I was at yet another mandatory departmental training session a week or so ago. The instructor, though relatively young, had some very old school opinions on what a workplace should be. Unfortunately, I think she was expressing opinions that a lot of management-types still hold. For instance:
- She thinks the whole work-from-home thing is just a scam lazy people use to get out of coming to the office so they can sit around at home in their pajamas watching Oprah.
- She thinks workplaces don’t need break rooms/kitchenettes. That they’re just a waste of valuable office space.
- She thinks the whole home life-work life balance thing is totally screwing productivity.
- She thinks people should be made to adhere to specific hours. That everyone should be coming in and going home at the same time every day. That too much flexibility has created chaos in the workplace.
None of this had anything really to do with the course we were taking – these were just related asides. A lot of people think government is a cushy place to work. Sure, we have fairly good benefits and get a reasonable salary, but that’s all we get. Because we’re funded by tax dollars, we can’t spend money on things like bonuses, conferences in exotic locales, employee incentives. We don’t get a Christmas party unless employees pay for it and organize it themselves. We don’t get a gold watch or farewell party on retirement unless the retirees co-workers pitch in and arrange it.
Our workplaces are basic, no-frills places at best. At worst they’re depressing, old shitholes with hobbled together office furniture from the 1970s and technology to match.
Next week is National Public Service Week in Canada, which is ostensibly supposed to “celebrate the work and achievements of the Public Service of Canada”. Every department “celebrates” differently, but there’s supposed to be one day of the week set aside for some fun activities, with the department providing a lunch or a BBQ – maybe even some cake. I don’t know what it’s like in other departments, but in ours, management has never really participated nor encouraged participation so that it usually ends up being only the summer students and co-op students who take part in anything — if there even is anything.
It’s sad to drag yourself to work every day just for the paycheque and the pension. Does it have to be like that?
The Great Place to Work Institute , based in the US, does an annual survey of workplaces from various countries around the world to determine what makes a workplace great and which workplaces best live up to that.
They’ve determined that the primary defining characteristic of the best workplaces is trust between management and employees. This is followed by pride in the work being performed and good relationships with fellow employees.
A great workplace, they’ve found, embodies the following 5 elements:
- Credibility – Management says what they mean and means what they say. So, when they say “the door is always open” it’s not just lip service. It means they really want employees to come in regularly and talk
- Respect – Management encourages and expects employees to look after themselves and their own interests/needs before the work. They understand that personal lives are more important than jobs.
- Fairness – Differences in personalities, methods, ideas, people are valued and decisions are made accordingly – not just “across the board”.
- Pride – When employees can say and mean, “Every morning I wake up I am more than excited to get to work and do the best I can for a company that really appreciates it.”
- Camaraderie – When management makes a workplace fun and enjoyable people have a more positive and friendly attitude toward coworkers and the workplace in general.
The top companies that get onto the Great Place to Work Institute’s lists foster an innovative “people-focused” rather than “profit-focused” culture. They offer things like on-site daycare; flexible work hours and work locations; on-site fitness facilities; well-appointed, comfortable break rooms that encourage socializing and lingering.
The workspaces themselves also are often unique. No more fluorescent cubicles. Some are wide open loft-type spaces with pool tables, sofas and coffee tables, espresso machines, nap rooms, walk-out areas to green space. Some allow pets. Most encourage comfortable attire.
A lot of people would scoff at workplaces like this; thinking it’s unprofessional and just fosters laziness and goofing off; that a company would go broke allowing stuff like this; that it would never work in their workplace. But here’s the reality of these companies. They:
- Receive more qualified job applications for open positions.
- Experience a lower level of turnover.
- Experience reductions in health care costs.
- Enjoy higher levels of customer satisfaction and loyalty.
- Foster greater innovation, creativity and risk taking.
- Benefit from higher productivity and profitability.
Numerous independent studies have shown that organizations from Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work for in America”® list deliver higher returns than their peers. When you invest in your people, you invest in your organization’s success.
For Public Service Week my workplace has offered to let us have an extra hour for lunch one day so we can have a potluck in a boardroom or maybe outside if the weather is nice. You’ll be shocked to hear that most people have declined this incredible generosity from management.
I know, I know. We’re spoiled brats and you would be dancing in the streets if your employer ever gave you an extra hour for lunch and a pot-luck, right?