My company, Citrix, recently conducted a study on work/life balance with Wakefield Research to get a glimpse at both the upsides and challenges of modern office life. While some of the findings are very funny (like the creative excuses people are using to avoid going into the office these days) others underscore a more salient point about the state of American business. In order for companies to grow and thrive, we need to start thinking outside the box (and certainly beyond the cubicle) when it comes to building effective teams. More specifically, we need to learn how to create and sustain a workforce that taps talent wherever it may reside, empowering people to contribute regardless of their location and schedule. Bottom line: we need to change office culture to support the way people really work and live today.
First, let’s take a look at some of the survey results that show what people are saying about the workplace status quo. Almost uniformly workers expressed frustration with kitschy office parties, bad bosses and certain colleagues. Of the 1,000 office workers polled in June, 74 percent secretly dislike company events, whether it’s a baby shower or a Halloween costume party. Almost half (49 percent) of respondents find it challenging to work with a know-it-all and 44 percent to work with a whiner. More than 50 percent believe a “constant complainer” would be the most annoying type of person to sit next to every day. Thirty percent planned their own vacation time opposite their boss’ vacation to maximize time away from their supervisor.
While these numbers seem to imply that employees don’t care or aren’t invested in success, that’s hardly the case. Workers care about what they do, perhaps more than ever. In fact, an overwhelming majority of office workers – 72 percent – say they would be more likely to respond immediately to an urgent work e-mail while on vacation than they would be to pretend they didn’t see it. What frustrates people most is the bureaucracy of the office – events and procedures that sap productivity and morale while having little to do with performance.
A majority of workers who have never worked remotely (64 percent) said they would be willing to give up atleast one significant perk or pleasure (including lunch breaks, alcohol and coffee) in order to work from home just one day a week. That indicates some pent-up demand. And when people do sneak out of their cubicle, they’re usually doing it so they can take care of themselves: the No. 1 reason people have slipped out of the office in the middle of the day is to exercise. This is a good thing, if our goal is to build a healthy workforce that can balance work and personal lives.
Nonetheless, survey respondents showed that the concept of working outside the office is still not accepted across the board. Fifty percent said their boss opposes remote work, while 35 percent feels their boss just tolerates it. Why is this, when parts of the study show that people want to do a good job even when they aren’t on the clock?
Granted there are some professions that require onsite presence, such as aspects of the healthcare and retail industries. But a growing number of organizations rely primarily on knowledge workers, and they have an opportunity to take a more flexible approach to the workplace by allowing employees to use tools and technologies that enable them to connect and collaborate from anywhere with anyone. What if we could change the remaining naysayers into believers?
We can. The core of any successful business venture requires teamwork, collaboration and collegiality, but it also requires empowering individuals to achieve their very best performance. By equipping each individual with the tools and technologies to do their jobs from anywhere, we will evolve the modern workplace in ways that benefit employees as well as the organizations they serve.
Think about how the small changes can add up when employees are given more control over their schedules and the opportunity to work from home one day a week. The time they actually spend working – and thinking strategically and creatively about their work – often surges as they worry less about driving to the office, gas costs, rushing to day care, office politics and not having enough time to be healthy and work out. Companies can cut costs on overhead, rents, air conditioning and potentially even employee health care. This is a win-win situation.
By trusting and empowering our employees, we’ll ensure their productivity and happiness, which in turn will help build our businesses and strengthen our economy. It’s time to take a new look at changing office culture.