Is An Unconventional Office Right For Your Business?




  • — March 6, 2017

    Over the past decade, many businesses have been changing and adapting their workplace culture in line with changing expectations and developments in technology. Many of these new practices are radical departures from the traditional office workings of old, and understandably you may have some reservations about implementing them in your own workplace.


    While nearly all of these new developments have their benefits, they will not necessarily work for every employer. So here is what you need to know about the biggest changes to office practices of the 21st Century to help you decide if they are for you.


    Unlimited vacation


    The unlimited vacation policy has been spearheaded by one of this decade’s fastest-growing businesses: Netflix. At the world’s largest internet streaming giant, employees are not given a set number of paid vacation days to take at will. Instead, they are simply allowed to take as much or as little holiday as they like.


    Typical of 21st Century startups, Netflix is determined not just to remake its market, but to remake the way companies in its sector work. Many other tech-oriented companies have followed suit.


    The idea behind an unlimited vacation policy is to empower employees, and many think it works. Virgin founder Richard Branson was so impressed with the policy he called it “one of the simplest and smartest initiatives [he] had heard of in a long time” and immediately adopted it as Virgin company policy.


    Advocates of unlimited vacation argue that it is just reward for a work culture that expects employees to be switched on 24/7. And some have noted the economic and financial benefits of the policy, in that it attracts more employees and stops firms having to pay for unused vacation days.


    Richard Branson’s own words in Virgin’s press release heralding the policy, employees will only take holiday if they “feel a hundred per cent comfortable that they and their team are up to date on every project and that their absence will not in any way damage the business – or, for that matter, their careers!”


    The use of an exclamation mark here was surely intended to seem friendly, but for many it will appear to betray the sinister implications of unlimited vacation. As Branson rightly points out, it is unlikely that an employee would take any vacation at all if they were worried about job security. And as polls have shown, many people are worried about job security.


    If you are considering implementing an unlimited vacation policy in your workplace, make sure your employees will feel comfortable enough with their workload to take at least the usual amount of paid holiday they already have, otherwise they may end up taking even less or none at all, and they will be unlikely to work at their best.


    Tech firm Evernote—huge advocates of the policy—found a way to implement unlimited vacation without intimidating workers into staying in the office forever: paying them. Evernote higher-ups truly believe their employees come back from travelling as better workers, so they offer them $ 1000 per trip if they prove they went away and promise to keep their boss informed about everything they learned on their travels.


    If your company has the capital to afford an encouragement-based project like this, and has equally high faith in unlimited vacation, this seems to be the way to go if you are truly willing to push the envelope.


    Working from home


    In previous eras, media publishers would rely primarily on in-house writers with some columnists sending in physical copies of their work from afar. Now, websites like this one allow contributors like myself to write articles from anywhere in the world and send them to the editors instantly over the internet.


    It’s not just journalism that has been transformed by online communication. Many jobs are now doable from any place that has an internet connection, be that the office, the local cafe or the line at McDonald’s. Accountants can work over the cloud; managers can manage over Skype; designers can draw on their tablets.


    These changes have led many companies, particularly newer startups, to ditch the traditional 9-5 workday for a more flexible alternative. This trend is so popular in the UK that the government has granted all employees the legal right to request flexible working, which can only be denied on sound financial grounds.


    Allowing working from home will likely be a no brainer for those in creative roles, or roles that do not involve frequent meetings. And, as Forbes points out, it is broadly well-liked. But there are without a doubt some business models which do not lend themselves to remote working.


    For many client-facing or account management jobs, having a presence in a office is crucial for meetings. And then there’s the obvious: retail, catering and entertainment jobs will likely need a premises from which to serve customers. And anything that involves teamwork—from group brainstorming to physically building furniture—is very poorly suited to working from home.


    A ‘future office’


    As opposed to the other unconventional office practices, which are all just that: practices, transforming your office into or simply moving to a futuristic office is a change of surroundings that aims to be just as revolutionary.


    Alongside these changes to the work process, many young companies have adapted their office workspaces into ‘fun’ collaborative environments. Google’s Zurich office, for example, has a slide that connects employees to the canteen. Skullcandy’s office in the same city has ‘jigsaw desks’ that employees can roll around the room and connect with each other.


    For a creative tech startup this seems like a great idea. If the company exists to encourage unconventional thinking, an unconventional environment is the obvious place to do that. But companies in more traditional industries should pause before they order canteen slides of their own.


    If a ‘futuristic office’ is not something your sophisticated (or perhaps stuffy) clients would find impressive (or even mildly amusing) then you should definitely steer clear and stick to the traditional office you know and, possibly, love.

    Business & Finance Articles on Business 2 Community

    Author: Simon Davies


    View full profile ›

    (12)