A lot of people enjoy working from home, because to them it is the ideal workplace.
So why isn’t your company headquarters more like your home?
Leaders have a mandate to craft corporate cultures and work environments. This includes creating the best possible workplace for every employee. Yet in this age where we talk endlessly about work/life balance, yet overlap work with the rest of life, we spawn constant distress because we constantly feel as if the balance is slipping.
But what if your work environment was more like home? Loving, supportive, nurturing, patient. These are parts of home and family life. Why do so many enterprises not create a fulfilling atmosphere in the office as well? I did this for 37 years as the founding CEO of Micrel, a semiconductor company with the lowest employee turnover rate in the industry.
The basics of humanity
All people want to consort with folks who are honest, have integrity, treat them with dignity and do whatever it takes for mutual success. These were the four pillars of Micrel corporate culture, and they are not different than desires of the average American home. Families, despite transient irritations, strive to treat one another fairly and to support their kin. Problematic for many corporations is that they don’t even list such elements in their corporate culture guides, much less their policy and procedure manuals. Little wonder then that the typical business never remotely feels like home, the ideal workplace.
In fact, many organizations go to the opposite extreme. Micrel had the highest boomerang employee rate – people who left the company and returned after experiencing other, more negative work environments. In fact, my son Michael recently was working as a contractor, and he noted how unfriendly the atmosphere was – not complete animosity (though that does exist in some workplaces) but just not friendly as Micrel was.
One seemingly quaint aspect of Micrel culture was our “no swearing” policy. Though we live in an age where cussing is nearly normal, it remains irritating and offensive to people. Part of producing a kind, relaxing, ideal workplace is removing tension. Banning four-letter vocabulary and other condescending language is part of the process, part of respecting the dignity of all people.
No surprises means do dread
One aspect of home life is a rapid series of open communications (excluding moody teenagers, who often appear incapable of communicating aside from random grunts). Schedules, family travel, events – most families are in constant chatter mode. This reduces uncertainty about who is doing what and when, what is for dinner and whose turn it is to take out the trash.
Executives owe it all employees to be just as transparent and communicative. When management articulates a clear vision and direction for the company, uncertainty and stress are removed. When bosses regularly communicate with employees, workers never feel left out. When corporate executives are not aloof, when they visit with various groups and regularly walk around to converse freely with any employee, a trust-based family environment is fostered.
Part of this trust-through-transparency process bridges organizational divides. Companies that allow silos to form allow barriers to spawn. A lack of trust between groups then further impedes communications, which frustrates respect, dignity and all other elements of an ideal workplace. Alternately, when intra-organizational relations are friendly and respectful – as they would be between a husband and wife, or between neighbors – silos fall, proactive collaboration launches, and the warmth of familial efforts becomes the norm.
The little things
Often, the little things are those that make a more ideal workplace.
The world is not fair, but the workplace can and should be. If any employee feels as if they are not treated equally, then they lose their desire to treat others equally. Modern life is fluid, and inflexible work hours complicate an employee’s day (you would not tell your spouse when and where to be every moment). A clean and tidy environment brightens everyone’s experience.
The key to creating the ideal workplace is treating employees less like employees and more like family. When the office becomes a virtual extension of their home, they cannot help but feel appreciated and supported, and they will return that love over and over again.