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Why Your Open Work Space isn't Working

The hottest trends in work/life balance (the term itself is a trend) include open-plan office spaces, cozy nooks for independent work, white board walls for collaboration, dogs on the premises and hobo-dress policies.

Flex time scheduling offers the illusion of autonomy. Shared-desk environments mimic the hipster co-working vibe popular in startups and freelance work. But, do any of these surface changes address what today’s workers, managers and employees alike, really want – to work on their own terms?

For all the standing desks and collaborative spaces out there, the clock is still the primary indicator of work engagement. Organizations are making cosmetic changes to address a fundamental shift in worker mindset, but as long as companies are married to a 40-hour week, full-time employment, and paid-time-off, they’re missing the point.

Providing relief from work inherently indicates that “work” is bad.

What we really want is for our employees to be engaged, determined to excel, and dedicated to achieving company results. How does a ping pong table induce engagement? Can a dog really encourage achievement?

Desk sharing might seem like creative stimulation, but really our people are just rolling in suitcases of family photos, favorite staplers, and seat cushions every day; setting up a temporary home to establish domain and security.

What lies beneath these cool-guy changes is the emotional disruption of space and comfort.

Efforts to reimagine the physical work environment fail to address a critical mental shift that has taken place. This shift exists on two planes.

First, we work more because we’re always connected by mobile devices. We are dependent on these devices in nearly every aspect of our lives. (I’m working on one right now, and if you want it, you will have to pry it from my cold, dead hand.) But, these awesome devices also create resentment. We work more because we’re always connected and find it difficult to separate work from life. Be honest, how many times have you read a work related email at a family picnic or waiting in line at a concert? We’ve all been there.

Think of two pieces of Starburst candy. With the red in one palm and the yellow in the other, you can show an equal distribution. But when you open them, squish them, and meld them together using the warmth of your fingers, they become inseparable. You have a cherry lemon glob.

“Work” and “Not work” have been a cherry lemon glob for some time. Since we started bringing pets to work, taking laptops home, and spending weekends in community outreach efforts with our company logo t-shirts on, we’ve turned into cherry lemon blobs. And too often, “not work” gives up more for “work” than “work” does. We are left overwhelmed by work and in a sticky mess at home. No corporate feng shui can salvage that.

It’s time to let go. CRC can help you loosen your grip on the reins and your phone.

Itemize Contributions

First, identify the specific contributions each team member makes to the function of your team. Itemize those contributions. Categorize them. Determine if they are long-term, strategic growth activities or short-term, task execution activities. Determine if they are revenue generating activities or professional development activities. These are your employees’ areas of responsibilities (AOR). Develop daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly schedules for how these activities are executed. Once established, productivity expectations are clear.

Designate Response Times

Second, define as a team the communication protocols you will use to measure responsiveness. What communication is email worthy? What needs a call? How long should someone take to respond to a text message? Voice mail? How is an item designated then communicated as urgent? How should people confirm they understand the message and are working on a response? Once communication guidelines are set, each team member will be on the same page regarding communications. This will help prevent procrastination, avoid distractions, and protect personal time.

Identify Team Revenue Goal

Third, define your team’s impact on the firm’s revenue. In both the control of expenses and the earning of income, your team has a revenue role in the firm. Brainstorm together about how you earn income for the company and how you can reduce expenses and still meet your mission-critical activities. Create and write standard operating procedures (SOP) for making decisions around revenue. Your department should be clear about what the process is for making and spending money. Lastly, brainstorm revenue-generating activities and decide how you can promote those options to others in the organization.

Clemson Road Consulting has designed a remote, autonomous work environment that meets the mental and emotional needs of our changing workforce without being hit in the back of the head with a ping pong ball. It relies heavily on managers pivoting away from time as a measurement for work. If your company is ready to smash the clock, focus on results, and decide what the best working environment is for you, your team members, and your mission, contact us today for an initial consult.

Read to take bold action in your company's relationship with the time clock? Call 803-569-8200 or email today.

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