Who else out there feels like a caged bird when they go to work every day?
Whether you are at the bottom or top of the food chain, working in a traditional office setting can steal your soul. You have to perfect the art of playing nice, keeping your true feelings to yourself and "playing the game," all the while sitting in the same cube and making the same small talk to the same weirdos, day in and day out.
And what if – by chance – you actually enjoy what you do, but the work environment itself is what is creating more anxiety and frustration than you can stand? The annoyances, politics and policies are zapping not only your productivity but your motivation?
Well, as usual, I have ideas. Ideas I’d love to apply to my own situation to make working not only more stimulating but less restrictive. Here are some ways the American workplace could be more conducive to creative thought, motivation and productivity:
1. Privacy! I don't know about you, but I think working in an open workstation - aka the cubicle - is a horrible experience. In addition to having to listen to the conversations and nose blowing of every kook in a 50 foot radius, there's the realization that they can hear you too. Privacy? None. And have you ever had someone approach your cube without you noticing so they scare the ever-loving SHIT out of you? Yeah that's the worse.
Since traditional offices these days are few and far between, how about we reconsider the structure of the cubicle altogether? Open work environments are universally proven not to be effective (read more here and here). What about office pods? Or just adding a sliding door to an existing cube? PLEASE, GIVE ME A DOOR! Not only will this supply some privacy, it will indicate to others that I am working and they need to go away and schedule an appointment with me instead of barging into my space, scaring the crap out of me and interrupting my flow of work. Plus I can play my music, sit cross legged in my chair and really dig into my projects with the attention and creativity that I know I have in me…somewhere.
2. Free Food. It's not just for kids running for Student Council President. I want free stuff too! A lot of companies these days offer their staff free lunch. I think all companies need to take the hint: a well fed employee is a happy employee. Eating out every day is expensive and bringing a sad homemade sandwich or a gross microwave meal in one of those stupid little cooler lunch bags is emasculating - and I'm not even a guy.
3. No meetings! Are traditional meetings productive? I will bet one million dollars you just screamed to yourself “NOOOO!” So why do we have so many of them? Why haven’t we learned how to bring our collective minds together in actual productive ways? Meetings are not only a waste of time you could be doing, like, work, but they are also frustrating and don't ever accomplish anything.
It's 2016 people! Let's take advantage of all the technology within our reach to figure out how to come to consensus, make an action plan or brainstorm ideas without having to physically gather together like a bunch of sheep. I could seriously get all of the above done just using Survey Monkey.
4. Flex Time. Here’s the thing: this one is about trust. In the typical American workplace (I’m hypothesizing here) we don’t trust each other. Bosses and HR assume people are there to take advantage.
I would argue that we need to flip that. Give people a humane situation and see how they handle it. If they can’t they can’t, but there are many of us out there who are responsible, hard working stiffs who don’t really want to break the rules – we just want to do our jobs in a way that suits our attention span, work-life balance and level of experience. That’s the carrot you need to be dangling. It’s like when a shelter dog goes out for the day and gets that whiff of freedom; it’s pretty damn motivating to be on your best behavior.
5. A sabbatical. There would be nothing more motivating to staff to know that they are allowed to leave for a while to charge the ole batteries and then come back refreshed and motivated. How about if the reward for staying with an organization for at least five years gets you the option of taking a sabbatical? 2-3 months of finding yourself, taking an extended vacation, spending time with your family, going to rehab -- whatever? I bet your retention rate would go through the roof if this was part of the benefit package. A little cross training and poof! - you disappear and aren't seen again for three months.
6. Redefinition of what makes someone successful. We've all experienced it. We bust our asses - working hard, being responsible and making shit happen - and then it happens: the shithead, suck-up, douches who are dumb as rocks get the promotions and leadership positions. WTF? Can't any company or organization out there stop this cycle of idiocy? You can't pretend to have values if you promote people who aren't deserving and passing over the ones who are doing all the work. Is sucking up really the most important quality in an employee or a leader? Someone who has no independent thought? The answer is "hell no" and it's time more organizations realized that. Why do they think people leave their jobs? It's not rocket science.
7. Work from home. OK fuck all the rest of these: just let me work from home. I will be happier, less cranky and more productive. You pay for my internet. I'll visit on Skype once in awhile. I'll eat my own food. I'll pay for my own air conditioning. We all win.
That is all. #micdrop