The Changing Workplace

Pundits and vendors are writing articles left and right about the changing workplace. The workplace is constantly changing but not always for the better. Let's take a quick look at four of the more popular ideas,  and what's good and bad about them in the workplace of today.

Photo by Stuart Miles.  

Huddle Rooms
Product vendors are really pushing the huddle room concept, yet they seem to be pushing it with the same products that they sell for large conference rooms. They are becoming an important part of how corporations communicate but solutions are needed to really make an impact. Instead of cobbling together parts and pieces from several vendors, I would like to see one company stand up and create a fully integrated huddle room solution. Yes, that means the table and everything. It's not a popular opinion with vendors as it requires getting out of the comfort zone, but I feel if someone created the right product, the promised land of sales won't be far behind. While not for every organization, huddle rooms are a great solution for those companies without the floor space to have large conference room or those that have small teams of remote workers.

I wrote more about them here.

Telecommuting is working from home, or away from the office.One key item that bloggers/pundits/vendors tend to forget is that not everyone can or should telecommute. Damn near every article I read about telecommuting touts how much more productive employees can be simply by working from home. Aside from the fact that not every job is appropriate for telecommuting, we shouldn't assume that everyone who can work from home will be more productive. Yes, we have great communication tools to keep in touch with remote workers or the home office, but that's not the half of it. The home has many distractions that you don't have at the office and if you're not careful the day can be wasted and you can end up less productive than if you went to the office in the first place.

For reference, I am working from home today. While working I am also:
  • Writing this blog
  • Checking email
  • Drinking my 2nd cup of coffee
  • Fixing an old laptop
  • Watching House of Cards on Netflix
  • Taking a break to pet my dogs
  • Doing laundry
  • Doing the occasional push up
  • Packing for a camping trip
I've been telecommuting for well over 10 years now. I know what works for me, but then again 10 years ago I didn't have Netflix. I will leave it to others to tell you how to do it or I'll just write about my experiences some other time.

Open floor plans
Many progressive  companies are adopting open floor plans in retaliation to the sea of cubicles that we're all used to. The theory behind them is that you're better able to collaborate with your coworkers and have ad hoc meetings in the name of productivity and idea generation. What you actually get is that everyone ends up wearing ear buds to block out the extraneous noise generated by everyone talking. It's a horrible concept. Even more so because everyone can see your messy desk.

The only things open floor plans are good for is that your boss can keep tabs on you easier and can make sure you're not spending the day surfing the internet.

Flexible working
What we need to remember is that in any workplace, the need to be productive is the most important thing. We can't dictate our preferred method unless we run the company. A company I used to work started a flexible working campaign not long before I left. Most people opted to work a later shift while I opted for the early shift as I've always been an early riser. The problem was that management didn't know who worked what shift since we were a pretty large company. Overtime was tight for us hourly workers and routinely someone would bring a stack of engineering changes to my desk at 4 pm (my scheduled time to leave) expecting to get it out that day. When I worked until 5 it wasn't an issue, except for the headaches of having to play a game of "beat the clock" to get two hours of work done in one, but leaving at 4 ended up creating more problems than solutions. Coworkers were forced to pick up my slack or the work jut didn't get done. Of course at 7 in the morning, I had to take on the emergency work of others who wouldn't be in  until 9.

That just touched on some of the more popular workplace options. It's up to management to decide what works best for them and their staff. We all need to understand that what works best for one person may not work at all for another and we should stop blindly recommending one method over another to everyone. To be a better consultant or product vendor, we must understand that every company is different and we need to dig deeper into each company's culture and methods before offering a solution that could end up being detrimental to the client.

Time to fold the laundry.

Follow me on Twitter @bryanhellard

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