My summer office

My summer office

Summer in the city, it’s summer in the city. I cannot get that song out of my mind after a couple of days having beautiful weather and the opportunity I took to work outside. You can work nowadays anytime, everywhere. Sounds luxury, or not?

Working wherever you want, whenever you want. At the end of the 20th century companies started testing the new way of working, with Microsoft as one of the largest initiators. The reason to change the ‘being from 9-5 in the office mentality’ was related to the positive effects of working wherever you want. The level of both customer and employee satisfaction would increase, it would result in an increase in productivity and creativity and there will be less CO2 emission. Now, more than 20 years later, I’m wondering what is the result of all of this?

Critical feedback related to the new way of working is related to several themes. First of all, the work pressure: if you’re 24/7 available there is a higher chance you’ll work more hours than when you’re only working in the office during specific time frames. From a cultural perspective, there is less social contact between employees which can create a feeling of being alone. As the new way of working is focused on cost-reduction it can result in companies less focused on how to work together instead. Also, there are no clear results of the outcome of the new way of working in researches.

Companies that were promoters of the new way of working are changing as well. Interpolis for example – a Dutch insurance company – introduced the new way of working as one of the first companies within the Netherlands. Nowadays, there way of working is agile. Same for the Rabobank – a Dutch bank cooperation – is doing the same. Changing from the new way of working to the agile way of working.

Working agile does mean that small multidisciplinary teams work together to get to solutions for a specific problem. Per problem, the members of the group can differ. Because you have to work as a group closely together, this does come back to the situation that you have to see each other now and then. You need to get together somewhere.

Also, several Dutch municipalities started to operate without a town hall in the last century. For example, the municipality Molenwaard was nominated by Microsoft for the Government Partner of the Year Award. Or the municipality Hollands Kroon, who still has a town hall, but where employees are able to work whenever, wherever they want in their self-steering teams without a manager. However, where it was seen as a perfect way of working, nowadays you can wonder if the results are as positive as expected and are in balance with the downsides of it.

The new way of working, working remotely, working whenever you want. It sounds fantastic and I have been always jealous when I saw pictures from my student friends working outside. However, only on days with nice weather. The other days I enjoyed being in the office, talking to people face to face, feeling the interaction and vibes. So, in my perfect world it should be a combination of both, where the main factor between the company and their employees is trust. Trust that no matter where you are and what time you work, you’re going for the best results. Only by trusting you’re able to give employees the freedom to work wherever they are.

From an employee perspective, getting trust is giving you responsibility. You’re responsible for the results being made and you’re the one that should have the discipline to get to that. At the end sitting in the sun is nice, but the work has to be done. Who will make sure that you take a break on time to avoid red eyes of sitting too long behind your computer? Who will make sure there is time to laugh during the day? Who will make sure you’re enough concentrated to do the job? Who will make sure that the customer doesn’t face any delays in response? Exactly, it’s you!

So back in your garden or the office, what do you think? Is working anywhere, anytime a luxury or not?