You Can Keep Your Standing Desk; Trust and Empowerment are the New Perks.
Picture it: you walk into your office and the first thing to meet you is a large breakfast spread, set out an island in the office kitchen. In colorful bowls and on glass plates are pastries, cereals, and fruit. There’s coffee, juice, and milk. If you were to scour the cabinets, you would find snacks. Chips, nuts, granola bars, energy bars and drinks. Let’s just say, if you’ve forgotten your lunch, you shall want for nothing. It’s like your kitchen at home – only better.
As you walk down the hall, you see the large room that holds the exercise equipment. PT (physical training) is a big part of my day, so I can appreciate this room. There are treadmills, elliptical trainers, even a BowFlex and free weights. Like my local gym – only more convenient.
In the actual work area, the desks are paired with chairs personalized for the employee. Some are sitting in regular, rolling office chairs. Others are using exercise, balance balls. And others aren’t even sitting; they’re standing, at tall desks. Bikes lean against the wall and two dogs wander as their owners talk across a wood-topped table.
This workplace is comfortable, nurturing atmosphere. It is tailored to give each employee exactly what they want, or at least what they think they want. This workplace runs with the mindset that as long as the employee can get all they think they need, they’ll be happy. And, we all know, happy employees are more productive.
But is this really the ideal workplace? Munchies and a gym are great, but they have precious little to do with what makes the environment truly productive for the people who work there – or for the mission of the organization.
The most focused, electric, and ultimately motivating, workplace I ever experienced was very different. The creature comforts were lacking – rude plywood and cement floors topped off by a hike outside to the nearest “portalet”. During busy periods the steps we’d taken to prevent the echo chamber effects of a reinforced concrete structure failed miserably. Yet the constant flow in information, sense of inclusion in a worthy mission, and deep relationships that developed created an atmosphere described by one operator as “intoxicating.”
To me, the ideal workplace is less a place than an environment and an attitude. It is an ecosystem in which members share levels of trust and common purpose that provide a foundation upon which individuals and teams are empowered with information and enough authority to use it. It’s not about free ice cream and dry cleaning, what’s free is information that flows across the team to where it is most useful. The price of admission is a willingness to collaborate, even when there is no apparent transnational advantage. It is a faith-based approach to operating, but with no connection to religion. The faith lies in a belief that we are all advantaged to share our wisdom and capabilities to address the things we must do.
Creating the ideal workplace is about far more than leasing attractive office space and buying “hip” art. It carries the stiff price of a disciplined commitment to transparency and constant accountability to norms that stress the team’s values and mission. In my experience, the environment that defines the ideal workplace is not the natural state of things – it must be painstakingly created and constantly maintained. Like a curious toddler, take your eye off her and she’s gone.
In the end, the ideal workplace is not an address, a lucky break, or the product of genius. It is a choice; simple in concept yet maddeningly complex and demanding in execution. It is our decision.
But wouldn’t you want to work there?
Contact John Assunto for all of your Education Recruiting needs! Johna@worldbridgepartners.com or 860-387-0503