Are new metrics for the successful workplace emerging?
The first, second, and third metrics
There was a time when success was quite closely defined in terms of the workplace. And the simple equation was power + money = success. You only have to look at old movies from the 1980s (I’m thinking Michael Douglas in Wall Street here) to get an instant perception of just how much things have changed over time.
Take the famous ‘lunch is for wimps’ line. A great soundbite, and a wonderful piece of screenwriting that encapsulated one character’s attitude to life in a mere four-syllable utterance. And compare it to the cutting edge workplace of the 21st century, where the Googleplex is well-known for its host of employee benefits such as
- Free gourmet snacks
- Onsite massage
- Concierge service
Now, a workplace that offers these things undoubtedly knows that they could save pennies by not offering the benefits – and maybe even increase salaries as a result by not providing them. But the value to the employee isn’t simply a financial one. It demonstrates that the workplace is all about maximising people’s wellbeing and engagement – with the added benefit that as happy and engaged workforce members, concentration and productivity will be maximised.
Comparing the (admittedly fictional) Wall Street character and his work environment with that of a modern day tech company definitely gives an idea s to how attitudes have changed. And let’s not forget that tech companies know a thing or two about data – so it’s not likely to be blind supposition that benefits for staff have real value for the organisation and the individual. Many studies have also shown that skipping lunch (or indeed breakfast) can have a detrimental effect on concentration and overall mental function
So, while money and power were the first two metrics, the new consideration is the third metric. It’s not as instantly identifiable as the first two, and relates more to work life balance and overall wellbeing. But it’s just as real and just as important. After all, what use would money or power be without time to enjoy life?
Flexibility as a metric
Nobody’s expecting the traditional office set up to disappear tomorrow. Too many meetings to attend, too many things that can only be done by people attending the workplace on a day to day basis. But the number of homeworkers is on the rise in the UK, having increased by thirteen percent in the last 5 years – and the trend could well continue as ever more advanced teleconferencing and virtual office products arrive on stream in the time to come.
One Google employee quoted in the New York Times recently said that the culture within the company ‘is to shut down on weekends’ and that its ‘people have a life’.
The form and rigidity of the old-school workplace may have had something to do with the limitations of old technology, but it seems the brave new world of technology has given rise not just greater flexibility but a more open and wellbeing-centred environment.
Flexibility could well become a central part of the third metric not just in terms of job design, bit in wider organisational terms too – bringing a new culture of agility as well as wellbeing and engagement.