Opinion

Work is no longer a place

alison michalkIn this guest post Alison Michalk argues companies need to offer more genuine flexibility with how their employees work.

George Costanza was a visionary.

The makeshift bed under his office desk might not have gone down well with his boss in the 1990s Seinfeld episode, but today George would be right on trend.

A move to ‘radical flexibility’ in the work place is gaining pace as organisations shift their attitudes and approaches to work out of the 1900s – and out of the central office.

Radical flexibility is ushering in a new era where employees not only choose where they work – but when they work.

We’re not talking about leaving at 4pm or having the day off to care for a sick child.

We’re talking about a complete overhaul of the idea of work as a ‘place’ you go to because the old way of working doesn’t work anymore.

Our workplaces are based on scientific management principles from the 1900s – principles that were developed around the need for industrial efficiencies.

Workers needed set shifts – because machines needed to be operated.

We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto. We live in a knowledge economy and our minds are now the machines.

Organisations at the forefront of the move to radical flexibility are flipping the old thinking on its head and creating a new way of working where the key is outcomes, not hours.

The buzzword is ‘ROWE’ – a ‘Results Oriented Work Environment’ – where the focus is on what you get done and kicking goals, not how long you spend doing it.

If a staffer wants to go for a jog, take a Costanza-style nap or even pack the dishwasher, go ahead.

It’s not about giving employees the feel-good warm and fuzzies. When you give employees the flexibility to succeed in their personal and professional lives, there’s a real pay-off for the business too.

If it helps them manage other responsibilities in their lives – you’ll have a happy employee! If it lets them ponder work and reboot their brain while not staring at a screen – hello business-changing Eureka moments!

A ton of research demonstrates the benefits of remote work. Radical flexibility helps you attract and keep top talent. It creates high performing teams, increases productivity and makes for happier, healthier employees – while eliminating the dreaded commute and reducing absenteeism and stress.

You can create a successful company and company culture without an office.

I know. I’ve done it.

My business operates with no central office and a team of 22 based around the world. We’ve had Australian staff working from places as far flung as Iceland, Kuwait and Costa Rica.

Last month, I met one of my team in person for the first time. She’s worked for me for five years.

Where my staff work doesn’t matter – we’ve removed the straight-jacket of the 40-hour week and central office and only look at performance.

It’s time for more organisations to re-think flexible workplaces practices.

We have the collaborative technology and online connections to make it happen. Where’s the sense in traveling to an office and then chatting online with colleagues a few desks away?

It’s highly likely that millennials will find the notion of a ‘centralised office’ as a place of work as archaic as telephones tethered to a wall or taking a roll of film to a camera shop to get your photos developed.

The future of great ‘workplaces’ isn’t a place at all. It’s a mindset that helps employees fuse their personal and professional lives in ways that let them deliver their best work.

Even if that means taking the occasional nap under the desk.

George would be proud.

  • Alison Michalk is CEO of Quiip
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