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Why the ‘Ideal’ Workplace isn’t Ideal anymore: Outdated work practices we need to change

Why the ‘Ideal’ Workplace isn’t Ideal anymore: Outdated work practices we need to change 1

By Scott Chao, Chief Marketing Officer at Appspace

The definition of ‘workplace’ has changed dramatically in recent years. The office as we know it has shifted from a nondescript monitor and desk to our dining room table. With things starting to return to normal, many people find it difficult to get back into old routines. Technology during this time has adapted, and many people have spent this time at home reassessing what they want out of a career. Most companies have been forced to respond to this – and some better than others. The era of the hybrid workplace is officially here to stay, and many employers are coming to the realization that their old structures just aren’t working.

Governments are also responding to these cultural shifts, with Iceland now introducing new work scheduling. Moving from 5 days to 4 has resulted in increased productivity; Microsoft noted that this resulted in a 40% increase in productivity in their research. Many large companies are pondering what exactly the ‘ideal’ workplace is. Considering the current structure dates back to the 1920s, perhaps it’s time we reconsider what needs to be changed to reflect our more modern world.

Say Goodbye to the 40 Hour Work Week

While all employees will have contractual agreements and jobs that rely on opening times, the 40 hour week needs some reviewing. Many employees who are already working in a hybrid workplace have task-based roles. Roles that rely on completing deliverables by certain deadlines. Most workplaces still emphasize the 8-hour workday. Does this work with the hybrid workplace? We don’t think so.

In 2017, a UK study indicated that workers were only productive for 2 hours and 23 minutes of a normal 9-5 workday. Of these workers, 54% stated that they needed regular breaks from work to be more productive. If we take into account the figures from the Microsoft study, that would equal another 57 minutes of productive time per day. Employees should be given the option to dictate their own schedule according to how they best work. Businesses should focus on the completion of tasks rather than hours spent sitting behind a desk.

This structure has been in place for more than 100 years now. The structure was introduced in the 1920s by Ford, the car manufacturer. While there will always be exceptions to this, employers and employees should shift their focus and look at the benefits to the business as a whole.

Use of Old Technology

The sudden shift to at home working had many companies scrambling for solutions. Many employers made the choice to use new software in quite a short period of time as they had to adapt. As the hybrid workplace is here to stay, it’s important to review your choices. The purpose of workplace software and technology is to make things more accessible and efficient for both employer and employees.

Many technology providers have also made huge steps during this time to accommodate the needs of their customers. Customizable software has become particularly popular amongst companies. By choosing the software features which you need, such as desk booking or an employee app, you not only save money, but you also allow for a more cohesive workplace.

Outdated Policy

Workplace policy is slow to change. Spending time and investing money into this is beneficial to everyone; however, we do recognize that this is not a simple task. This is something that should be looked into by both businesses and the government. Examples of this are starting to pop up everywhere, particularly in innovative companies like Google, who have adapted flexible policy during the pandemic, and countries like Iceland, who have introduced 4 day work weeks. More places are starting to implement this, including companies in the UK, New Zealand, and even Japan.

Sticking to the same Brand Values

Businesses publicize the fact that they are adapting with the times; however, many still have the exact same brand values and practices. History is a valuable teacher, and it should be taken into account when adapting these values.

Business structure can be adapted in many different ways – things like changing your workplace software, creating new channels of communication, or even redefining your brand values to fit a more modern audience. Many workplace platforms are integrating work applications for ease of use; examples of these include companies such as Appspace, who have created workplace software that is for both employer and employee use.

A more holistic approach should be taken, and employees should be encouraged to learn. Retaining employees saves money, and companies should be investing in them. These same people also offer great insights into how your business is actually running on a base level – in this case, transparent communication is the best policy. Remember, this doesn’t have to be done immediately; this can be worked on across a certain time period.

The Traditional 9-5

The 9-5 doesn’t always work when you’re in a hybrid office. Some employees are at home with kids, some work better with regular breaks, and some simply prefer starting later..

One thing both employers and employees have noticed is that we struggle to work for 8 hours straight, with no interruptions. For most, it’s simply not possible. Working from home has made this harder for many due to the fact we’re surrounded by distractions. Something as simple as the washing machine beeping can pull us out of our work tasks.

It’s also been important to prioritize things like going outside every once in a while, making time to call a friend, or simply a moment to ourselves to take stock of everything. By changing this 9-5 and letting employees make their own choices, we give them the agency to make their own decisions.

The Workforce Institute by Kronos found that more than half of the 3000 employees interviewed believed that they could complete their work tasks within 5 hours rather than a full day. While there will always be distractions, If employees can still get their work done, attend their regular meetings, and fulfill their duties, there should be no issue, right?

The Traditional Food Chain

While we will admit this has come leaps and bounds in recent years, many companies are still sticking to the traditional hierarchical structure. Employees are not given much room for opinions or ideas and they often don’t have the opportunity to discuss things with higher management. A Tinypulse retention report found that there is a 16% decrease in retention rates for employees who aren’t able to, or aren’t comfortable with, giving feedback.

Employees should be given the possibility to take charge of their own growth and communicate openly with their managers or bosses. HR should look at implementing strategies to encourage this and also gather feedback from these same employees. Things like introducing new software can open up these channels and also allow for more organised and efficient internal communication.

All Work and No Play

The Great Resignation has taught us that we are no longer willing to spend our time doing things that don’t suit us. The reason the workplace was so greatly affected by this is due to the fact that we spend most of our time working. People have been reassessing not only their job, but also things like workplace culture, benefits, and flexibility.

Employees are starting to expect more from their employers. This includes things like encouragement, planning of career growth, open and honest communication, as well as focus on overall wellbeing. It seems like a huge ask; however, employees are human beings too – we value connection and time spent. The US-based Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) found that 94% of employees would stay at their current job if their employers spent more time investing in their future. While it takes more time and effort, retaining employees saves businesses both money and time.

Internal communication is a big factor in this. Not having physical contact and face-to-face communication has been challenging for most people, and zoom meetings don’t exactly encourage comradery. Introducing channels for employees to communicate with and regular check-ins have been essential during this time to encourage some sort of normalcy. We, at Appspace, have found that having regular discussions with employees to track progress has been integral to our employee happiness and growth. This, however, should be continued regardless of global pandemics.

Evolution within a business takes both time and research. By re-assessing these outdated practices, both employers and employees can take steps forward in creating their ‘ideal’ workplace. Whatever this looks like for you, any steps you take towards making your company a better workplace can already be considered a success.

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