific tenure working for the company–those just won’t work. If they really want to win the hearts of and retain GenY-ers, they should embrace the idea of choosing the set-up that works best for a person. Is he an out-of-office employee or an in-office buddy? Let loose, give them the freedom to work in a set-up that fits their personality and trust that they will deliver.
How do I propose to implement this? During recruitment, once a candidate has been chosen to be fit for the job, ask the person to take a personality test–depending on how much the company is willing to invest, this can be as advanced as the personality identification test used in the movies “Divergent” or “The Giver”. The test will help identify if the person will be most effective working with people around him or he can be more creative and efficient alone, in the comfort of his own home or wherever he wishes to. So then when the employee chooses, the employer will have an idea if he’s choosing something aligned with his personality type or if he’s just being lazy (which is the fear of most old school bosses). The important thing to note is that, the company must give that high degree of trust. The fact that the candidate was chosen should be assurance enough that he is a matured person–enough to be able to handle the role; make calls, arrange meetings, go to the office to meet another employee who prefers to meet in the office, go after colleagues’ outputs and coordinate for deadlines; regardless whether he chooses to be a home-based or an office-based employee. Accountability and monitoring of output and performance must be the control points of the organization to ensure discipline and performance tracking is still in place and working effectively.
Not all of us enjoy waking up early to make it to 8:30 or to satisfy the 9-5 daily grind. This is the reason most people feel like they are in the rat race. Our minds are bugged down long before we set foot into the office. We fight it deep inside but can’t do anything about it because it’s mandatory. Like prisoners, we struggle to save up enough for our own businesses or to retire young and bail ourselves out of our cages. This is why we feel like corporate slaves. We are forced to follow someone else’s mould, which are not ours. Some people would reach their optimum with this current set-up. Sure, it has its advantages. But most of us just flourish in our own environment, something which we define ourselves. This is why people who work for jobs that require the right side of the brain to work most often suddenly drop everything and start from scratch in the field of arts or in building a business that is so far from what they were trained to do. For all I know, they have always loved what they do. It wasn’t the work that they hated, it’s the set-up that was forced into them when it’s not fit for their personality that actually burned them out. For example, not all finance people wants to go to the office and sit there in front of a monitor 8 hours a day every day! I believe most people who are really good with numbers and enjoy analysing quit finance because they thought it’s not for them. The truth is, they only wanted to be able to work freely. It’s sad, but most of the real organizational talents would be lost from the corporate world by this modern day cry about following one’s passion in the arts and going freelance. Who knows whether they have always been already working on what has always been their passion (otherwise, why did they take those courses in college)? I don’t see anything wrong about encouraging a finance person to work from home–start when he wakes up maybe at 10am, drink his coffee which he had time to make for himself, work from bed or the comfort of his own balcony, beside his wife who drafts the sales contract for her next customer. If the books get closed and accounts balance by period-end, the employer and employee would find themselves in a win-win situation. What should be the problem? If this is the set-up, I don’t see a reason why the employee would leave.
The truth is, if employees only manage their own businesses, they would most likely be working like this–from home, beside the people they want to be with, asking them questions like what they think of his or her next idea randomly while working on his laptop. This is where great ideas start and are fuelled–where we are most comfortable, with people we trust and whose opinions we value. And when these employees are only working for their own personal, non-work-related projects, that set-up always proves to work. Companies should not fail to see this and harness the potential innovation and creativity this would bring.
The thing is, they all claim they are pro-change, they embrace the modern way of thinking and the technology and information age. They say they are revolutionary and love new ideas but they keep doing the same things. They haven’t changed the way they do things. At most, companies spend on seminars and workshops to understand employees but they won’t go as far. I’d tell them to just take the risk, trust the people and embrace this new era. Know the new generation and harness their uniqueness, fluid personalities and creative spirits for their businesses to succeed.
Just please, especially in this kind of weather…let us work from home.
Featured photo is from mavenly.co