Corporate culture, be it in start-ups or more established businesses, has become fairly standardised across the country. While there are many commendable aspects of office culture that sustain stability and efficiency, there are others that could actually be counterproductive to success. Whether you’re a boss or an employee, here are some offices practices to watch out for (once we’re clear of the current pandemic, of course) that might be seriously slowing you down:
Expecting Too Much From Your Employees
This one is for the bosses, and is generally more common among start-ups with a less established hierarchy. Passionate founders and CEOs of said start-ups often make the mistake of expecting the same passion from their employees, and this could actually be detrimental to efficient team output.
While being invested in the company one is working for is important, leaders often forget to evaluate employees for their expertise alone. For example, if a team has an excellent writer, that writer is still an extremely valuable employee even if they don’t spend their ‘days and nights dreaming about building the company’. If founders expect this from all their employees, their employees will never be good enough.
A team member may want nothing more than to do a great job at what they were hired for. And this is perfectly fine. Expecting them to stay late in the office participating in business development meetings that have nothing to do with their expertise, or come up with ideas other than what they are being paid to do may demotivate said employee and actually decrease their efficiency.
Valuing Time Over Output
This tends to be extremely common in more creative jobs (advertising, content creation, writing, designing, etc.) We often hear of how these jobs can be gruelling, with employees having to stay at work very long hours on most days. However, multiple studies have shown that it is impossible for humans to remain consistently productive for more than 5-6 hours in a day (with around 3 hours of productivity in one stretch- this does not include routine tasks that don’t require much effort). On probing further, one tends to find that the same employees who complain of excessive work hours spend most of their day taking breaks. Therefore, their actual output is only around 4-5 hours of truly hard work.
However, they are not entirely to blame. Employees that are seen leaving the office early are often branded as ‘lazy’ or ‘not proactive’, even if they have efficiently completed all of their work for the day. Office culture generally values time over efficiency, with employees who work longer hours being seen as truly hardworking individuals (even if their output is only half that of the efficient worker who leaves early).
This problematic aspect of work culture has made us unwilling to make our time more efficient, leading to work-life imbalance, a sense of being overwhelmed more often, increased stress, and less job satisfaction.
Meetings that do not have fixed end times (that are actively followed) do much more harm than good. They not only lend very easily to distractions and tangential conversations, but also throw off everyone else’s schedules. Having meetings with a fixed duration benefits everyone, allowing for efficient planning and work.
Open offices are popularly considered to facilitate a ‘friendlier’ work environment. While it is true that removing barriers makes your co-workers more accessible, this might not be a good thing. In an open office it is much easier to get distracted and find yourself pulled into multiple unnecessary meetings and discussions.
If you have made the transition from working at an open office to working from home due to the coronavirus, you might have noticed that you are able to finish your work a lot faster, as working from home eliminates all possible superfluous conversations with your teammates. (Moreover, you no longer feel obligated to stick around till the workday ends, leaving you to finish your 4-6 hours worth of work in peace and enjoy more well deserved free time).
This may be an unpopular opinion, but unplanned brainstorms could possibly be the biggest waste of time in an office. Brainstorms in themselves are not necessarily bad, provided the participants have something valuable to offer. Holding a brainstorm after your team has been given some time to do their research and come up with ideas is far more efficient that having a brainstorm with nothing to work with (which inevitably ends in unnecessary tangential conversation that wastes everyone’s time).
While defining a clear end time for meetings is important, it is equally important to organise start times as well. Often, what are perceived as ‘quick meetings’ are sprung upon team members without any prior warning. Even if these meetings are actually short, it is insensitive to expect your team to leave their work at the drop of a hat and attend your meeting. Especially when it comes to creative jobs, interrupting a person’s ‘flow’ could end up being very counterproductive and drastically slow down their efficiency.
Encouraging Employees To Work While Sick
By now, we all know what a ‘simple, non-fatal, flu-like’ virus can do to the world. But until we actually saw this with our own eyes, most of us never gave a second thought to employees who came to work with a full-blown cold.
By encouraging this behaviour, people often tend to believe that showing up to work while sick is a display of dedication –in fact, it is the complete opposite. When an employee comes to the office with an infectious disease (no matter how ‘harmless’), their efficiency is already compromised, on top of which, they put the health of everyone in their vicinity in jeopardy.
Even a common cold can put an entire department out of action, all because of a single employee’s so-called dedication. Making sure no employees enter the office when sick will actually increase overall efficiency by making sure other team members are able to continue to work, thereby eliminating the stress and burden that is bound to ensue if many people are sick and the unfortunate individuals who are not, end up having to do double the work to compensate.
Most often, it is small changes like these (how we value others, respecting other peoples’ time, etc.) that can really boost overall workplace efficiency. Although this is not something most of us have to think about right now (considering we’re all working from home), it might be helpful to keep some of these tips in mind for when offices eventually do open.
Ferriss, Timothy. The 4-Hour Work Week. New York: Crown Publishers, 2007. Print.
Singh, Lilly. How To Be A Bawse. New York: Balantine Books, 2017. Print.