Is Your Company Culture Making Work Miserable?

Is Your Company Culture Making Work Miserable?

Written By Darren Seys - October 7, 2014

You may have heard the news: working 9 to 5 Monday through Friday is extinct, much like the dinosaurs (and hopefully soon this renaissance of 90’s fashion trends). With more ways to stay in touch with people than ever, there are also more ways your boss or fellow employees can reach out to you beyond the normal 9-5. A Saturday morning text, an 11pm phone call, you’re more accessible to your job, boss, and co-workers than ever. Chances are; your home is an extension of your office – a more comfortable one, at that.

Despite the never-ending work day for some, many companies are taking a stand against grueling hours. As start-up companies become increasingly popular and offer their employees more comfortable working environments than their corporate competitors, some corporate companies are taking note and making changes. Companies are evolving from business-casual to just plain casual, meaning their leniency on once-strict and heavily regulated policies is changing too. Working in a boutique agency myself, I love having a more lenient dress code that doesn’t require heels and pants/skirt suits every day. I can wear what I’m comfortable in while still communicating through my outfits that I’m a professional. Recently, Richard Branson of Virgin, the mega-everything company, announced that employees could take as many vacation days as they want, so long as they complete their work on-time. His reasoning? “Flexible working has revolutionized how, where and when we do all our jobs. So, if working nine to five no longer applies, then why should strict annual leave policies?” Sir Richard, I couldn’t agree more.

Other companies worldwide have followed a similar lead. For example, Germany is considering passing a new law that will make it illegal to email colleagues after 6pm during the work week. Andrea Nahles, the German Minister for Labour, studied the relationship between employees having constant access to their emails and poor mental health. Her results were not surprising. “There is an undeniable relationship between constant availability and the increase of mental illness,” she said. France passed similar legislation earlier this year, requiring employees to shut off their smartphones after 6PM during the work week. While some people do not agree with this legislation, ultimately it is important to step away from work and have a life, spend time with your friends and family, and pursue your interests outside of work.

Taking company culture to the extreme is Amsterdam-based design studio Heldergroen, who introduced the concept of a disappearing office. You read that right – every night at 6pm on the dot, a key-operated lifting mechanism, supported by steel cables, lifts desks into the ceiling. No longer can you burn the midnight oil: that assignment you didn’t finish will have to wait until tomorrow. Everything on the desk – computers, papers, pens and pencils, remain in the same position, ready for employees’ return in the morning. Creative Director Sander Veenendaal transforms the floor into a dance or yoga studio, trend session, networking event – anything imaginable: “The floor is literally yours,” he said.

Some people love the hustle and will tell you that money never sleeps. That may be true, but I love to sleep. While it is important to maintain dedication and passion for your work, a work-and-play balance is essential. Some may argue that having a strict 6pm cutoff time, as in the case with the disappearing office in Amsterdam, puts people under pressure to work. Having a strict cutoff time serves as a motivator for people to finish assignments and to go home with a clear head, rather than having to go home and stressing about tomorrow. On the other end of the spectrum, Virgin motivates employees to take as much vacation time as they’d like, but this is a luxury that may be dangerous to some. Some employees may not be able to handle having an open-ended time frame to complete their work whilst fighting the temptation to take vacation days at their free will.

As companies recreate policies to accompany lax company culture, some will make mistakes, and others will flourish. Developing your company culture comes with knowing your employees and your field of work, and finding ways for your employees to benefit from your policies. Think about it this way: do your employees do their best work when they’re overworked, exhausted and under pressure? Or do their ideas flourish when they’re well-rested and fresh-minded?

Check Out The Disappearing Office in Amsterdam!

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