Do you let your staff work from home and choose their own hours? If so, it might be time to pull back the reins, according to MAW Communications creative partner Michael Willcocks (Pictured above).
It seems like you can’t read a business website these days without hearing about workplace flexibility. It’s all the rage at the moment. You’ve got flexible work hours, flexible work environments where people come and go as they please, flexible offices that cross boundaries and live in a trans-border, cross-cultural universe. It’s a whole new world where offices don’t even exist, it seems.
It’s almost as though you can’t be considered a cool, modern or attractive business unless you offer these little quirks to all your staff, whether junior or senior. This is especially the case in media, marketing and advertising, but the curse of workplace flexibility exists across many industries.
Let me clarify. I’m all for workplace flexibility, but it has to be controlled and it shouldn’t be available to everyone. It should be a privilege, not a right. It is something that should be earned through experience, maturity, trust, need and seniority.
I understand that this trend is here to stay. I read an article recently on news.com.au that said 72 per cent of workers want greater flexibility in their working arrangements, but apparently this is a perk not actually enjoyed by junior staff at many organisations. In fact, it tends to be a sweetener reserved largely for senior staffers.
Surely these stats would be cause for an outcry among Millennials who are sure that they too deserve access to the same benefits as everyone else in the business. Shock horror! Who’d have thought that you might actually have to earn your perks and prove your ability to deliver and be trusted with the privilege of greater flexibility.
The main issue is around accountability. In my experience, most (though not all) junior staffers haven’t been in the workforce for long enough to truly be accountable, and letting them work from home or choose their own hours won’t be doing your business any favours. How can the business maintain an adequate level of oversight? What’s more, it’s not doing your staffers any favours either. The best place to learn is in the work environment, on the job. This is where junior workers pick up the habits that might influence their entire working career.
I wonder how I would have acted in my early 20s if I’d been given the option of working from home? Well, you can wave goodbye the eight-hour work day. I would’ve probably done two or three hours and spent the rest of my time slacking off, then I would have logged it in as a full day’s work and been very pleased with myself for pulling one over ‘the man’. But now that I am a senior member of a team with several years’ experience, I’m not working my ass off because someone is looking over my shoulder, but because I have a job to do, and whether I’m at home or in the office, I know I have to get it done. This attitude is something I have learned. The privilege is something earned.
The senior or longer-standing members in my office are all given the opportunity to engage in the flexible work week. We don’t take advantage of it – we generally prefer to work in the office anyway because it’s a great creative environment and a place where everyone learns from each other – but no one bats an eyelid if we enjoy these perks. However, if you’re a junior staff member, you need to earn your stripes. That’s not to say you won’t be permitted to have flexible work arrangements, but first you have to prove yourself to the business with results, effort and a track record of accountability.
Of course, there are certain situations that necessitate flexibility, such as mothers working from home. This piece isn’t aimed in that direction. Rather, it is aimed at what seems to be an increasing expectation that perks should be given before they are deserved.
Staff happiness is one of the most important aspects of running a business – but it’s a two-way street.